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Is Running a Marathon Beneficial to Your Health?

is running marathon healthy

So, is running a marathon really beneficial to your health? This blog by a physician can change your opinion. 

 

To understand marathons, let us see how tobacco smoking became a culture.

 

Indeed, tobacco smoking was popularized in the 19th century and has a long history dating back to around 5000 BC. It was believed to possess both spiritual and medicinal qualities.


Spiritually, it was thought that the smoke from tobacco could carry messages or signals to the heavens above. Medicinally, tobacco was used to alleviate symptoms such as colds, coughs, and throat infections.


It was also commonly employed as a painkiller for ailments like earaches and toothaches. Like the introduction of coffee and tea, tobacco was regarded as one of the intoxicating substances. 


In India, it is often referred to as "chillum" and holds popularity in certain circles.

Throughout history, numerous religious leaders and rulers attempted to prohibit the consumption of tobacco, but their efforts proved unsuccessful. The popularity of tobacco quickly grew, earning it the nickname "brown gold."


In 1950, Richard Doll published an influential article in the New England Journal establishing a direct link between smoking and lung cancer. Since then, ample data has emerged to support this connection, leading many institutions to implement bans on tobacco smoking.


Disturbingly, statistics predict that by the year 2030, smoking could be responsible for 10 million deaths annually, making it the leading cause of death worldwide.


Running marathons has indeed gained popularity over the years, more so in the 21st century. The first official race took place in 1896 and established the 26.2-mile distance as the standard for a full marathon. Today, there are numerous marathons conducted worldwide, with close to 600 or more events held each year.


effects of running marathons

Long-term and short-term effects of running marathons

 

While it is true that running marathons can provide an adrenaline rush and attract dedicated participants, it is important to consider the potential impact on the body, particularly the knees.


The knee joint is a complex structure consisting of four bones and six cruciate ligaments that provide stability and support. Excessive and prolonged running can lead to wear and tear of this joint, ultimately resulting in degenerative arthritis and secondary osteoarthritis of the knees.

 

This issue becomes more concerning for individuals who are obese and engage in marathon running, as the knees bear the weight of their entire body for extended periods. Additionally, there is a potential for increased spine problems and back pain to arise in the future if this trend continues.

 

Furthermore, recent studies have shown that approximately 15% of chronic marathon runners develop myocardial fibrosis, which is a premature aging of the heart that can lead to complications such as arrhythmia and heart attacks.


While above are some of the long-term effects on marathon runners, in the short term they carry a risk of developing dehydration, rhabdomyolysis or muscle breakdown, muscle injuries, tears of ligaments and tendons, kidney stones, and so on.


I have seen these issues firsthand as a physician, and such disabilities can disable you for the rest of your life. Most of these people end up consuming toxic amounts of painkillers or undergoing unwanted surgery without much improvement.

 

Who really popularized marathons?

 

It is true that medical books do not specifically recommend running marathons as a standard practice for improving wellness. Neither does any yoga book talk about running a specific number of miles for wellness.


Marathons are typically organized by various entities, including for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, and community groups. Some marathons are indeed conducted as fundraising events for charitable causes. Sponsors, such as protein bars, fruit juices, mineral water, and fitness bands, often provide support and resources to these events.

 

My advice would be to engage yourself in a variety of exercises that work out different parts of the body, such as yoga, swimming, and gymnastics, which can provide a more comprehensive and balanced approach to fitness. Moderation is indeed key, as overdoing any form of exercise can potentially lead to negative consequences.


Having said that, I run daily for 2-5 miles, and I still recommend running to some of my clients after assessing their level of fitness thoroughly.

 

While running can be a beneficial exercise when done in moderation, it is important for individuals to listen to their bodies and not push themselves beyond their limits. Every person has unique needs and abilities, so it is essential to find an exercise routine that suits one's individual goals and preferences.

 

Ultimately, the goal should be to find joy and fulfillment in one's exercise routine rather than running to impress others. Prioritizing overall health, balance, and personal well-being should be at the forefront of any fitness journey.


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