Regular physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle, so you’d think that marathon runners would be among the heart- healthiest Americans. But new research indicates that this may not be the case.
Minnesota researchers enrolled 50 male long-distance marathon runners and matched them with 23 inactive men in a study. The only difference between the two groups was their levels of physical activity.
The researchers gave the participants a battery of cardiac tests, including cardiac CT scans to measure the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in their arteries, which is an indicator of coronary artery disease. They also measured other cardiac factors such as serum CPK, an enzyme that indicates muscle damage.
Paradoxically, the study found that although the runners had better cardiovascular risk factors, including less incidence of high blood pressure, more high HDL cholesterol, less diabetes, and they were leaner, their arteries revealed a greater buildup of plaque.
In fact, the results showed that there were 95 areas of plaque buildup in 30 of the 50 marathon runners, compared to 12 lesions in 23 of the sedentary runners. The study was published in the journal Missouri Medicine.
This was the first study to show the relationship between decades of marathon training and the increased development of atherosclerotic plaque.
The researchers theorized that a moderate amount of exercise could be the best way to go. I agree. That’s why I recommend a one-hour walk each day.