Five kilometer runs boost for fitness, charities

Mon Jul 4, 2011 6:38am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Five kilometer (3.1 miles) races and run/walk events offer fair weather exercisers the chance to support a favorite charity without too much wear and tear on out-of-shape joints.

But experts say for anyone who really wants to kick-start a fitness regimen, lose weight, or just change their sedentary ways, training for a 5K run may be the shortest distance from couch potato to easy runner.

"It's a better first step than just setting a goal to lose weight," said Matt Fitzgerald, a coach and editor at Competitor magazine. "Human beings are natural game players: we like having a goal, a game plan. There's no game in losing 10 pounds (4.5 kg)."

And there's no glory in staring at a scale.

"The magic of crossing the finish line is what hooks people," said Fitzgerald, who is based in San Diego, California. "It's life changing."

Thanks in part to charity events, the little race has come to dominate the field. Some 4 million people nationwide crossed a 5K finish line in 2009, according to Running USA, a non-profit organization for the running industry.

"Event organizers push it because of the accessibility of the distance. Marathons are not for everyone. The 5K is a lot easier to host," Fitzgerald said, and a healthy adult can get in shape for a 5K within 10 weeks.

"Most people can walk a 5K right now," he said. "Just try to get to a point where you can jog the whole way."   Continued...