Running a first marathon would rejuvenate our vascular age by four years
Healthy people who train and complete a first marathon subtract the equivalent of four years from their vascular age, according to a new British study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Researchers at University College London have associated this training with reduced blood pressure and aortic stiffness. The most marked benefits were seen in older, slower male runners, who had the highest blood pressure at baseline.
Hardening of the arteries is a normal consequence of aging, but it also increases the risk of cardiovascular problems in otherwise healthy individuals.
The researchers recruited 138 healthy people who participated in a first London marathon in 2016 and 2017. These participants were examined six months before and within three weeks of the race, to determine if their training had reduced the rigidity of their arteries.
The subjects did not run more than two hours per week at the start of the study. They were on average 37 years old and 49 percent of them were men. Several have adopted the training suggested by the organizers of the marathon for those who are having a first experience, that is to say approximately three races per week which increase in intensity over a period of 17 weeks.
The training lowered the systolic and diastolic pressure of the participants by 4 and 3 mmHg respectively. The general stiffness of the arteries has decreased, but the greatest beneficial impact has been measured on the distal aorta, the elasticity of which has improved by 9 percent. This corresponds to a reduction of about four years in the age of the arteries.
The study authors believe that their work shows that it is possible, with only six months of training, to reverse the consequences of aging on blood vessels.
Even though the researchers only recruited health participants, they believe that people with hypertension or with the most rigid arteries could improve their cardiovascular health even more by training.