Posted on Sep 13, 2010, 6 a.m.
Triathlete training results in key physiological adaptations of the heart, potentially raising the organ’s efficiency.
Triathlons are multi-sport events consisting of swimming, cycling and running various distances in succession, and represent a blend of endurance and resistance training. A study of triathletes completed by University of Erlangen-Nurenburg (Germany) scientists reveals that the heart adapts to triathlon training by working more efficiently. Michael M. Lell and colleagues conducted cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on 26 professional male triathletes, mean age 27.9 years, engaged in six or more years of continuous training; as well as 27 age-matched male counterparts who were recreationally active no more than three hours per week (served as controls) The cardiac MRI revealed that, compared to the recreational athletes, the triathletes had larger left atria and larger right and left ventricles. The triathletes' left and right ventricles also had greater muscle mass and wall thickness. Explaining that these physiological adaptations reflect the nature of triathlon training, which has both endurance and resistance components, the researchers submit that a combined program of resistance and endurance training may be the optimal fitness regimen that benefits cardiovascular fitness.
Michael Scharf, Matthias H. Brem, Matthias Wilhelm, U. Joseph Schoepf, Michael Uder, Michael M. Lell. “Atrial and Ventricular Functional and Structural Adaptations of the Heart in Elite Triathletes Assessed with Cardiac MR Imaging.” Radiology, August 31, 2010; doi:10.1148/radiol.10092377.