New runners who train for and complete a marathon benefit from improved heart health, shaving four years off their vascular age, new research from Barts and University College London finds.
During the study, 138 novice runners attempted to run the London Marathon after six months of training. Researchers found after completing the marathon, the runners’ blood pressure was reduced by as much as if they had been taking prescribed pills, with their arteries regaining some youthful elasticity, known to reduce to risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Across all the participants, the average time for running the 26.2-mile marathon was between four and a half to five and a half hours.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, who funded the research, said that smaller amounts of aerobic movement are likely to have a comparable effect.
Of course, in recent years there has been multiple headlines when runners with a pre-existing but undiagnosed heart condition collapse during races, however this is very uncommon.
Talking about the potential risks of training for a marathon, lead researcher Dr Charlotte Manisty said: “People with known heart disease or other medical conditions should speak to their doctor first. But for most people, the benefits of taking up exercise far outweigh any risk,” they added.
Professor Metin Avkiran from the BHF hails exercise as a pseudo “wonder drug”.
“The benefits of exercise are undeniable. Keeping active reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and cuts your chances of an early death,” he said.