Heart Study: This Type of Exercise Cuts Years Off Your Cardiovascular Age

Marathon runners
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How far do you have to go to slow cardiovascular aging? How about 26.2 miles, not coincidentally the precise marathon distance?

A new study suggests a basic six-month marathon-training program followed by 138 newbie runners, ages 21 to 69, reduced the equivalent of four years from their vascular age. The British Heart Foundation in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which funded the research, said researchers found the runners’ blood pressure dropped in an amount otherwise achieved through prescribed medications.

The runners’ arteries actually changed, researchers said, reverting to a more youthful elasticity associated with a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.

“Let’s face it,” said Dr. Paul Thompson, chief of cardiology emeritus at Hartford Hospital, “exercise is the best bargain in public health. Is there such a thing as too much? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t advise people to stop. I’d say people should exercise because they like it, though, and not be convinced that they have to do more and more and more to become healthier.”

If you decide to try the six-month training program and actually run a marathon, you should know that the average time for study participants was between 4.5 and 5.5 hours. If it’s a bit overwhelming, researchers said smaller amounts of aerobic activity will likely produce similar results.

If you have heart disease, other medical conditions or get little or no exercise, talk to your doctor first. But extending your life through regular exercise is a realistic goal.

For more information on preventing heart disease, visit the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute.

For more information about sports-related issues, visit the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute’s Sports Health program by clicking here.

The Hartford Healthcare Rehabilitation Network, a not-for-profit member of Hartford HealthCare, offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, sports medicine and health & wellness programs.  Please call 860.696.2500 or click here for more information.


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