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If you ever considered training for a marathon, but are a bit intimidated by the idea of 26.2 miles, here is some motivation.
A 6-month slow and steady training program designed to gradually increase endurance and mileage gave a group of novice runners, aged 21 to 69, an impressive boost to their heart health.
"What we found in this study is that we are able to reverse the aging processes that occur in the [blood] glasses, "says study author Dr. Anish Bhuva, a cardiology fellow at the British Heart Foundation at the Barts Heart Center in the United Kingdom.
Each of the 138 runners received a scan at the beginning and end of the training. Using these images, the researchers documented reductions in stiffness of the aortic artery that were equivalent to a four-year reduction in vascular age. The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"As you get older, the normal aging process causes changes in your heart and vessels," says Bhuva. "When the main blood vessels in your body become stiffer, it means you have a higher blood pressure."
And hardening of the arteries increases the risk of heart disease, including an "increased risk of stroke, heart failure, kidney problems and dementia," says Bhuva.
Tip 1: Commit to a specific race or event
Nothing concentrates the mind as a deadline. 18 million people in the US UU. They participated in road races last year. If a marathon sounds daunting, aim for half or 5k. The simple act of registering can motivate you to start training. Parkrun USA organizes 5k timed races across the country that are free and open to all.
Tip 2: set realistic training goals
If you are new to the race, the Couch to 5k application guides you through a series of 30-minute workouts of increasing intensity for 9 weeks. For longer runs, you need a certain level of fitness to start, and you will want to gradually develop your endurance. A training method popularized by the book. Marathon: you can do it by Jeff Galloway is a well proven approach.
Tip 3: Find a group or a partner
"We usually tell our patients, look, they need to run or exercise 150 minutes a week. But, of course, that's a very boring recipe for people to follow," says Bhuva. When you find a group or a partner to train, you are more likely to stay with him.
But your lifestyle and habits can change the speed and extent of these changes. "Many studies have shown that lifelong exercise reduces aortic stiffness," says Bhuva. The value of the new marathon study is that it shows how far people can make improvements.
"I am not a runner, but when we discovered these results, I decided to start running," Bhuva told NPR. He says his plan is to start training for a half marathon.
It is likely that the heart health benefits documented in the study have much less to do with the one-time career event than with the fact that the training program caused people to get used to regular, moderately intense exercise. , says exercise researcher Dr. Tim Church, an associate professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. On average, participants ran between 6 and 13 miles per week, during their training, therefore, not very long distances.
"The training program was very practical and feasible," says Church, who was not involved in the study, but reviewed the training regime and NPR results. "It was a slow build up for six months," says Church.
And it turned out that older and slower runners saw the greatest benefits, in terms of reduced blood pressure and arterial stiffness.
Of course, running a marathon is not a good goal for everyone, and it is better to consult your health care providers before committing, especially if you have joint or heart problems. But, Church says that most people can find a way to get more physical activity, whether it's cycling, swimming, rowing or even walking.
"I always point to federal physical activity guidelines," says Church. These guidelines recommend that adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity over the course of a week. The guidelines are based on evidence that approximately 30 minutes of exercise per day is sufficient to reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases.
Even among people with existing heart disease, Church notes that regular physical activity can help improve key markers of heart health. And, research shows that exercise can help relieve anxiety, depression and even sleep disorders.
"The benefits begin once you get up from the couch and start moving," says Church.