Do Endurance Sports Damage The Heart?

A new study finds that triathlons and other endurance sports could cause damage to the heart.

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A new study finds that triathlons and other endurance sports could cause damage to the heart.

Some athletes who take part in endurance exercise, such as marathons, show changes within the heart that could be signs of damage. But most of the damage was reversed within a week and we don’t know if the changes cause any long-term effects.

There’s lots of evidence that regular exercise is good for you. But there is some evidence that high-intensity endurance exercise could cause mild damage to one part of the heart, the right ventricle. This is one of four chambers in the heart, and receives blood from the body before pumping it towards the lungs.

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But much of what we know is based on studies on animals, and mostly rats. We still don’t know if intense endurance exercise damages the right ventricle more than other parts of the heart, how long the damage lasts and if it has any effect on people’s long-term health.

This small study looked at 40 athletes who took part in one of four increasingly intense physical events: a marathon, a triathlon, an alpine cycling race, and an ultra-triathlon (a triathlon over longer distances). All the athletes had a very high level of fitness and did more than 10 hours of intense training a week, were high-performers that had finished in the top quarter in a recent event, and had no symptoms or factors that would put them at risk of heart damage.

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