In finding out the best methods of developing a low or no risk heart in regards to cardiac related deaths, researchers at the University of Erlangen-Nuremburg in Erlangen, Germany took on a study to determine which types of hearts where the least at-risk, and compared methods of training. Professor Dr Lell and his colleagues examined the hearts of 26 professional triathletes using a cardiac MRI, or magnetic resonance Imaging system, against the hearts of 27 sedentary males of the same age.
The study showed overall differences in the size of the heart chambers as well as thickness of the walls of the heart. The growth differences also showed a balance between the right and left side, providing an adaptation that was low-risk. Dr Lell emphasized that adaptations or pathological cardiac conditions such as cardiomyopathy are risky because of the unevenness between the size of the two sides of the heart, making it difficult to function effectively, especially under stress. This is a leading cause of sudden cardiac death in active individuals.
The study argues that the type of adaptation that occurs in triathletes is a direct result of the style of training they participate in. Sessions are balanced between endurance exercises such as running and swimming, while cycling is a cross between endurance and resistance training. The combination allows for optimal adaptations in the heart, compared to the adaptations which occur from training in either resistance or endurance, only.
Based on the findings of this study, it can be deducted that a well balanced training plan including cardiovascular endurance activities and resistance training provides the best cardiac adaptations, with the least associated risks.
Lell, M, et al.Atrial and Ventricular Functional and Structural Adaptations of the Heart in Elite Triathletes Assessed with Cardiac MR Imaging Radiology October 2010 257:71-79
- Don't forget to bookmark Matters of the heart: Effective training