Height affects running and running affects height. Taller individuals tend to choose sprinting, while shorter athletes are more likely to choose long-distance running. But running a marathon can take a toll on the body. After running a marathon, the runner may be shorter than they were before the event. During a single marathon, the feet hit the ground approximately 50,000 times. The physical stress of long-distance running ultimately may affect the skeletal structure and height of a runner’s body.
Sprinters vs Long-Distance Runners
Long-distance runners possess average to below-average heights and carry low body weights on slender frames. Sprinters are taller and carry more muscle mass than long-distance runners. Endurance runners -- participants competing in the 3,000-meter or marathon events are, on average, almost 2 1/2 inches shorter than their sprinting counterparts, calculated among female Olympic finalists.
Disc Height Reduction
A marathoner is projected to lose almost 1/2 inches in height during a race. This loss in height is a result of the back muscles tensing under strenuous conditions. The spines of long-distance runners examined before and after a one-hour run discovered disc height significantly decreased over the course of the run, according to the “Journal of International Medical Research.” The greatest height distance between discs was at the Lumbar 5 and Sacral 1 discs.
Reverse height loss with hyperextension exercises, which increase the distance between discs after 10 minutes of hyperextension, according to Kourtis et al. in the Spine Height and Disc Height Changes As the Effect of Hyperextension Using Stadiometry and MRI. Position yourself on a hyperextension bench and place your hands behind your head or cross your arms over your chest. Using smooth moves, bend at the waist and lower your upper torso toward the floor. Pause momentarily and raise your torso until your spine is in a supine position -- parallel to the floor.
Calorie Restriction Affects Spine Structure
Marathon running requires prolonged endurance. Emphasis is placed on low body weight to enhance a runner’s performance. Calories often are restricted during times of substantial energy expenditure. Calorie restriction can lead to amenorrhea --absence of menstruation -- and nutritional deficiencies, which are common among female long-distance runners. While a long-distance runner’s height may appear to be average, the presence of amenorrhea indicates decreased bone-mass density in the back due to the demands of running.
- Calcified Tissue International: Low Bone Mass Density at Multiple Skeletal Sites, Including the Appendicular Skeleton in Amenorrheic Runners
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Age, Height, and Weight of Female Olympic Finalists in Running Events
- Journal of International Medical Research: Intervertebral Disc Changes after 1 h of Running: A Study on Athletes
- BBC Sport Academy: Are You Born An Athlete?
- British Journal of Sports Medicine: Intensive Training in Elite Young Female Athletes
- Iowa Orthopaedic Journal: Spine Height and Disc Height Changes As the Effect of Hyperextension Using Stadiometry and MRI