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Training for marathon reverses age-related aortic stiffening

15 Jan 2020

Running a marathon, or even training for one, even at a relatively low exercise intensity can decrease central blood pressure (BP) and aortic stiffness, which is equivalent to an approximately 4-year reduction in vascular age, according to a recent study. In addition, greater rejuvenation is seen in older, slower individuals.

The analysis included 138 first-time marathon completers (aged 21–69 years; 51 percent female), with an estimated training schedule of 6–13 miles/week. At baseline, a decade of chronological ageing was associated with a reduction in distensibility of the ascending (Ao-A) and descending aorta at the pulmonary artery bifurcation (Ao-P) and diaphragm (Ao-D) by 2.3, 1.9 and 3.1 × 10−3 mm Hg−1, respectively (p-all<0.05).

Training for a marathon resulted in a decrease in systolic and diastolic central (aortic) BP by 4 mm Hg (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 2.8–5.5 mm Hg) and 3 mm Hg (95 percent CI, 1.6–3.5 mm Hg), respectively. Descending aortic distensibility increased (Ao-P: 9 percent; p=0.009; Ao-D: 16 percent; p=0.002), while distensibility in the Ao-A remained unchanged. These led to a reversal in “aortic age” by 3.9 years (95 percent CI, 1.1–7.6 years) and 4.0 years (95 percent CI, 1.7–8.0 years) for Ao-P and Ao-D, respectively.

Moreover, this benefit appeared to be more pronounced in older, male participants with slower running times (p-all<0.05)

In this study, untrained healthy individuals underwent training for the London Marathon for 6 months. Central BP and aortic stiffness were assessed pretraining and 2 weeks postmarathon using cardiovascular magnetic resonance distensibility. The researchers calculated the biological “aortic age” from the baseline chronological age-stiffness relationship and evaluated the change in stiffness at the Ao-A, Ao-P and Ao-D.

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