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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 89-92

Average heart rate recovery in marathon runners: An observational study

Department of Sports Physiotherapy, KAHER Institute of Physiotherapy, Belagavi, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission09-Jul-2019
Date of Decision18-Nov-2019
Date of Acceptance18-May-2020
Date of Web Publication31-Dec-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Merlin Rajan
Department of Sports Physiotherapy, KAHER Institute of Physiotherapy, Belagavi, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/PJIAP.PJIAP_21_19

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INTRODUCTION: Marathon is a long-distance race which causes enormous physical challenges to the body. The fitness status of the runner should be checked to overcome these challenges. However, it can be assessed using an easy diagnostic method of heart rate recovery (HRR) as it is inexpensive and readily accessible. Regular monitoring and documentation of the HRR can guide a runner in his training and health status.
AIM: This study was done to check the average HRR postimmediately and after 2 min of race using radial palpatory method.
METHODOLOGY: The present study was a cross-sectional, observational study conducted in Belagavi city. The participants of all genders aged 18 years and above were enrolled in the study. The sample size was open ended. Heart rate was assessed using radial palpatory method before and after the marathon running.
RESULTS: At the end of marathon running, the pulse rate had rapidly increased with a mean of 129.40 ± 9.79. After 2 min of postrunning, there was a significant drop in the pulse rate of mean 106.32 ± 11.53. A drop of 23.08 ± 8.63 beats was seen when compared to postimmediate and after 2-min pulse rate. When the heart rate was compared between the prepulse and after 2 min, there was a mean difference of 33.66 beats.
CONCLUSIONS: The study concluded that HRR after 2 min of the run was about 23.08 ± 8.63, but it was observed that the heart rate did not go to its pretest value.

Keywords: Fitness, heart rate recovery, marathon, pulse rate, radial palpatory method

How to cite this article:
Motimath B, Rajan M. Average heart rate recovery in marathon runners: An observational study. Physiother - J Indian Assoc Physiother 2020;14:89-92

How to cite this URL:
Motimath B, Rajan M. Average heart rate recovery in marathon runners: An observational study. Physiother - J Indian Assoc Physiother [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Jun 5];14:89-92. Available from: https://www.pjiap.org/text.asp?2020/14/2/89/305837

  Introduction Top

Marathon running is an endurance athletic activity implemented by many athletes and has become a global trend. The number of participation by the athletes and recreational runners for marathon running has increased annually across India. In 2017, over 1073 marathon events were organized in India, which was 53% more than 2016.[1] Marathons are massive physical challenge for our body as there is an evidence of 80%–90% increase in cardiorespiratory system strain during the race.[2] Thus, the runners must undergo efficient training and must gain proper knowledge about their health status before the run as the workload of the heart increases during the run and alteration in the body occurs.[3]

Heart rate is a common and regularly measured human vital sign. It can be measured by various methods such as electrocardiography, pulse oximeter, or other monitoring methods.[4] However, the simplest and most commonly used method is by radial palpation as the pulse rate is equal to the heartbeat.[5],[6] The main interest of measuring heart rate using radial palpatory method is that they are noninvasive, nonexpensive, and time efficient and can be done in large number of participants.[7]

Heart rate recovery (HRR) has been used as an indicator to check the cardiovascular fitness and to predict the mortality of an individual.[8],[9] HRR can be referred to as the rate at which the heart rate declines usually within minutes after the exercise.[10] During the high-intensity exercise, the energy demand of working muscles increases due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.[11] HRR <12 bpm represents an unfavorable prognosis for relative risk of cardiovascular mortality.[12] As HRR is an inexpensive, readily accessible, and easy diagnostic tool, thus it can be a practical way of quantifying the physiological effect which can be helpful in training and educating the marathon runners about their health status.

As marathon events are conducted very frequently and the participation of runners has increased annually, so the purpose of the present study was to evaluate the recovery time of runner's postrace to check their fitness level (cardiovascular) using the simple radial palpatory method. The study hypothesized that there will be a significant reduction in the heart rate after 2 min of the race that exhibits superior cardiovascular fitness.

  Methodology Top

This was a cross-sectional study conducted during the marathons held in Belagavi, Karnataka, India. The data were collected from the marathons in the year 2018. A convenient sample was drawn from the individuals participating in marathons held in the city. Inclusion criteria were as follows: (1) both genders of age 18 years and above, (2) professional as well as recreational runners, and (3) runners with at least 1 year of training. Exclusion criteria were as follows: (1) if the participants did not complete the marathon or if the participant was not present during the pulse rate evaluation after 2 min of the race.

