Ultramarathons May Briefly Shrink Your Brain, According To Science

Run

But running a normal marathon won’t have the same effect.

by Carla Herreria, Associate Editor, HuffPost Hawaii

Let’s all just agree: Ultramarathoners are insane superhuman. A mere 26.2-mile run doesn’t satisfy them. Instead, they chase adrenaline for hundreds of miles, sometimes for weeks on end.

And while running has undeniable benefits — it improves your joint health, builds endurance, even boosts your sex appeal and keeps you feeling sexy — scientists say that extreme long-distance running can be taxing on the body, including the brain.

Researchers at the University Hospital of Ulm in Germany found that the brains of runners who participated in the 2009 Trans Europe Foot Race — an ultramarathon that covered nearly 2,800 miles in 64 days — temporarily shrunk throughout the course of the race.

Dr. Uwe Schütz and his research team followed 44 runners during the nine-week race across southern Italy into Norway. Using a portable MRI scanner, the researchers scanned the runners’ joints, limbs and organs every three to four days for the entire race, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

The researchers found that 13 of the runners who agreed to additional pre- and post-race brain scans had lost an average 6.1 percent of gray matter volume by the end of the race.

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About The Author

Jen has been doing triathlon for several years. She is a former bobsled pilot for America Samoa and has a passion for the outdoors; especially winter mountaineering. At home she is wife to a mountain obsessed husband and mother of three girls, but here at EnduranceReview, she is an author, Managing Editor and token chick.