AFTER months of high-intensity training the start-line is approaching for the biggest exercise of the year.
The Edinburgh Marathon Festival on May 24 and 25 is expected to attract more than 30,000 runners to the city ‘sstreets for a range of running events over two-days, with the gruelling 26-mile full distance putting the toughest to the test.
And while thousands are expected to cheer them on, the prospect of running a marathon or even a half-marathon is, for many people, enough to make them break into a cold sweat.
But those inspired by the sight of so many people pushing themselves to the limit need not be daunted by the prospect, with the Capital hosting plenty of events more suited to the casual runner.
With the summer months drawing closer and the momentum gathering for the Commonwealth Games, there has never been a better time to start a fitness regime.
The latest crazes of insanity workouts and high-intensity gym routines may not be for everyone, but even a brisk walk is enough to get the blood pumping, as Edinburgh-based experts will confirm.
Margaret Douglas, public health consultant at NHS Lothian, says: “Physical inactivity can cause many health problems including the increased risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, some cancers, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
“This is why physical activity is described as the best buy in public health. Being more physically active does not mean striving to be an elite athlete, there are many ways in which people can be active.
“A little can mean a lot – just 30 minutes of exercise a day can increase fitness, boost self-esteem and contribute to a feeling of overall wellbeing.”
There is still time to register for the vibrant “Colour Me Rad” 5k event, to be held at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingilston, on June 8.
This quirky twist on a fun run will see runners start off with a pure white t-shirt, before being bombarded with colour bombs of blue, green, pink, purple, and yellow.
The team behind the event claim participants will come out “like a tie-dyed hippy” at the end.
If that doesn’t appeal, maybe completing a challenge in aid of a good cause could be the extra incentive you need to push through with your training.
First in the diary is the chance to “show cancer who’s boss” in Cancer Research’s 5k or 10k Race for Life, which kicks off at Holyrood Park on June 15.
Organisers are inviting participants to “walk, run or dance” their ways around the route, and there is still time to register for the popular event.
Meanwhile on July 26, crowds will gather at the picturesque Dalkeith Country Estate for Marie Curie’s Walk Ten event.
You will be so distracted by the bluebell walks, riverside trails and woodland that you’ll hardly notice you are clocking up 10k.
Dogs are welcome on the walk – and after it’s completed, participants can settle down with a picnic and enjoy the festival-like celebrations with live music, entertainment and fireworks.
The fireworks go off at 10pm to coincide with the time many Marie Curie Nurses start their night shift, providing care to people with terminal illnesses and their families in their own homes.
Stacy Rowan, events manager for Walk Ten Scotland at Marie Curie, said: “Walk Ten is a unique event that gives people the chance to enjoy a summer evening with family and friends and walk in beautiful surroundings, followed by a festival atmosphere with activities for all ages. By signing up for Walk Ten at Dalkeith Country Estate and raising funds, you’ll be helping to make it possible for Marie Curie to provide more care to terminally ill patients, and vital emotional support to their families.”
Or, if you want to use the summer to train for something a little further away, you will be raring to go for the Edinburgh 5k Fun Run, staged in Holyrood Park on Sunday, October 12.
The event is not timed, meaning there is no pressure – and under-fives can join you for free to help egg you on to the finish line.
Dr Claire Fitzsimons, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s department for sport, physical education and health science, is keen to encourage people of any age to live an active life.
She says: “I think overall the main message is that it’s never too late to become more active. We know from data in Scotland that older people are the least active segment of the population. If you can do something, it’s better than nothing – that’s the main message.”
To keep fit, people are encouraged to do at least 150 minutes of activity over the course of a week – but Dr Fitzsimons suggests breaking it down into smaller chunks to make it more manageable.
Keeping your muscles strong is also important – but that doesn’t mean you need to get down to the gym and start weight-lifting.
“Everyday things like going up the stairs, climbing hills, playing tennis or gardening are all great,” says Dr Fitzsimons. “There are lots of different activities that you might be able to do in your every day life to improve your health.”
It sounds strange, but many of us are guilty of sitting too much – whether at our desks in the office, in the car, or on the sofa at home.
Dr Fitzsimons warns that our sedentary culture was increasing the risk of heart disease, metabolic illnesses, and some cancers.
“We don’t know definitively yet, to say ‘you should only be sitting for this amount of time’. But people should try and break up long periods of sitting. It’s very achievable. It will bring you immediate benefits and also longer-term benefits.”
So there there’s no excuse not to get off your sofa and get involved in the host of activities being held across the Capital and the Lothians this year.