Ethical clearance was obtained from the Institutional Ethical Review Committee. Two hundred and thirty participants who registered for the marathon were screened by 14 postgraduate physiotherapy students using radial palpatory method for 60 s in high sitting position for inclusion and exclusion criteria. Written informed consent was taken from the participants. Participants who fulfilled the inclusion and exclusion criteria and those who have given their consent to participate were included in the study. The runner's data and prepulse rate were collected and noted immediately at the site of arrival, later the runners who completed the race, their pulse rate was noted immediately, and after 2 min, the pulse rate was again measured.

Outcome measure

One of the most common examinations performed in assessing the health of an individual is by cardiac pulse measurement. Taking the pulse is a direct measure of checking the heart rate. The simplest way to measure the pulse rate is done by the radial palpatory method.[7]

Statistical analysis

The statistical analysis was done using the SPSS software 21 version (351 west camden street baltimore, maryland 21201-2436, USA). A Kolmogorov–Smirnov analysis determined that the data were not in normal distribution. A comparison of posttest and after 2-min scores of pulse rate was calculated using the Wilcoxon paired-sample test (within-group analysis–dependent test), and the estimates were expressed as means with standard deviations or proportions, as appropriate. The level of significance was set at P < 0.05.

  Results Top

[Table 1] shows the demographic data of the participants, and the participation of male runners was more compared to females. The mean age of males was 22.5 ± 6.45 and females was 22.44 ± 4.03, the height of males was 1.66 ± 0.076 and females 1.586 ± 0.08712, and the body mass index of males was 20.844 ± 2.747 and females 21.312 ± 2.422. In [Table 2], there was a hike in pulse rate postmarathon. The Wilcoxon paired-sample test was used to compare the tests. Prepulse was 72.66 ± 11.15 and postimmediate was 129.40 ± 9.79; there was a significant rise in the pulse rate, with P = 0.001. [Table 3] interprets the changes seen in the postimmediately and after 2 min of the race. The mean of postimmediate pulse rate was 129.40 ± 9.79, and after 2 min, it was 106.32 ± 11.53. Significant drops of average 23.08 beats were seen after 2 min of recovery postrace. [Table 4] shows the lack of recovery in the pulse rate; the prepulse mean was 72.66 ± 11.15 and the mean of after 2 min was 106.32 ± 11.53. There was a significant difference, with P = 0.001, as the heart rate was not fully recovered and gone to its pretest value.
Table 1: Demographic characteristic of the runners

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Table 2: Comparison pre- and posttest scores of pulse rate

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Table 3: Comparison posttest and after 2-min scores of pulse rate

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Table 4: Comparison pretest and after 2-min scores of pulse rate

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  Discussion Top

The study was done with an aim to know the average recovery time taken by the marathon runners. Heart rate was measured immediately and after 2 min of the race. There was a drop in the pulse rate after 2 min of running with an average of 23.08 ± 8.63, with P < 0.001. When pretest and after 2-min pulse rate was compared, the heart rate did not come to its pretest value. The mean difference was 33.66 ± 14.10, with P < 0.001.

Consecutive races are performed by the participants, which can affect their health. In the previous study, they aimed to investigate the effect of marathon race on aerobic fitness and performance 1 week later and have concluded that physiological capacity and the performance of the runners were recovered within 7 days after the race.[13]

There was a rise in the heart rate of mean 56.74 ± 13.46 after the race. This is due to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and withdrawal of the parasympathetic system.[14] The previous study done on fit and healthy women concluded that there was a significant change in the parasympathetic and RR interval after 15 days postprolonged exercise session.[15] During exercise, there is metabolic heat production causing a raise in the core temperature; if fluid ingest is less than fluid loss, hypohydration may result in delayed HRR.[16] The other common factors that delay the HRR are intensity of the training, cardiorespiratory fitness, advancing age, sex, and nutrients.

In the previous study, in which patients with cardiac issues reported a decrease of < 12 beats in the nuclear perfusion exercise test and were associated with a greater risk of death, the same was observed in asymptomatic individuals in the treadmill exercise test.[12],[17] Another study found that abnormal HRR <43 beats at 2-min predicted death of an individual, which was done on asymptomatic patients who underwent symptom-limited treadmill exercise.[18] In the present study, there was a recovery of 23.08 ± 8.63 bpm after 2 min of the race. Thus, using this average HRR, the participants can monitor their health status and modify their training protocol to recover rapidly after the race.

