Ultramarathon is an outstanding model for the study of adaptive responses to extreme load and stress
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BMC Medicine 2012, 10:77 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-77Published: 19 July 2012
Ultramarathons comprise any sporting event involving running longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 km (26.2 miles). Studies on ultramarathon participants can investigate the acute consequences of ultra-endurance exercise on inflammation and cardiovascular or renal consequences, as well as endocrine/energetic aspects, and examine the tissue recovery process over several days of extreme physical load. In a study published in BMC Medicine, Schütz et al. followed 44 ultramarathon runners over 4,487 km from South Italy to North Cape, Norway (the Trans Europe Foot Race 2009) and recorded daily sets of data from magnetic resonance imaging, psychometric, body composition and biological measurements. The findings will allow us to better understand the timecourse of degeneration/regeneration of some lower leg tissues such as knee joint cartilage, to differentiate running-induced from age-induced pathologies (for example, retropatelar arthritis) and finally to assess the interindividual susceptibility to injuries. Moreover, it will also provide new information about the complex interplay between cerebral adaptations/alterations and hormonal influences resulting from endurance exercise and provide data on the dose-response relationship between exercise and brain structure/function. Overall, this study represents a unique attempt to investigate the limits of the adaptive response of human bodies.