Joining the fitness bandwagon this year? Here are tips to get you through

Participating in marathons, cyclothons and walkathons has indeed become the latest trend in metropolitan cities. With many fitness enthusiasts, athletes and people of all age groups participating in long & short distance events, numbers of participation platforms have also significantly increased. Smaller cities across the country are also joining the league to glorify the ‘thon’ trend

Can heart patients run a marathon safely? Dr. Santosh Dora, Senior Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute suggests measures cardiac patients running the marathon must take “As every runner knows, running is about more than just putting one foot in front of the other; it is about our lifestyle and who we are.”- Joan Benoit An Indian dies of a heart attack every 33 seconds. Surprisingly, in the last few years recreational running is gaining popularity. We are determined to make running more of a lifestyle improvement, in order to benefit not only our physical body but also our heart. In 2004, when Mumbai marathon first began, the bookings were open till the day before the event. This year, the spots were filled 6 months in advance, a massive transformation which determines the health centric preferences of the population. Running lowers blood pressure, increases the good cholesterol, and decreases the risk of diabetes, coronary heart diseases and heart attack. Needless to say that there are only benefits of running. However, if you are a heart patient, that is, if you have recently suffered a heart attack or undergone a bypass or angioplasty surgery, there are certain measures one should take while preparing for a safe marathon: 1. Tests: All cardiac patients must undergo a series of tests- ECG, routine blood tests, 2D-Echocardiogram and stress test (certified by a cardiologist), to make sure that their heart is in prime condition to run amarathon. 2. Normal heart pumping: If you’ve undergone a successful bypass or angioplasty surgery, and your heart pumping is normal, then you are ready to participate in a marathon. 3. Time gap: In a scenario where you have suffered a heart attack, take rest for at least three months, giving ample time to heal and for healthy scar formation. 4. Prepare in advance: If this is your first marathon, then start with improving your fitness levels. Begin with a brisk walk, move on to jogging and then running. 5. Medicines: Take your medicines regularly, especially on the day of the run. 6. Symptoms: If you experience some chest pain or breathlessness, stop any strenuous activity and report to your cardiologist. A heart patient can run a marathon safely and maintain their health as well if they vigilantly take these precautionary measures. This year about 90 rehabilitated cardiac patients from Asian Heart Institute will be running the Mumbai Marathon. A feat that everyone- patient or not- must aspire to accomplish.

While most participants in such events are equipped with the right knowledge and train much before the event, others seldom have any training or guidance, thereby upping their risk of injury. Here are a few tips one must follow to have an injury-free ‘thon.’

Dr Brajesh Kumar Kunwar
Dr Brajesh Kumar Kunwar

Do not take it sluggishly: One should not go from zero to high intensity workout; give your body time to progress gradually rather than diving straight into a steep curve.

Running a marathon is an extreme form of workout; it is recommended that people who are aiming to participate should build up a substantial amount of running experience prior to tackling one for the first time, including running short distance races.

Consultant with your doctor: It is always recommended that one must inform your doctor that you plan to train for and run a marathon. If there are any health apprehensions you need to be aware of, a doctor should be able to let you know and provide advice.

You should seek medical clearance before beginning training, in case you have a health condition that might make training unsafe. Some people may have a genetic leaning to heart disease or cardiac arrest; it is advisable to undergo an ECG before training for a marathon.

Do not ignore the signs such as chest pain, palpitations, dizziness and shortness of breath during training. If you experience either one of these, immediately consult your doctor.

Take care of what you are eating: Running a marathon requires systemic approach towards training and nutrition. Eat a small snack that is rich in carbohydrates, with moderate amount of protein and small amount of fats.

Running on an empty stomach is not advisable as it may cause dehydration, gastrointestinal distress; it may also reduce your endurance and leave you fatigued.

More calorie consumption during marathon training is important, as it helps maintain your muscle Protein, maintain your sugar levels, and helps you feel fuller for longer.

What type of exercises is a must?

Before participation in long marathons, one should be doing endurance exercises like jogging swimming and skipping.

People who should not participate at all: Sudden participation in an aggressive marathon can sometimes be detrimental. Unevaluated person or person with a known heart disease should avoid participation.

People with the following risk factors must undergo thorough medical before participation:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • History of sudden death in family
  • Strong family history of heart disease

People who have the following symptoms should get checked by cardiologist before participation:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain or heaviness
  • Swelling over body
  • Recurrent giddiness or early fatigue

The author is an Interventional Cardiologist, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital and Rajeswari Shetty, HOD, Dietitics, S.L. Raheja Hospital, Mahim

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