Ultra-marathon runner who ran 50 to 100 miles every day developed anemia because the force of his foot hitting the pavement destroyed his blood cells
01/04/2018 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

Too much of anything can be bad for you, exercise included. That's a lesson that 41-year old Christopher Pokrana learned after he developed mild anemia — mild anemia brought about by his love of long-distance running.

The fervent ultra-marathon runner discovered his condition after a health screening, reported the DailyMail.co.uk. Prior to the screening, he showed no signs nor symptoms of anemia, like fatigue and loss of energy. However, Pokrana did inform doctors that he would train for marathons constantly. On the days when he would put on his running shoes and hit the pavement, he would run anywhere between 50 to 100 miles each day.

This, according to doctors, is what led to his anemia. Known as “footstrike hemolysis,” this phenomenon typically occurs when the bottoms of a person's feet are struck repeatedly and forcefully. This significantly increases the risk of red blood cell destruction, which in turn can lead to anemia. Far from just affecting long-distance runners, other types of athletes (e.g. swimmers) and even soldiers are prone to footstrike hemolysis.

Although seemingly worrisome, the doctors who studied Pokrana's case noted that his mild anemia was “clinically insignificant.” Neither his bodily functions nor his athletic performance were affected by his footstrike hemolysis, so no changes to Pokrana's routine and lifestyle were necessary. Dr. Katharine DeGeorge, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, explained that Pokrana was already following the recommended steps to stay healthy. On top of adhering to a healthy diet and maintaining a good training schedule, he wore properly fitting running shoes that he replaced every 500 miles.


Pokrana's case wasn't anything to really fret over, but the fact remains that too much exercise can be harmful in the long run. He was only able to prevent his condition from being worse than it should have been by sticking to a healthy lifestyle and heeding the advice given to runners. Others may not be so lucky. (Related: Everything in moderation – including exercise: Researchers determine too much can cause heart disease, especially in white men.)

In fact, as per Active.com, too much running may actually be just as bad or even worse than no running at all. Fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins cited one study wherein German researchers discovered that chronic marathoners had greater buildups of coronary plaque than sedentary people, making their chances of developing heart disease far more likely.

In the same article, Narins mentioned another study that suggested running more than 20 miles a week can diminish the health benefits of running, primarily the lower risk of death. The researchers behind this study stated that five to 19 miles a week was the ideal, as this minimized the risk of death by as much as 25 percent.

Speaking to Narins, cardiologist James O'Keefe remarked: “Your body is designed to deal with oxidative stress that comes from exercise for the first hour. But prolonged intense exercise causes excessive oxidative stress, which basically burns through the antioxidants in your system and predisposes you to problems. Exercise may be the most important component of a healthy lifestyle, but like any powerful drug you've got to get the dose right.”

And that dose may be moderate exercise. People who exercise for better health and longer life are better off sticking to brief yet frequent bouts of moderate exercise instead of more physically strenuous motions. But those who wish to do vigorous exercise are recommended to do so in short bursts and to combine it with moderate exercise.

Want to read up on more stories about exercise? Then go to Slender.news to get your fix of news stories and studies revolving around exercise, fitness, and health in general.

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