With 42.195 kilometers (26 miles 385 yards) to cover multiple times in a lifetime, along with hard training throughout the year, marathon race is one of the most challenging sports in the world. There are also quite a few myths and confusions regarding marathon runners and their health. While a section of people believe that marathon runners have better health, there are folks who think that running marathons can reduce lifespan. To know what’s true and what’s myth, here’s a look at some of the findings of research studies involving marathon runners.
Improved cardiovascular health – Research studies show that marathon runners have improved cardiovascular health. With regular running, the heart capacity of marathon runners is significantly higher than folks who don’t run at all. With more miles to cover, the heart adapts by growing more small arteries and capillaries.
Running also reduces the impact of thickened and stiffened artery walls, which is an age-related issue. Some studies have shown that artery thickening and stiffening can be reversed in patients who take up running on a regular basis. With running, the blood pressure is better managed and there’s reduced risk of blood clots.
Cancer prevention – Running on a regular basis is also associated with reduced risk of cancer. A number of factors are involved, for example, running helps maintain a healthy body weight. For long distance runners, things like obesity and overweight are automatically avoided. Another benefit of running is that it helps regulate hormone levels. This is beneficial, as some cancers have been linked to increased levels of specific types of hormones.
With long-distance running, one is also able to starve cancer cells that may be present in the body. Cancer cells rely primarily on glucose to sustain themselves. Glucose levels drop with long-distance running, which in turn can put a check on growth of cancer cells.
Reduced stress – Exercise is a natural stress buster, as it prompts the release of mood-elevating bio-chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. With stress no longer troubling you, a number of health issues can be avoided such as diabetes, depression, anxiety, asthma, heart disease and gastrointestinal problems.
As marathon runners have better health, it naturally translates into longer lifespans. So, yes, it is possible that marathon runners can live longer in most cases. In a study involving 232,000 people, it was found that regular runners had 30% reduced risk of dying from heart disease. Cancer risk was reduced by 23%.
How long to run daily?
While it may not be possible to match the exercise regime of professional marathon runners, you can still benefit by running as many miles as you can manage. Even running 50 minutes per week has shown to provide tangible health benefits. You can do even more if you feel comfortable. Also, you need to avoid overdoing it, as that too can have adverse health effects. Please note that not everyone has the same physical capacity.
Just make sure that you make a schedule and stick to it. Later, when you feel comfortable, you can gradually increase the length of your runs.