Training for a Marathon Can Rejuvenate the Arteries of Novice Runners

When a beginner trains to run his first marathon, the stiffness in his arteries decreases by the equivalent of four years.


The benefits of sport are regularly praised by science. Today, a new study is once again highlighting the benefits of exercise, especially running. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, when a beginner trains to run his first marathon, his arteries can be rejuvenated by several years, thanks to the degree of physical preparation.

To reach these conclusions, scientists at University College London (UK) monitored the central blood pressure (aorta) and aortic stiffness of 138 healthy novice runners without particular sports qualifications. The subjects had an average age of 37 and were scheduled to run the London Marathon. To train, they were recommended to run about three races a week, approximately 15 km, of increasing difficulty, for 17 weeks.

The researchers discovered that after six months of training, the arteries of the participants had become younger. This decrease in aortic stiffness would be equivalent to a reduction of about four years in their vascular age.

Major Benefits in Elderly Men

In detail, the benefits of race would be greater for older male participants who would run more slowly. People who were less fit before the marathon also seem to have benefited more from training their arteries.

These results are even more interesting because arteries become less flexible with age, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. “Staying active reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as the risk of premature death,” Professor Metin Avkiran of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, told the BBC.

“People with heart disease or other known medical problems should talk to their doctor first. But for most people, the benefits of exercise outweigh the risks,” says Dr. Charlotte Manisty, the study’s principal researcher.

Intensive training can carry risks

If you want to run a marathon, you need to prepare several months in advance. Suddenly throwing yourself into the marathon can be very bad for your heart. Start each session with a warm-up, gradually increase the distance you run and above all listen to your body. In fact, too intensive training can be very bad, especially if it happens suddenly, in a brutal way. If you try too hard, you may sprain, herniate a disk, and damage your joints or sprain.

For people between the ages of 18 and 64, the WHO recommends at least “150 minutes of moderate to high intensity endurance activity, or at least 75 minutes of high intensity endurance activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate to high intensity endurance activity” during the week. Resistance activity should be performed in periods of at least 10 minutes.

“In order to achieve additional health benefits, adults should increase the duration of moderate intensity endurance activity to 300 minutes per week or 150 minutes per week of sustained endurance activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate and sustained activity,” she says. For the elderly, the recommendations are more or less the same, unless there are medical contraindications. Finally, muscle strengthening, at least two days a week, is strongly recommended.

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