Researchers have found that prolonged periods of extreme exercise coupled with poor fitness and preparation puts you at a higher risk of blood poisoning.
Australian researchers found that extreme exercise (Anything over 4 hours of exercise, or consecutive days of endurance exercise, is considered ‘extreme’) had the potential to trigger life threatening blood poisoning. For this study they took blood samples from athletes who took part in extreme endurance events such as 24-hour ultra-marathons and multi-stage ultra-marathons run on consecutive days. The research scientists looked at blood samples taken before and after the events and compared them to a control group.
Analysis showed that exercise over a long duration caused the gut wall to change its ‘leakiness’, permitting naturally occurring bacteria (endotoxins) to leak into the bloodstream which could potentially lead to this blood poisoning. Once those bacteria are in the bloodstream, your immune system responds, creating an inflammatory reaction throughout the body. This can then make you feel quite unwell not just the post exercise soreness we have all come to expect.
Lead researcher Ricardo Costa at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia reported that nearly all of the participants in their study had blood markers identical to patients admitted to hospital with sepsis/septic shock. If not diagnosed and treated rapidly, Sepsis can be fatal.
These findings don’t indicate that people should stop competing in these extreme events, however what it does highlight is the need to ensure you have prepared properly. Researchers found that athletes who had gradually prepared for extreme endurance events, develop immune mechanisms to help to counteract this threat.
Costa reported, “The body has the ability to adapt and put a brake on negative immune responses triggered by extreme endurance events but if you haven’t done the training and you’re unfit then you are at risk of getting into trouble. Extreme periods of training and exercise are no longer considered unusual, there are waiting lists to enter marathons. Ironman triathlon events and ultra-marathons are the norm and they’re growing in popularity.”
Costa advised anyone who signs up for such an event to get a health check first. Then, he advised embarking on a slow and steady training program ‘don’t just try to run a marathon a month after signing up’ as this lack of preparation and training puts you at risk.
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