If running a marathon is on your bucket list, half marathons are a good place to start. Once you’ve run 5Ks and 10Ks, the half marathon is the next step to reach your goal. The biggest health benefit of running half marathons are that they keep you on a strict schedule, so you’re more likely to stick to training. Not to mention, they’re a great way to stay healthy and fit over a long term basis.
Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:
- Increased cardiovascular capacity: Training for a half marathon requires gradual building of mileage and speed, prolonged running and commitment to fitness. Constantly improving fitness will improve the body’s ability to take on greater mileage, lower blood pressure, and improve overall heart health. The training runs required for a half marathon push the body to the perfect limits for maintaining a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
- Weight loss and calorie burning: Training for a half marathon requires logging a lot of miles, which will turn you into a calorie-burning machine. The distance of 13.1 miles is not one that should be undertaken without preparation – it requires at least 8 weeks of training once a strong base is established. This will definitely burn calories and improve muscle tone.
- Motivation to train: While some runners can race a short distance like a 5K with little or no training, most would have a tough time trying to get through a half marathon with no preparation. So having a half marathon on your calendar will keep you motivated to stick to your training schedule.
- Cardiovascular and immunity increases: Exercise is one of the best ways to naturally reduce your blood pressure if it’s above normal and it can help keep high cholesterol in check. Running also improves your immune system, so your body functions are more effective and efficient at fighting off germs.
- Learn structured training: If you’re the type of person who likes to follow a schedule, you’ll love training for a half marathon. Every day you’ll look at your training schedule to see what you need to do, whether it’s running, cross-training, or taking a complete rest day. Each week, you’ll add a little more distance, so you’ll really feel like you’re making progress toward your half marathon goal.
- Mental health benefits: A half marathon is short enough to ensure success and long enough to keep you strong. It is a challenging run with plenty of bragging rights, but it is also not enough to nearly kill you. Race success can do a lot for your mental preparation for other races. It is an excellent stress reducer as well.
- Increased confidence: While the half marathon distance is growing in popularity, the number of people who’ve completed a half marathon is still very small. Once you cross that half marathon finish line, you’ll be joining an elite group of runners who have accomplished this feat.
- Less injuries than a full marathon: Runners training for a marathon log a lot of miles, putting them at greater risk for overtraining and overuse injuries. Because the mileage demands are not as high as they are with full marathon training, you’re more likely to give yourself a rest day when you’re starting to feel a little pain, which can often prevent a full-blown running injury.
- Make new friends: Some running groups or clubs offer half marathon training, so you can train with a group and expand your social and professional network.
- Support a cause you care about: Many half marathons benefit charities and worthwhile causes, from disaster relief to fighting cancer or other diseases. Running for something that’s bigger than you is a great way to stay motivated to keep training and make your races even more meaningful.