If you want to achieve overall body fitness, running is one of the simplest and most effective ways to jumpstart your journey. Aside from its long list of health benefits, running doesn’t need any special equipment. It’s just you, your running shoes, and your strong willpower.

Many people are interested in marathon running as a hobby and as a sports activity. In the United States alone, there were about 65 million people who went running in 2016. Most marathon participants only aim to get to the finish line or break their own records, so it is also a way to develop your self-esteem.

Running can help strengthen knees, however, if you already have a knee problem, continuing your running program may increase your risk of further injuries. In the event of knee pain, it is critically important to assess whether you have a torn ligament or osteoarthritis of the knee before running a marathon. Ligament injuries must be fully healed before you resume your running.

Elite Womenís Race athletes on the start line. The Virgin Money London Marathon, Sunday 24th April 2016.
Photo: Jon Buckle for Virgin Money London Marathon

Marathon running has a lot of health benefits, including:

Weight loss

Several people get into running and participate in marathons because they want to lose weight. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a person who weighs 120 pounds burns 11.4 calories per minute of running while someone who weighs 180 lbs. can burn 17 calories per minute.

While running is a great activity to lose excess weight, you can lose pounds faster by pairing it up with a healthy diet.

Cardiovascular health

Cardiovascular fitness refers to the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygenated blood to muscle tissues. It also involves the ability of the muscle cells to use this oxygen in producing the energy needed for movement. Marathon running can improve your cardiovascular fitness as it develops your stamina, improves your endurance, and decreases your risk of developing heart disease.

Immune system

When you run, your body temperature increases which helps inhibit the growth of temperature-sensitive bacteria in your body. Running also increases your heart rate, leading to an increase in blood supply to body organs. This blood contains antibodies and white blood cells, which are responsible for fending off harmful microorganisms.

Confidence and stress relief

Finishing a marathon and beating your own record can give your confidence and self-esteem a boost. When running, your body also releases a chemical called endorphin, also known as your ‘feel good’ hormone, that helps in relieving stress and improving your mood.

Social support

Participating in marathons allows you to meet like-minded people, which can increase your sense of belongingness. You may join clubs and meet new friends, who can become your social support, most especially if you share the same goals such as losing weight and achieving physical fitness.

Support a cause

Marathons are often held to support a cause. Participating in one does not only give you the opportunity to enjoy your favorite sport and become physically fit, but it also gives you the chance to help other people in need. It’s inspiring to run several miles when you know that the needy will benefit from it.

For individuals with heart and lung conditions, it’s best to get a clearance from your doctor prior to joining a marathon. Healthy or not, if you plan to do full marathon runs, schedule a check-up with your doctor first to see if you can really participate and take the challenge of a 26.2-mile run.

Whether you choose to run in short or long distance marathons, you have to train your body well to avoid injuries. Exercise, nutrition, and rest should go hand in hand so that you can achieve your health and fitness goals faster.