Getting specific with fitness goals is an important step in setting yourself up for success. So if you’re aiming to “get better at running” or “do more cardio” this year, you might want to consider making a marathon one of your 2020 goals. Not only will completing a 26.2-mile course help you feel more accomplished than adding a few minutes to your post-workout treadmill walk, but a new study found that it could take years off your arteries’ age.

We don’t have to tell you that training for a marathon is no joke, but research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that 138 first-time marathoners who followed the London Marathon’s “Beginner’s Training Plan” for six months ahead of 2016 and 2017 races saw some serious health benefits.

Researchers assessed the trainees before and after their six-month training regimens and found that training lowered participants’ blood pressure and reduced artery stiffness—both important aspects of heart health. Arteries naturally get stiffer as we age, but that rigidity adds to the risk of cardiovascular issues. Training for the marathon essentially shaved four years off participants’ blood vessels’ ages, with older people seeing bigger changes over the course of the training.

“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,” senior author Charlotte H. Manisty, MD, said in a release. She also noted that signing up for a marathon or fun run can be a great way for beginners to get motivated to stick to a training regimen.

While this particular study only recruited healthy participants with no pre-existing heart disease, the researchers think that those with high blood pressure and stiffer arteries may actually see an even better response to picking up a cardio training regimen.

“Our study shows it is possible to reverse the consequences of aging on our blood vessels with real-world exercise in just six months,” Manisty said. “These benefits were observed in overall healthy individuals across a broad age range and their marathon times are suggestive of achievable exercise training in novice participants.”

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