Marathon runners over the age of 50 face no greater health risks than younger runners, new research from the University of Manitoba has found.
Researchers used CT scans and other tests on 25 runners — all over the age of 50 — after they had competed in marathons, to see how their hearts recover afterwards.
The tests found no evidence of permanent heart damage, and the older runners recovered as quickly and fully as younger marathoners.
"We always worry about marathoners who are sort of dropping dead, if you will, and having a heart attack during the marathon," said lead author Dr. Davinder Jassal, an associate professor of medicine, radiology and physiology at the university's Faculty of Medicine.
"What our study shows is that if you've trained well and you've done your homework in terms of keeping yourself hydrated, things will be OK."
Jassal's findings were recently published online in the Journal of Cardiovascular MRI.
The effects of long-distance running on athletes' hearts have been the topic of recent research, discussion and debate.
The June issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings included a review of how excessive endurance exercise is thought to cause damage to the heart.
Kevin Anseeuw, a 52-year-old Winnipeg runner who has competed in 19 marathons, said he is encouraged by the findings from the University of Manitoba study.
"It's nice to put young guys in their place," he said.
"You know if they're running the full [marathon], they think they can pass you, and it's good to show them up once in a while."
Jassal said the research is important, as more people over the age of 50 are participating in marathons.