Nov. 29, 2010 /PRNewswire/
-- Using a mobile MRI unit, researchers followed
runners for two months along a 4,500-kilometer course
to study how their bodies responded to the high-stress
conditions of an ultra-long-distance race, according
to a study presented today at the annual meeting of
the Radiological Society of North
"Due to the
exceptional setting of this study, we could acquire
huge amounts of unique data regarding how endurance
running affects the body's muscle and body fat,"
said Uwe Schutz, M.D.,
a specialist in orthopedics and trauma surgery in the
Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology
at the University Hospital of Ulm in Germany.
"Much of what we have learned so far can also be
applied to the average runner."
TransEurope-FootRace 2009 took place from April
19 to June 21, 2009. It started in southern Italy
and traversed approximately 4,488 kilometers to the
North Cape in Norway.
Forty-four of the runners (66 percent) agreed to
participate in the study.
Urine and blood samples
as well as biometric data were collected daily. The
runners were also randomly assigned to other exams,
including electrocardiograms, during the course of the
study. Twenty-two of the runners in the study
underwent a whole-body MRI exam approximately every
three or four days during the race, totaling 15 to 17
exams over a period of 64 days. At the close of the
race, researchers began to evaluate the data to
determine, among other things, stress-induced changes
in the legs and feet from running. Whole-body volume,
body fat, visceral fat, abdominal subcutaneous adipose
tissue (SCAT), and fat and skeletal muscle of the
lower extremities were measured. Advanced MRI
techniques allowed the researchers to quantify muscle
tissue, fat and cartilage changes. According to Dr.
Schutz, MRI is the gold standard for the evaluation of
the musculoskeletal system of the runner.
The results showed that
runners lost an average of 5.4 percent body volume
during the course of the race, most of which was in
the first 2,000 kilometers. They lost 40 percent of
their body fat in the first half of the race and 50
percent over the duration of the race. Loss of muscle
volume in the leg averaged 7 percent.
"One of the
surprising things we found is that despite the daily
running, the leg muscles of the athletes actually
degenerated because of the immense energy
consumption," Dr. Schutz said.
While most people do
not run to this extreme, several of the study's other
findings still have implications for the marathon
runner and even the recreational runner, according to
For example, the
results showed that some leg injuries are safe to
"run through." If a runner has intermuscular
inflammation in the upper or lower legs, it is usually
possible to continue running without risk of further
tissue damage. Other overuse injuries, such as
joint inflammation, carry more risk of progression,
but not always with persistent damage.
"The rule that 'if
there is pain, you should stop running' is not always
correct," Dr. Schutz said.
Another key finding of
the study was that the first tissue affected by
running was fat tissue. More importantly, visceral fat
loss (mean 70 percent) occurred much earlier in the
running process than previously thought. Visceral fat
is the most dangerous fat and is linked to
cardiovascular disease. The findings also revealed
that the greatest amount of overall fat loss appeared
early in the process.
"When you just
begin running, the effects of fat reduction are more
pronounced than in athletes who have been running
their whole life," Dr. Schutz said. "But you
should do this sport constantly over the years. If you
stop running for a long time, you need to reduce your
caloric input or opt for other aerobic exercises to
avoid experiencing weight gain."
Coauthors are Jurgen
Machann, M.D., and Christian
Note: Copies of RSNA
2010 news releases and electronic images will be
available online at RSNA.org/press10 beginning Monday,
RSNA is an association
of more than 46,000 radiologists, radiation
oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists
committed to excellence in patient care through
education and research. The Society is based in Oak
Brook, Ill. (RSNA.org)
Editor's note: The data
in these releases may differ from those in the
published abstract and those actually presented at the
meeting, as researchers continue to update their data
right up until the meeting. To ensure you are using
the most up-to-date information, please call the RSNA
Newsroom at 1-312-949-3233.
information on MRI, visit RadiologyInfo.org.
AT A GLANCE
- MRI shows the
effects of long-distance running on the body.
- The first tissue
affected by running is fat tissue.
- Runners who stop
running regularly should reduce their calories and
opt for a different aerobic exercise to avoid
Society of North America