Healthy Heart and Running - Can Running Scar Your Heart?

by James

Can running scar your heart? I read that ultra- runners and marathon runners can scar their hearts. If so, what is this? And I do 15 miles to 20 miles a week at 10 to 12 min per mile.

I am a 50-year-old male. The hype one gets in magazines on running gives the impression that running / jogging is good for the mind, body and heart. Now I am a bit confused.

Can you help me?


running tips
Answer by Dominique:

Hi James,
Thanks for your question about scarring your heart by running.

Clearly, if you have concerns about your heart function, you should consult with your doctor, not me, some random dude on the internet.

But let me re-assure you, running is a very healthy activity to engage in.

It helps you manage your weight AND makes you feel better AND makes your heart stronger!

Definitely good for mind, body and heart.

However, what you have read is not completely without foundation.

A study has found some heart damage (scarring) amongst elite athletes. These were people that had been part of national teams. People that had run many marathons. People that would have been doing many miles per week for years and years and years. Decades even.

Now, running is a cardiovascular activity and it makes the heart work harder. The heart is a very strong muscle, and running makes it stronger, but you can imagine, if exercise gets taken to the extreme like that for very long periods of time over a lifetime of running, that this can be bad for the heart tissue and can cause scar-tissue buildup. Also of course, some people have genetic conditions or other lifestyle factors that might be impacting on how well their heart operates and whether it is more or less susceptible to scarring.

Your level of exercise is very healthy and should not be a reason for concern.

There is still more to be discovered on this issue, e.g.:

  • Why do not all elite athletes get this?

  • Where is the threshold between what is good and what becomes unsafe?

  • What can we, everyday people, learn from this, if anything?

  • How will this affect how elite athletes train in the future?

  • In the meantime, please feel assured that the running you are doing is good for you.

    Kind regards,

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