Novice runners training for their first marathon could be “reversing” the ageing of their blood vessels

An image of a marathon to illustrate marathon training which may help to reverse aging of blood vessels
© iStock/carlosalvarez

Novice runners who are training for their first marathon could be “reversing” the ageing of their major blood vessels, according to new research.

The study shows that older and slower runners will benefit the most from training for their first marathon.

The researchers studied 139 healthy novice runners aged 21-69 who trained for and ran their first marathon. They were advised to follow a first-time finisher training programme and ran approximately 6-13 miles per week for six months before completing the 2016 or 2017 London Marathon.

The link between training for a first marathon and reduced arterial age

Study author Dr Anish Bhuva, a British Heart Foundation Fellow at University College London, UK, said: “Novice runners who trained for six months and completed their first marathon had a four-year reduction in arterial age and a 4 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure. This is comparable to the effect of medication, and if maintained translates to approximately 10% lower risk of stroke over a lifetime.”

Bhuva added: “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.”

Motivation to keep active

Dr Bhuva said that the participants had been running for less than two hours a week before marathon training and their finish times were slower than average (to be expected on their first race). He concluded: “The study shows that the health gains of lifelong exercise start to appear after a relatively brief training programme. 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.”

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