January 8, 2020
Training for six months and completing your first 26-mile marathon run can add back up to four years to your heart health, according to new UK research findings, ABC News reports.
The study, published January 6 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, says the training can lower blood pressure and aortic stiffness to the equivalent of a four-year reduction in vascular health.
This result isn’t surprising to Dr. Alton Barron, clinical associate professor of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, who was not involved in the study but has run 15 marathons and 50 half-marathons.
“Running has long-term health benefits,” he told ABC News. “The beautiful part of running is that it’s just our body—it doesn’t require a membership fee or using equipment. You just go outside and start running.”
Aerobic exercise is good for your health because it decreases blood vessel stiffness and increases blood flow. It reduces vessel stiffness by reducing inflammation and ramping up wall stress. Wall stress causes the release of nitric oxide, which relaxes the smooth muscle in the blood vessels.
Marathons attract millions of people every year, ranging from ﬁrst-time enthusiasts to professional athletes. According to RunRepeat’s State of Running 2019, participation in races peaked in 2016 with a total of 9.1 million—with the highest number of participants running in 5-kilometer races and half marathons.
For the study, researchers from various institutions in the United Kingdom examined 138 untrained, relatively healthy adults who underwent six months of training for their ﬁrst marathon in London.
They found that after six months of training and completion of the marathon, it was possible to have reduced blood pressure and vessel stiffness and reversed the consequences of aging large vessels by approximately four years. Older males with slower marathon run times and higher blood pressure at baseline benefited the most.
However, doing so is a major commitment: Training for marathons can be expensive and experts suggest that long-distance runners should cover a minimum distance of 18.6 miles per week before a marathon to reduce their risk of running related injury. What’s more, first-time runners may encounter additional barriers such as being overweight, out of sharp, and lacking motivation, Barron told ABC News.
“Starting anything can be intimidating and scary. I would suggest you find a companion who is on your level or has the same desires and start with small goals. For non-runners, walk every day and gradually build.” Barron advised.
“Stress fractures and shin splints occur by doing too much too fast,” Barron told ABC News.
Research contact: @abcnews