It is Never Too Late in Life to Run a Marathon
Despite knowing better, I did not truly begin a regular fitness program until after I was forty. At first, I worried if I was too late to see any true benefits from a running program. A new study eases my mind. It is never too late to get active!
French researchers studied a small group of men (40) aged 55 to 70 years old who were divided for assessment according to the age at which they began “relatively intense” endurance exercise. Ten of the men had never exercised for more than 2 hours per week throughout their lives. Fourteen of the men had begun their exercise programs after the age of forty. The remaining 16 had begun intense exercise regimens before the age of 30 and had been training for an average of 39 years.
The activity of choice was either running or cycling. Each was assessed by maximal exercise testing, echocardiography at rest and during submaximal exercise, and heart rate analysis.
Cardiac benefits were obvious in all of the exercising men – whether they had been training their entire adult life or were “late bloomers.” Starting an exercise routine after forty, says study leader David Matelot, does not seem to impair the cardiac benefits.
The New York Times reported in 2011 that the running community is in fact getting older. In 1980, the median age for a marathon runner was 34 for men and 31 for women. In 2010, the age had risen to 40 for men and 35 for women. People over 40 now comprise 46% of finishers, up from 26% in 1980.
If participating in an endurance race such as a marathon or half-marathon is on your “bucket list,” here are some tips for getting started.
How to prepare for a Marathon
• Get a full physical. It is always smart before beginning an intense exercise regimen to get the “go-ahead” from your doctor.
• Be sure to be fitted for the best shoe. Cheap, ill-fitting shoes will only promote injury.
• Build up your mile counts slowly, over four months to a year depending on your comfort level. Initially set goals at a few miles a week and include time to walk.
• Participate in a few shorter local races to get the feel for the race atmosphere.
• Get involved in a running club for weekly long runs, support and pointers.
• Eat sensibly and stay hydrated.
• Be sure to take a day off each week from running. Training too hard will likely lead to stress injuries and burnout.
European Society of Cardiology. "Forty not too old or too late to start endurance training." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2014.
NY Times: You're Only as Old as You Run