Clinical implication

It will provide the runners, exercise physiologist, sports physical therapist, and physical fitness personal a guide for exercise prescription and help to evaluate the fitness status of an individual.

  Conclusions Top

Radial palpatory method to check the heart rate was helpful in quickly assessing and for measuring the HRR by which we can evaluate the cardiovascular fitness of the runners. The study showed that there is a significant difference in pulse rate and an average of 23.08 ± 8.63 beats drop was seen between postimmediate and after 2-min marathon running.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Available from:http://wwindiarunning.com. [Last accessed 2019 Jul 06].  Back to cited text no. 1
Billat VL, Petot H, Landrain M, Meilland R, Koralsztein JP, Mille-Hamard L. Cardiac output and performance during a marathon race in middle-aged recreational runners. Sci World J 2012;2012:1-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
Borresen J, Lambert MI. Changes in heart rate recovery in response to acute changes in training load. Eur J Appl Physiol 2007;101:503-11.  Back to cited text no. 3
Kobayashi H. Effect of measurement duration on accuracy of pulse-counting. Ergonomics 2013;56:1940-4.  Back to cited text no. 4
Escalona OJ, Mendoza M. Electrocardiographic waveforms fitness check device technique for sudden cardiac death risk screening. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc 2016;2016:3453-556.  Back to cited text no. 5
Hwu YJ, Coates VE, Lin FY. A study of the effectiveness of different measuring times and counting methods of human radial pulse rates. J Clin Nurs 2000;9:146-52.  Back to cited text no. 6
Holcomb JB, Salinas J, McManus JM, Miller CC, Cooke WH, Convertino VA. Manual vital signs reliably predict need for life-saving interventions in trauma patients. J Trauma 2005;59:821-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
George M, Luebbers PE. Comparison of heart rate recovery times among untrained, recreationally-trained, and athletically-trained college students. Int J Exerc Sci 2016;11:40.  Back to cited text no. 8
Dhoble A, Lahr BD, Allison TG, Kopecky SL. Cardiopulmonary fitness and heart rate recovery as predictors of mortality in a referral population. J Am Heart Assoc 2014;3:e000559.  Back to cited text no. 9
Okutucu S, Karakulak UN, Aytemir K, Oto A. Heart rate recovery: A practical clinical indicator of abnormal cardiac autonomic function. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther 2011;9:1417-30.  Back to cited text no. 10
Du N, Bai S, Oguri K, Kato Y, Matsumoto I, Kawase H, et al. Heart rate recovery after exercise and neural regulation of heart rate variability in 30-40 year old female marathon runners. J Sports Sci Med 2005;4:9-17.  Back to cited text no. 11
Nishime EO, Cole CR, Blackstone EH, Pashkow FJ, Lauer MS. Heart rate recovery and treadmill exercise score as predictors of mortality in patients referred for exercise ECG. JAMA 2000;284:1392-8.  Back to cited text no. 12
Takayama F, Aoyagi A, Shimazu W, Nabekura Y. Effects of marathon running on aerobic fitness and performance in recreational runners one week after a race. J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp) 2017;2017:1-6.  Back to cited text no. 13
Pierpont GL, Stolpman DR, Gornick CC. Heart rate recovery post-exercise as an index of parasympathetic activity. J Auton Nerv Syst 2000;80:169-74.  Back to cited text no. 14
Gifford RM, Boos CJ, Reynolds RM, Woods DR. Recovery time and heart rate variability following extreme endurance exercise in healthy women. Physiol Rep 2018;6:e13905.  Back to cited text no. 15
Maughan RJ, Leiper JB, Shirreffs SM. Restoration of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration: Effects of food and fluid intake. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol 1996;73:317-25.  Back to cited text no. 16
Cole CR, Foody JM, Blackstone EH, Lauer MS. Heart rate recovery after submaximal exercise testing as a predictor of mortality in a cardiovascularly healthy cohort. Ann Intern Med 2000;132:552-5.  Back to cited text no. 17
Cole CR, Blackstone EH, Pashkow FJ, Snader CE, Lauer MS. Heart-rate recovery immediately after exercise as a predictor of mortality. N Engl J Med 1999;341:1351-7.  Back to cited text no. 18


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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