running
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You can run and/or walk to get into shape
for your first 5K.

Are you looking for a way to shed some weight? Do you need a healthy hobby? Is your competitive side yearning for an outlet? Maybe you should consider signing up for a 5K. At just 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), this race is relatively short for a sport whose foremost race is the marathon (26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers). But for those who run 5Ks, it's not about the distance: it's about competing, getting into shape or just having fun.

The 5K has become extremely popular in recent years because of its accessibility. With a little time and determination, almost anyone can train for and finish this race. For people looking to lose weight or get into better shape, a 5K can be an excellent training goal. Several weeks of gradually more intense walking and running can lead not only to the finish line, but to weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, reduced stress, increased energy and even better sleep.

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The 5K can also be a great way to spend leisure time and meet new people. Average, middle-of-the-pack runners often enjoy the fresh air and sunshine afforded by training and racing, as well as the camaraderie they experience when running with friends. Serious athletes also find a lot to love about 5Ks. The race's short length lends itself to intense competition and dramatic finishes, sometimes with just a fraction of a second between first and second place winners.

According to the National Health Interview Survey, 40 percent of Americans do no regular leisure-time physical activity. Training for a 5K is a great way to get active.

Three-point-one miles may seem like a long way to walk, much less run, if you're out of shape. But with an appropriate training plan and realistic goals, you'll dash your way down the home stretch in no time. Read on to discover how to make the transition from couch potato to pavement pounder.