Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Can Marathons Temporarily Hurt the Heart?

Small study found cardiac changes, but they were reversible and less likely with proper training


O'Keefe advises those who want to run a marathon ''train up for it adequately and then do it. But then cross it off your bucket list, and settle into a regular routine of moderate exercise."

For the highly competitive, he suggests running 5Ks, 10Ks or an occasional half-marathon.

"I feel like that is about the upper range of what is not damaging to the heart," O'Keefe said of the 13.1-mile distance. "Even so, I wouldn't recommend half marathons on a regular basis, especially over age 45." He advised keeping half marathons to one or two a year, at most.

Another expert took a different view.

"I don't think it is reason for concern," said Dr. James Eichelberger, an associate professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, in New York. Training, he agreed, is crucial to minimize cardiac problems.

"All these findings [in the study] were mild and transient," Eichelberger said. "There is little risk. If you want to avoid that, exercising less vigorously for a less amount of time makes some sense."


Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Flat Abs
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
woman using ice pack

man exercising
7 most effective exercises
Man looking at watch before workout
Overweight man sitting on park bench

pilates instructor
jogger running among flowering plants
woman walking
Taylor Lautner