Often regarded as the ‘ultimate test of endurance’, completing a triathlon is no easy task. Combining swimming, cycling, and running, a triathlon requires endurance, dedication, and a high level of fitness. This is particularly true for the Ironman triathlon which involves 3.86 km (2.4-mile) swim, a 180.25 km (112-mile) bicycle ride and a marathon 42.20 km (26.22-mile) run. Even best athletes in the world take around 8 hours to complete this grueling event!
If an Ironman triathlon sounds too intimidating, don’t worry! There are shorter ‘sprint’ distances perfect for beginners and can help ease you into this sport. But whether you participate in a sprint or an Ironman triathlon, you’re sure to become healthy and fit.
In this article, we highlight the health and physical benefits that doing a triathlon can provide.
Triathlon Health and Physical Fitness Benefits
Participating in a triathlon can add great benefits to your life. This is one of the main reasons why it is becoming increasingly popular in today’s world. There are numerous reasons why people decide to participate in a triathlon. Some do it to lose weight fast. Others do it to boost their self-confidence. Others do it to find more meaning in their exercise. Many do it due to the many health and physical benefits it provides.
So, what exactly are the health and physical benefits of doing a triathlon? Below, we list down 6 of its top benefits.
- Improved overall health. Triathlon is an amazing physical activity that combines muscle mass increase, cardio buildup, and stamina boost. A regular combination of swimming, cycling, and running can help lower your blood pressure, prevent cardiovascular issues, lower the risk of osteoporosis, and even lower the risk of depression and certain cancers. A triathlon is indeed good for your overall health!
- It is a whole-body workout. One huge benefit of triathlons is the fact that you are working out your entire body. Unlike other sports, triathlons strengthen all muscle groups in your body, making it the perfect full body workout. Swimming will strengthen your upper body, whereas cycling and running will strengthen your lower body. The result of training your whole body includes increased muscle mass, improved strength and endurance, and achieving a more toned physique, to name a few.
- Weight loss. If you are having problems with weight management, the rigorous demand for triathlons will burn off your body fat faster than other conventional exercise strategies. When you engage in a well-balanced program of swimming, cycling, and running (also known as cross-training), you will burn off an enormous amount of fat from every area of your body. Better yet, the weight will come off as a natural result of your passion-driven quest to complete a triathlon, rather than from a boring exercise plan or a guilt-induced diet.
Moreover, you’ll likely find that when you are training for such a triathlon event, you’ll want to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet that supports your training. Overeating or indulging in less-than-nutritious foods can leave you feeling tired and dull during your workouts, so you will quickly learn to eat what’s good for you – and that will help you lose weight even more.
However, you should not do a full triathlon immediately for the sake of losing weight. Make sure that you undergo the necessary training and endurance buildup before you sign up for your first triathlon event. Wanting to lose weight isn’t bad, but don’t make it your sole motivation if possible.
- It promotes cardiovascular health. A good working cardiovascular system is crucial to your health. The arteries are the blood vessels that take blood away from the heart and toward the muscles. It’s crucial for the arteries to work properly so that they can bring nutrient-rich blood to your organs. When you’re young, your arteries are open, flexible, and elastic. But as you age, your arteries become stiff and thick. Through a process called atherosclerosis, the arteries become blocked up with a substance known as plaque. This plaque is the buildup of fats such as phospholipids, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Plaque restricts blood flow to organs in the body, contributing to heart disease, which according to the CDC is the leading cause of death worldwide.
If you participate in a triathlon, you have to do a substantial amount of training. One major benefit of this training is that it helps stave off atherosclerosis by preventing and, in some cases, reversing plaque buildup. This works because of how exercise affects the number of little carriers that deposit fat and remove it from your cells – these carriers are known as lipoproteins. There are the low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol which deposit fat into your cells; on the other hand, there are also the high-density lipoproteins (HDL), known as ‘good’ cholesterol which remove fat from our cells. LDL can attach and deposit fat into the arterial walls creating plaque; on the other hand, HDL can remove the plaque from arterial walls. When you exercise and train to prepare for a triathlon even, LDL levels decrease and HDL levels increase. Further, the fat carried by the HDL is taken to the liver and is then repurposed. Ultimately, this process helps maintain your arteries.
Although triathlon training doesn’t necessarily make you immune to atherosclerosis, it does help slow the process and sustain normal blood flow to organs like the brain and heart.
- It promotes bone health. Another way that triathlon supports your physical health is by helping you build strong bones. Your bones are constantly remodeling themselves, which means that they are continuous breaking down and building back up. When you are young, the body builds bone quickly, which results in strong and dense bones. However, as you age, bone replacement slows and osteoporosis can occur.
One way to prevent low bone density is by doing load bearing exercises, such as the running and strength training you do to prepare for a triathlon event. Studies show that load bearing exercises can help promote bone health by creating denser bones and preventing fractures. However, note that just as exercises doesn’t necessarily prevent the occurrence of atherosclerosis, weight bearing exercise doesn’t necessarily prevent osteoporosis. But if you eat nutrient-rich foods along with doing weight bearing exercises, you can help lower your risk of the disease.
One thing that sets triathlon apart from other sports is that it has both non-weight bearing and weight bearing components. While other sports such as basketball or running require you to put force on your bones almost all the time, triathlon doesn’t put as much stress on the bones since training is divided between swimming (non-weight bearing), cycling (non-weight bearing), and running (weight bearing).
- Less risk of injuries. Unlike conventional workouts that tend to focus on specific body parts, the holistic approach of a triathlon distributes the workload to different body parts. As your workout will be so varied and target different muscle groups, the mix of activities will take away the stress being put on one specific area of your body. As a result, your body will have less likelihood to experience local pain or injury.
The Bottom Line
There you have it! We’ve covered 6 key health and physical fitness benefits of triathlons.
Triathlons can do wonders for your body and overall health! Benefits such as weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, improved bone health, and weight loss make it apparent why so many people love participating in triathlons around the world.
Completing a triathlon is no easy task, though. Expect to push your body to the next level and go beyond your comfort zone – but in doing so, you can create a fitter and healthier body in the process. Good luck!