Training for, and running, your first marathon could reverse the ageing of your major blood vessels by as much as four years. This is according to a brand new study conducted by Dr Anish Bhuva, a British Heart Foundation Fellow at University College London in the United Kingdom.
As people age, the blood vessels stiffen, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The study included 139 healthy first-time marathon runners aged 21-69 years who were put through a casual first-time finisher training programme before eventually completing the London Marathon. The group underwent an MRI to determine the quality of their vessels then ran an estimated 10-20 km a week for six months and finally ran the race before being scanned again.
The findings were that across the board aortic stiffness had reduced. Older participants and those with longer marathon finish times had greater reductions in aortic stiffness after training.
“You don’t have to be an elite athlete to gain the benefits from marathon running. In fact, the benefits appeared greatest in those who were older and slower. By completing training, and getting to the finish line, it is possible to rejuvenate the cardiovascular system of first-time marathon runners,” Bhuva said.
“The study shows that the health gains of lifelong exercise start to appear after a relatively brief training programme,” he said. “Training for a marathon can be a good motivator to keep active. Many people enjoy it and continue running, which should increase the likelihood of sustaining the benefits,” he added.