Running Your First Marathon Could Add Years to Your Life

The term “artery age” has been determined to define the relationship between actual age and the stiffness at three points of the aorta—the largest artery in the body.  

A new study has observed that running a marathon—even just one time—could improve “artery age” by as much as four years. 

Of course, running a marathon is more than just starting and finishing a 26-mile race on foot.  Running a marathon for the first time still involves months of training to ensure that the body can handle the stress that goes with such a task.  And this training, experts say, effectively lower blood pressure and increases arterial flexibility because of the improved endurance.  

The good news is that many people, in the new year, tend to make resolutions that they will improve their health by getting more exercise—and many who pursue this route set the goal of running a marathon.  While the goal is ambitious the point is not necessarily to win the race:  even just completing it will do amazing things for your health. 

Study author Dr. Charlotte Manisty describes, “As clinicians are meting with patients in the new year, making a goal-oriented exercise training recommendation, such as signing up for a marathon or fun-run may be a good motivator for our patients to keep active.”

Manistry adds, “Our study highlights the importance of lifestyle modifications to slow the risks associated with ageing, especially as it appears to never be too late as evidenced by our older, slower runners.”

To be clear, the study analyzed 138 first-time marathon runners who participated in the London marathon in either 2016 or 2017.  These participants were already healthy (which makes sense since they have been training for a marathon) but ran no more than two hours per week at the start of their training. 

Indeed, Dr. Manistry emphasizes that older males and those who run slowly appear to benefit the most.  She adds that this study shows it is definitely possible to reverse the consequences of aging in terms of the blood vessels, with “real-world exercise in just six months.”

She goes on to say, “These benefits were observed in overall healthy individuals across a broad age range and their marathon times are suggestive of achievable exercise training in novice participants.”

Now, blood pressure drugs can certainly help improve arterial health—as arteries become stiffer with age—which, in turn, will reduce risk for heart disease and kidney problems, even dementia.