Our Cherry Blossom 10 miler is a little over a week away. My husband and I have been consistent with our long training runs and we feel good. In fact, I was feeling so confident that I decided to register for another half-marathon that my BFF is also running. Yeah for running buddies.
The half-marathon is close to my hometown in NJ. I called my mom to tell her about the race and that I’d be up her way the 1st weekend of May. She brought up her concern over me running these long distances. My mom also mentioned that there are studies out there on the correlation between too much aerobic exercise and the production of free radicals in your body. I know I have definitely come across the term, free radical, before. However, I cannot exactly tell you what they are or what they do. So, of course I did what I normally do – I took to the internet for some good quality research. At first I was quite skeptical about what my mom told me. It did not make sense – everything I read about cancer prevention says working out and having oxygen circulate throughout your body is good. So, here’s what I learned from various sites:
- The the most common form of free radicals comes from oxygen. When an oxygen molecule becomes electrically charged it causes damage to your DNA and other molecules. Over time, such damage may become irreversible and lead to disease (like cancer).
- During exercise, oxygen delivery to your cells increases which in turn increases free radical production. In other words, cardio exercise does produce free radicals.
Good news (have to report this back to my mom): My body (and yours) can counter-balance the effects of an increase in free radicals from exercise.
- Antioxidants are our friends. Antioxidants may actually protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
- Antioxidants can be found in foods containing beta-carotene (carrots), lycopene (tomatoes) and foods with high amounts of vitamin C (kiwi, berries, dark leafy greens), vitamin E (seeds, nuts, apricots) and vitamin A (kale, spinach, sweet potatoes). This was actually something I already knew!
- And then I read more and got confused…According to an article on Livestrong’s site: Exercise leads to increased free radicals, yet regular exercise promotes antioxidant production which neutralize the free radicals? Seems like we’ve just made one complete loop.
Here’s what I plan to do with all of this information: continue exercising and continue eating a crap load of fruits and veggies. Basically, I am not changing a thing. And I am fairly certain the anxiodants in my body will kick butt!
By the way, stress and environmental toxins can also lead to increased free radical production. In addition to the Livestrong article, I found some good reading on The National Cancer Institute’s site and a fun blurp on an NYU health blog