The marathon distance is 42 kilometers (26.2 miles) and anyone who crosses the finish line in this increasingly popular event deserves to be congratulated for a job well done. Whether a beginner runner or a veteran marathoner with 25 completed journeys, there are physical and mental challenges that tests a person's will to do the necessary training and get to the starting line.
Those having trouble getting started, however, will be happy to learn that there are special heart-healthy benefits that first-time marathon runners can reap.
Health Benefits of Marathon Running
Running is a popular pastime that people enjoy casually for recreation or in training for their first marathon. Besides the thrill of achieving a major physical challenge, marathon running does have some amazing health benefits, such as:
- Increased muscle strength
- Improved heart health
- Confidence boost
- Enhanced productivity
- Longer life expectancy
Given the above benefits, improved heart health is a major factor and research shows that first-time marathon runners can reduce aortic age as they train to complete their first marathon.
Deconstructing Aortic Age
Aortic age refers to the condition of the largest artery in the human body, the aorta. A basic anatomy “refresher” reveals that the aorta is responsible for carrying blood away from the heart through an aortic valve, which then connects to other arteries to deliver vital oxygen to the brain, muscles and other cells in the body.
Potential health problems with the aorta can occur as people age. The likelihood of congestive heart failure and aortic aneurysms increase with age, so keeping aortic age at a minimum through healthy diet and exercise can help fight off these potential threats.
Benefits for First-Timers
Research shows that aortic age can be significantly reduced for people who train for their first marathon. In a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, where researchers examined 138 first-time marathon runners from ages 21 to 69, significant reductions in blood pressure and aortic stiffness were detected.
Emphasis was placed on examining each runner's aortic age six months before training and six months after training. This is calculated based on the runner's physical age, and the stiffness at three points in the aorta. Participants experienced a four-year reduction in aortic age, with older age groups that ran at a slower pace showing the greatest benefit.
Keep Your Aorta Young
While running a marathon and receiving a finisher's medal is a tremendous achievement, the long-term health benefits are even more worth the effort. First-time marathon runners can now start their marathon training journey, knowing that there is science-backed research which proves that training for and completing a marathon is a great way to maintain good aortic health.
What's more, the findings of this study are a testament to the fact that it's never too late to start, and you don't need to be Usain Bolt to experience the advantages. You don't even need to make it to the finish line. If anything, the training and preparation that go into this practice will be enough to establish life-long healthy habits.