The frequency of anemia and iron deficiency in the runner

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1989 Dec;21(6):643-8. doi: 10.1249/00005768-198912000-00003.


The current consensus is that runners commonly experience a mild anemia influenced by iron deficiency. We compared hematologic parameters of 72 (35 males and 37 females) runners with 48 (27 males and 21 females) nonrunners and assessed the impact of iron supplementation. Male runners had lower hemoglobin (Hb) values than male nonrunners (14.8 vs 15.3 g.dl-1) (P less than 0.05) regardless of iron usage. Female runners had higher (P = 0.05) Hb values than female controls (13.5 vs 12.8 g.dl-1). Female runners off iron had Hbs similar to controls off iron (P = 0.30). Iron parameters (total serum iron, TSI; total iron-binding capacity, TIBC; percent saturation of the TIBC, %sat TIBC; and serum ferritin) of runners vs controls, runners vs runners (on or off iron), and nonrunners vs nonrunners (on or off iron) were comparable except 1) male runners off iron had lower (P less than 0.05) %sat TIBC values (26%) than male runners on iron (34%) and 2) female runners taking iron had ferritin values (32 similar to those of female nonrunners taking iron (39 but higher (P less than 0.05) than their counterparts off iron (15 and 15, respectively). This study concludes that running affects Hb in a variable manner and suggests that the runner's iron status is similar to that of the general population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anemia, Hypochromic / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Humans
  • Iron / administration & dosage
  • Iron / blood
  • Iron / deficiency*
  • Male
  • Running*


  • Ferritins
  • Iron