While it’s not possible or practical for everyone, training for and completing a marathon significantly improves the health of a new runner’s arteries, a study suggests.
For the study, researchers from Barts and University College London analysed 138 novice runners attempting the London Marathon.
Following six months of training, the runners’ arteries were seen to regain some youthful elasticity, something which should reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the runners’ blood pressure fell by as much as if they had been prescribed medication.
Interestingly, those who were the least fit before the training appeared to afford the most health benefits.
The best news is that the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, says smaller amounts of aerobic exercise are likely to have a similar effect, meaning people don’t necessarily need to train for a marathon to benefit.
Speaking about the findings of the study, Prof Metin Avkiran, an Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “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.”
According to NHS England guidelines, every week, adults should do a minimum of either:
- 150 minutes moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, doubles tennis or cycling
- 75 minutes vigorous exercise, such as running, football or rugby
It’s also important to do strengthening activities - such as push-ups, sit-ups or lifting and carrying - at least twice a week.