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Running Longer Distances May Have Protective Effects, Ultra-Marathon Study

Update Date: Jun 26, 2013 05:07 PM EDT
running, runner, marathon, alpine
In the recent years, an increasing number of people are signing up for marathons and half marathons to support various causes. Evidently, more and more people are realizing the importance of it. (Photo : Ruben Sprich/Reuters)

New research on professional runners reveals that running longer distances might actually have a protective effect.

A new study found that runners suffer less muscle damage, inflammation and fatigue when completing in a 200-mile Alpine race than in a 100-mile race.

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The findings published in the journal PLOS ONE revealed that runners who complete in one of the world's most challenging ultra-marathons experience less neuromuscular fatigue, muscle damage and inflammation compared to those who run distances half to one quarter as long.

Study author Jonas Saugy and researchers from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland tested the effects of sleep deprivation and blood and muscle markers of inflammation in runners who completed the Tor des Geants, an over 200-mile mountain ultra-marathon with 24,000 m of elevation changes.

Researchers found that compared to other runners completing in a shorter Alpine ultra-marathon approximately 103 miles in length, runners at Tor des Geants had fewer changes in neuromuscular functions and lower levels of muscle damage and inflammation, despite running nearly double the distance.

Researchers said the findings suggest that protective pacing strategies used by Tor des Geants runners in the first half of the race, combined with sleep deprivation effects in the second half may induce a relative muscle preservation process.

"Our findings revealed less neuromuscular fatigue, muscle damage and inflammation than in shorter mountain ultra-marathons," researchers wrote in the study.

"In conclusion, paradoxically, such extreme exercise seems to induce a relative muscle preservation process due likely to a protective anticipatory pacing strategy during the first half of MUM and sleep deprivation in the second half," the wrote.

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