In a Word... Athletic

To my joy, increased levels of exercise is linked to heart issues

Athletic, from Latin athleticus, Greek athletikos.

Athletic, from Latin athleticus, Greek athletikos.

 

It was such good news to hear the Dublin City Marathon is not going ahead next October. I will sleep easier. There is nothing as disconcerting for those of us of a more...ah, “refined” sensibility than to find ourselves in Dublin on marathon day.

It’s like being surrounded by thousands and thousands of Rowan Gillespie Famine sculptures. You know the ones, those most distressful figures in bronze on Custom House Quay representing our starving ancestors as they made a last exhausting journey to coffin ships, escaping hunger. Nowadays so many compatriots make this annual stressful “marathon” haste through our capital’s streets, escaping the fat of over-indulgence. All a bit mad, Ted.

In centuries to come, people will look back and wonder at the whole idea of adults choosing freely to run 26.2 miles (42.2km) in the fastest possible time. No human body was meant to do that, which is why the original run by Greek soldier Pheidippides in 490 BC from the Battle of Marathon to Athens became the source of myth. If it was ever other than that.

Yes, our more civilised descendants will see marathon running, mixed martial arts, and boxing much as we now regard the gladiatorial fights to the death in Rome’s Colosseum, public executions, and Mayo-Leitrim senior football matches.

As someone for whom exercise of any excessive sort amounts to a four-letter word, you will understand my joy at recent reports that athletes are 2½ times more likely than non-athletes to experience irregular heartbeats.

The findings of studies, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last month, established there is a threshold beyond which increased levels of exercise is linked to heart issues, including atrial fibrillation.

This is a condition that sees irregular heartbeats raise the risk of stroke, heart failure and related problems. Previous studies have shown that moderate physical activity can improve cardiovascular health and is associated with reduced illness and deaths.

Folks, you will have to agree this is just Roscommon sense. Moderation is the way to go, in all things. This, to be consistent and accurate, also includes being moderate in your moderation. A little excess is also good for body and soul, if only to remind you just how good “normal” feels.

Athletic, from Latin athleticus, Greek athletikos, “strong of body, vigorous”.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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