Is running good for weight loss?

Is Running Good for Weight Loss?

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In this article by John Culbertson, John takes a look at the question, “Is running good for weight loss?”

Running a marathon is different from running on the treadmill. It’s likely that more people would disagree with this statement than agree with it. Running is running, after all. Whether you do it on the streets, or on the racetrack, in a playground or on the treadmill in a gym, you are doing the same thing. You are performing a cardio workout and burning calories. This is one way of looking at running. Is it the right way?

Is running good for weight loss? Though it seems like a simple question, it’s loaded with multiple implications. There are too many apparent scientific proofs and research studies, especially online, which will give you both sides of the argument. You will come across pretty convincing explanations on why running regularly cannot aid in weight loss. One of the arguments is about the advantage of running or sprinting for short periods of time as against sustained long-distance running where your body stops burning fat and instead stores it to supply energy for the body to run. Thereby you are effectively defeating the very purpose of running for weight loss. Elsewhere you will find health and fitness experts advocating running as the single most effective way to lose weight because it  enables your body to raise the heartbeat, produce sweat and burn calories.

What are the benefits of running? Asking if running is good for your health is different from asking is running good for weight loss.

Why run?

One of the reasons why most people are not successful in losing weight even after trying out running for short stints is because they are doing it with a short-term objective. It is no different from the quick-fix diets that promise you amazing results in just a few weeks. You may even lose weight in the beginning but then you end up packing the pounds, sometimes even more than previously. Why? It’s not the diet or the exercise regimen that is to be blamed. It is the temporariness with which you address the issue. The binge breakfast that you indulge in after a month of dieting can be very harmful and counterproductive. Similarly, the morning guilt run that you do on the treadmill after a late night of TV, pizza and drinking beer is not really going to help, is it?

If you diet, run or exercise to meet a short term objective, then you are making two big mistakes. One, your mind is not really into it. So, you don’t believe it will produce results unless it does which is nothing short of asking for a miracle. Two, you believe it is something that you have to endure in order to enjoy the fruits of weight loss. Either way, you are not enjoying it. So, it’s not something that you can sustain. It is not going to be a lifestyle change. Why run, when you don’t enjoy it?

How can you enjoy running?

Now, it may seem like a crazy idea to even suggest that one may enjoy running. Why would anyone in their right mind enjoy running when there could be a dozen other activities that you would rather do. It is actually a very difficult proposition, to convince someone to take up running, for the pure enjoyment of it rather than the health benefits such as weight loss. Yet, the truth is that unless you enjoy it, you will not get results.

There is no scientific way of proving this. However this is true of any activity and not just running. Is running good for weight loss? You really can’t be sure because trying to lose weight only by running is not going to be effective. There are too many factors involved such as the body mass that you have accumulated over a long and sedentary lifestyle, the strength and ability of your leg muscles and bones, your diet, your breathing technique, your stamina and so on. Instead, if you adopt a combination of healthy eating habits along with exercise and physical activities including running, then you will certainly be able to achieve your weight loss objectives.

How to enjoy running? In his book, ‘Born to Run,’ Christopher McDougall presents a curious theory that the human body is built to run. He uses the example of the Native American tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara Indians, who practically run distances which would put ultra-marathons to shame as a part of their routine life. He also puts forward the concept of running in a pack as a natural evolutionary trait of humans. Instead of the closed environment of the treadmill in a gym, running outdoors, with a friend or joining a running club could be a far better motivator than dropping a dress size.

Instead of making running into a punishment, have you considered the possibility that it is one of the most natural activities that the human body is built for? Once you realize this, running not only becomes enjoyable but can even be graceful if not effortless. Of course, it cannot happen overnight. For someone who is fat and out of shape, running is not going to be as pleasant as it is for an athlete or a marathon runner. However, over a period of time, if you adopt running as a long-term lifestyle activity, it is possible not only to enjoy it but also to derive health benefits which include losing weight.


Posted in Mind, Body, & Spirit.