Make This the Year You Run That Marathon—First-Time Marathoners Get a Boost in Heart Health at Any Age

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for women and men in the United States. Last year, cardiologist and three-time marathoner Jennifer Haythe, MD, told Well+Good that heart health is the foremost reason why she continues to lace up for 26.2 miles. And now, research on marathon health has echoed her love of the distance.

In a new study, published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers looked at 138 first-time marathon competitors who ranged in age from 21 to 69. Using a measurement called the aortic age (calculated from the runner’s age and the stiffness at three points in the body's largest artery) before and after six months of training, scientists found that participants experienced a four-year reduction in aortic age, and the benefits proved particularly beneficial to older runners who kept a slower pace.

“As clinicians are meeting with patients in the new year, making a goal-oriented exercise training recommendation, such as signing up for a marathon or fun-run, may be a good motivator for our patients to keep active,” study author Charlotte Manisty, MD, told Yahoo News. “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.”

As someone who ran her first marathon late last year, I'm personally invested in the results of this study. (My heart! It suddenly feels four years more youthful!) But, of course, running a marathon isn't the only way to boost the health of one of your body's primary organs.

"I certainly don’t want people to think that they have to run a marathon to be a good cardiovascular shape," said Dr. Haythe. "But training has reminded me about what a difference it makes to do 30 to 40 minutes a day of cardio a few days a week. You feel better, you sleep better, you have more energy. It also keeps your mood up and anxiety levels down, which is great considering how stressed most people are these days."

Make sure to warm up before you run: 

Convinced? Let's get you a training plan! This one takes 12 weeks and this one takes 20.

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