Be Wary of Marathons: Understanding Their Impact on Oxidative Stress and Health

Marathon running and similar intense exercise activities do seem to increase oxidative stress levels. A study from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University found that intense exercise such as marathon running can raise oxidative stress. This increase occurs as the body struggles to detoxify the free radicals produced when muscles use oxygen at a rate 100-200 times higher than their normal rate. The study also noted that this intense exercise depletes vitamin levels, specifically vitamin E, which is known for its antioxidant properties. This suggests that the body’s natural capacity to manage oxidative stress is overwhelmed during such intense physical exertion.

Furthermore, a systematic review on the effect of running exercise on oxidative stress biomarkers investigated various biomarkers that predict oxidative stress status among runners. The outcomes included assessments of oxidative damage markers such as malondialdehyde (MDA), protein carbonyl (PC), and total antioxidant capacity (TAC), among others. The study concluded that running exercise does not elicit a response to specific biomarkers of oxidative stress. Instead, oxidative damage markers of lipids, proteins, and various enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants are expressed according to the individual’s training status.

These findings indicate that while intense endurance activities like marathon running do increase oxidative stress, the extent and specific impact may vary based on individual factors like training status and overall health.

  1. Thirupathi A, Pinho RA, Ugbolue UC, He Y, Meng Y, Gu Y. Effect of Running Exercise on Oxidative Stress Biomarkers: A Systematic Review. Front Physiol. 2021 Jan 20;11:610112. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.610112. PMID: 33551836; PMCID: PMC7854914.
  2. Marathon runners deplete vitamins, raise oxidative stress | Oregon State University


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