By Sean Zucker —
The benefits of regularly running are well documented. As one of the most streamlined forms of cardio exercise, jogging reportedly can boost mood, increase energy, enhance the immune system, improve memory and vastly decrease the risk of heart disease, according to WebMD.
A recent study, however, takes a dim view of these popular health claims, especially among men. Jogging may help keep women young, but this report argues it may have quite the opposite effect on men.
New research presented at the British Cardiovascular Society (BCS) conference in Manchester suggests that long-distance running can result in men’s vascular age appearing nearly a decade older than their chronological age, The Telegraph reports. However, the same data found female runners’ vascular age to be roughly six years younger than their chronological age.
For the uninformed, vascular age is a metric representing the overall health of arteries–both large and small. Having a vascular age above someone’s actual age is a sign that danger may be ahead in terms of having a higher risk for heart attacks and strokes, states The Telegraph.
British Heart Foundation and Cardiac Risk in the Young funded the study on running, which is not peer-reviewed. It focused on more than 300 regular athletes aged 40 and above. To determine vascular age, everyone underwent MRI heart scans to determine the stiffness of key arteries—particularly the aorta. It is the largest human artery and delivers oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to the rest of the body.
The researchers found that the men studied had aortas that were not only dangerously stiff; but, on average, 9.6 years older than their chronological age. The women in the study did not register abnormally stiff aortas. The cause for the disparity between men and women is not yet clear.
“For athletes who train in endurance exercise, their hearts must work harder to pump blood around the body—and research has shown that in some cases, this can cause changes to the heart,” Professor James Leiper, the foundation’s associate medical director, explained. To understand why the impact is greater for men than women, there will need to be more research.
Despite these concerns over running, Leiper was quick to underscore the benefits of exercise.
“It is important to note that exercise is proven to reduce the risk of heart and circulatory diseases, helping to control weight and lower both blood pressure and cholesterol,” he stressed.