The heart recovers after a marathon

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As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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The question of whether extreme bouts of exercise like marathons do more damage than good to the heart always sparks discussion, thanks to occasional sudden deaths at sporting events (see this Jockology column for a discussion of the issue). Over the past few years, several research papers have found evidence that the heart does sustain damage during prolonged hard exercise — but these indicators are very hard to interpret.

A new study from researchers at the University of Manitoba looked at this question more closely, by using MRI imaging of the hearts of 14 non-elite runners both before and after the 2008 Manitoba Marathon in Winnipeg. Previous studies have used less direct methods to figure out whether the heart was damaged or not. The results provided good news for marathoners:

“By using (MRI), we were able to definitively show that these fluctuations do not result in any true damage of the heart, and the right ventricular dysfunction is transient, recovering one week following the race,” (lead investigator Davinder S. Jassal said).

In other words, just like the rest of your body, the heart takes a pounding during a marathon, but appears to recover soon afterwards. The next step for the researchers is to repeat the study to determine whether running more than one marathon in a given year produces permanent damage.

More on the Queen’s massage study

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

***

I posted last week about an interesting study on how massage works (or doesn’t). Michael Tschakovsky and his colleagues at Queen’s University concluded that, contrary to popular belief, deep-tissue massage doesn’t “flush out lactic acid” from tired muscles by enhancing circulation. In fact, they observed the opposite effect: massage actually appears to inhibit circulation.

But that doesn’t mean massage doesn’t work at all. Paul Taylor has a nice piece on this study in the Globe and Mail that contains a few new nuggets — in particular, some thoughts about how massage might actually work:

Why then does a massage feel so good? Dr. Tschakovsky can’t yet say for sure, but he suspects that it helps stops muscle spasms. “The pressure applied to the muscle … breaks the cycle of the nerve that is causing the muscle to contract so your muscle will relax,” he speculated.

Jockology: exercises for strong bones

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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This week’s Jockology column (just posted) takes on a frequently asked question: What type of exercise is best for maintaining strong bones?

Once you reach adulthood, it’s basically one long fight against the slow but inexorable loss of bone strength – and the key to that fight, many of us assume, is weight-bearing activities.

But the latest research shows that resistance-training exercises like lifting weights can also play a crucial role in bone health – and in some cases are even more effective than weight-bearing activities such as elliptical training. [read the rest of the column…]

When my dad read the column this morning, he asked me if that meant that all the biking he does is no good for maintaining his bone strength. He’s correct that the research I presented suggests that biking isn’t as good as running (with its jarring impacts) or weight training (with its targeted strengthening of muscles) for bone health. But that doesn’t mean that biking, along with just about any form of exercise, can’t play a role in maintaining bone strength. I’d certainly rather that he spend an hour a day biking (which he enjoys) than grudgingly shift to doing leg weights (which he doesn’t enjoy) a few times a week.

For most people, bone strength is just one of the factors to be considered in designing an exercise program. Unless you’re at a high risk of osteopenia, I’m hoping the information in this column will help you make subtle tweaks in your exercise program, rather than a radical overhaul.

Vitamins and exercise don’t mix? (and rehabilitating free radicals)

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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A new report in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has caused a stir. As Scientific American puts it,

Exercise is good for you. Antioxidants are good for you. But put them together and it’s not as good as you’d think. Because a recent study shows that some vitamins block the beneficial effects of exercise.

Continue reading “Vitamins and exercise don’t mix? (and rehabilitating free radicals)”

The “myth” of massage

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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[UPDATE: Check out the comments section for more info from Dr. Michael Tschakovsky,  the Queen’s researcher behind the study.]

A press release about a new Queen’s University study on massage doesn’t mince any words:

A Queen’s University research team has blown open the myth that massage after exercise improves circulation to the muscle and assists in the removal of lactic acid and other waste products.

Thank goodness we’ve finally solved that mystery… right? Well, maybe not. Continue reading “The “myth” of massage”