Exercising to death: Why we do it and how to prevent it?
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Exercising to death: Why we do it and how to prevent it?

Post by Indu Bala Malhotra on Sunday, October 30, 2022

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One more death during the Vendanta Delhi Half Marathon on 16 October 2022 of a very healthy individual who suffered a heart attack at 17km, although medical facilities were on site, according to the organiser, nothing could be done to save him.

In another incident, a 36-year-old man died in the 2022 London Marathon, the cause of death is not yet known. Seven people suffered a heart attack and one senior person, Gujanan Maljalkar, 64, died of cardiac arrest while running in the 2020 Tata Mumbai Marathon.

There have been many deaths in the marathon and half marathon in recent times. It seems unbelievable. The question arises when physical activity is prescribed to keep fit, why do runners die while running?

When the marathon was first introduced at the Olympics, it was the only road running event with only 17 participants. Today the world has around 25 to 4000 long-distance races and about 800 marathons with around 1,00,00,000 runners annually. Each year, 52 to 55% of runners are first-timers. In the end, India has also started organizing marathons in which a large number of runners participate who are amateur runners. India has over 60 marathons every year and about 3,00,000 runners.

One study found that long-running became insanity. The number of participants taking part, in the long run, has increased tremendously. This can be evidenced by the fact that as soon as registration for the marathon opens,it closes within a week. To control the number, the organizer began to register those with the prescribed timer. And the vast majority of participants are recreational athletes. Larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants. This is because running is economical and has several benefits, including weight control, stress reduction, and better blood pressure and cholesterol.

Not all participants are professionals, but most participants are amateurs. They participate to test their physical abilities. Some participants are there not to win, but to finish, but some are there to show their best time and place in their gender category. There are many whose goal is to break a certain time barrier. There are many marathons and often the prestigious one has a certain time qualification to participate. It often happens that some amateur attaches his social prestige to this participation in the marathon and then does all kinds of good and bad health practices.

These benefits come with training for two to three hours of running per week out of a target weekly distance that could be 16 to 45km per week, but some runners deny this and decide that more is better. If you want to run a marathon, you need to build endurance and that needs 40km a week. Some increased it from 64 km to 120 km per week. Even if weekly running builds endurance, but at the same time increases the risk of physical injury. It is always better to consult a doctor. This is refuted by amateur runners.

If the story could tell that everyone started a marathon, the answer would be easy: it all started when a soldier had to run from a place called Marathon in Europe to Sparta in Rome during the war. The soldier ran continuously, throwing away his weapon and clothes to run faster. The idea behind ditching the weapons and clothes, yes, is to have less weight to reach faster. The first messenger post-dating the fort to announce the victory is said to have collapsed and died, although there is no evidence this is said in the history book (Moralis 347C, Holland, Tom (2007).

Why is a marathon 42 km long? The messenger ran around the mountain that forms it and covered a distance of 240 km. If the messenger had come straight, it would have been 40 km and this was the procedure at the 1896 Olympics. The modern standard distance of 42.195 km for the marathon was set by the International Amateur Athletics Federation in May 1921.

Studies have shown that sedentary runners and high-mileage runners tend to have shorter lifespans than intermediate runners. The risk of death from a marathon is 0.67 in 1,00,000, and most deaths occur in the last leg of the marathon. By sex: men have a risk of 0.98/1,00,000 and women have a risk of 0.41/1,00,000.

The following reasons are considered to cause death due to excessive exercise:


Long-running requires quick body energy. Runners burn glycogen in the body for quick energy and in such a case often experience fatigue that makes it difficult to go further. They generally avoids taking water to save a few seconds during the day. Currently, the renaissance has started using carbohydrate-based energy gels that contain sodium and potassium, and some caffeine, which is necessary for water intake.


Heat and humidity have long been silent killers, as Marshall Shepherd mentioned in one of his columns written in Forbes. It has been found that in hot countries like India, runners often lose water through sweating and exhalation. Air pollution and a sudden temperature change can lead to a heart attack. 


The runners are provided with water along the way, but most first-timers take energy drinks. With the mistaken idea that it would eliminate fatigue faster and the runner could run faster. Even seasoned runners have a myth that gelsand other energy drinks will do the trick.


Hyponatremia is a low concentration of sodium in the blood. It is generally defined as a sodium concentration of less than 135 mmol/L, with severe hyponatremia being less than 120 mEq/L. Symptoms may be absent, mild, or severe.

The observation that most deaths occurred in the later stages of races is important to race organizers. This is caused by lactic acid in the blood, which increases in the later part and can cause abnormal heart function. Because the cause of death was often unknown, conditions like heatstroke may be more dangerous than previously thought.


In the literature, it has been found that the deaths of young people after jogging can be caused by hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, a condition where the thickening of a part of the heart wall develops after puberty. The article in Forbes also mentioned that the survival rate of patients after 40 is low because of a heart condition called ventricular tachycardia, where the lower chamber of the heart beats very fast. Heartbeats 100 or more. This prevents proper blood filling. As a result, there is a lack of oxygen. An episode lasting more than a few seconds can be fatal.

Eater Exercise-Associated Sudden Deaths (EASDs) are deaths that occur suddenly at some stage of training or just now after training. unexpected cardiac death (SCD) is one of the motifs of EASD. Cardiac arrhythmias caused by genetic variations have been linked to SCD in humans.


Rigorous training by non-professional coaches does not take into account the health status of the runners. While researchers agree that regular exercise reduces heart disease, the wrong, strict, and excessive amount can increase heart nutrition by 4 to 5 times, doctors revealed at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Montreal.



Listen to your body, don't follow others

Consider that various studies have highlighted that those who run an average of 12 km/min or faster and run more than 32 km per week are more likely to have shorter lives than those who run slower. This is debatable. But it is indisputable that a marathon can increase the enzyme troponin, which is produced when the heart is stressed and cannot get enough blood.

Engage in activities recommended by your doctor

In young people, heart disease is often undiagnosed before death; in the elderly, most have overt coronary disease or observable coronary risk factors. The logistical, cost, and accuracy issues in screening asymptomatic people to identify an increased risk of a cardiac event during exercise are significant, but a comprehensive review, including exercise testing, is essential before an increased activity program in patients with overt cardiac disease. In other situations, the scope of each assessment needs to be decided on an individual basis.

Take care of your hydration

Don't wait until the last minute to hydrate, but start doing it two days in advance, if a runner is properly hydrated, they only need two cups of water on race day, two hours before the race is enough.

Take care of a balanced diet and the right nutrients

A runner should follow a balanced diet, but it is best to avoid sugary sodas, frozen &processed foods and fatty & greasy foods

Organizers' responsibility

It is recommended to avoid some activities to avoid participating in heat-related illnesses, if you have recently had a fever, drink appropriately and organizers can provide facilities to cool athletes; walk-through showers.

Educate people before participating through social media. Ask for a medical certificate. Make the event a fun event, not a competitive one.


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