European Society of Cardiology 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.”
A hallmark of normal ageing is stiffening of the blood vessels, which increases the risk of stroke and heart disease even in healthy people. Compared to their peers, lifelong athletes have biologically younger blood vessels. This study investigated whether training for a marathon could modify aortic stiffness even in novice runners.
The study included 139 healthy first-time marathon runners aged 21-69 years who were advised to follow a first-time finisher training programme and ran an estimated 6-13 miles (10-20 km) a week for six months ahead of completing the 2016 or 2017 London Marathon.2,3