New research suggests that running a marathon—even slowly—lowers blood pressure, especially among older men
It’s never too late in life to run your first marathon, and according to a new British study, the benefits are immediate, regardless of how old you are when you start. The University College London study found that the most significant gains were among older men who entered the study with higher blood pressure.
“Our study highlights the importance of lifestyle modifications to slow the risks associated with aging, especially as it appears to never be too late as evidenced by our older, slower runners,” said co-lead researcher Charlotte Manisty.
The findings were based on 138 first-time marathon runners who had participated in the 2016 or 2017 London Marathon. The average participant in the study was 37 years old, and 49% per cent were male. All of the participants ran no more than two hours per week while taking part.
Researchers examined how preparing for a running the marathon affected the stiffness of participants’ arteries. Hardening of the arteries comes with aging and increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as for dementia and kidney disease. Those risks increase even when there’s an absence of plaque buildup in the arteries.
Researchers found that first-time runners saw a decrease in the stiffness of their arteries equivalent on average to a four-year reduction in their “arterial age.”
First-time runners also saw improved heart muscle contraction and a relaxing of their muscles that prompted a drop in blood pressure.
“Our study shows it is possible to reverse the consequences of aging on our blood vessels with real-world exercise in just six months,” Manisty said.