Those tarmac crusaders have—for decades now—been preaching the perks of lacing up and hitting the open road. But if you’re cardio-disinclined, the prospect of beating down pavements for a solid 30 minutes isn’t all that enticing. However, if running might help you lose weight, is your cardiophobic lifestyle potentially costing you serious benefits?
Turns out: yes. Headlines in the past may have recommended walking over running for dropping kilos, but a new crop of research is showing that picking up the pace could also put the torch to your flab. A research team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California concluded that, even when accounting for the same amount of exercise, runners managed to lose 90% more weight than walkers. (That’s not exactly a trivial statistic.)
In the study, researchers evaluated the body mass index (BMI) changes in more than 15,000 walkers and 32,000 runners. Those participating in the study reported their height and weight for the previous five years. They were also asked to share information about their workouts—such as how far they were running, how often, and at what speeds—and send over measurements like their waist size.
Even before embarking on the study, runners had far lower BMIs on average than their strolling counterparts. Male runners, for instance, clocked in at a healthy BMI of 22. (For reference, 18.5 to 25 is considered the sweet spot in terms of health, although BMI is far from accurate in all situations.) Strangely enough, the slow crowd was more likely to smoke cigarettes, but also more inclined to gorge on healthy fare like fruit.
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By the end of the study, there was a clear winner: those going on regular runs were dropping significantly more kilos than the rest of the pack. It all adds up when you consider that, on average, you’ll burn between 300 and 400 calories.
Why Is Running an Effective Weight Loss Tool?
We’re going to level with you: if your diet sucks, running won’t even put a dent in your extra padding. So it’s important to remember that hitting the tarmac is only one part of the equation; you’ll also need to revamp your meal plan.
That said, the power of running is that you can always strive for new goals, ramping up your distance and pace (or finding steep hills) to burn more and more calories. Be careful about tackling the same distance every run as, while you’ll still torch energy, you’re weight will likely stay stable unless you’re nixing extra carbs from your menu.
With that in mind, we’ve got a few tips that might help you lose weight:
1. Keep a Consistent Schedule
The only way to add distance (and pick up the pace) is to get out there and put in the laps. Nobody ever got better at running by sitting on the couch, so you’ll need to turn your sessions into a non-negotiable commitment rather than a “ja, maybe I’ll go running sometime, hey”.
One good strategy is to tap your workouts into your calendar, budgeting 30 minutes on either side to give you the room to really focus on this workout. Aim to get out there at least three times a week.
2. Take Breaks
While it’s tempting to burn bonus calories every day, going all gas and no breaks will leave you burnt out and uninspired to work up a sweat. As such, it’s useful to leave a bit of breathing room in your week as you’ll give yourself time to recover, letting your body adapt to new stimuli and give you the legs to hit your route with renewed energy.
Plus, running every day will up your risk of suffering a serious injury that’ll leave you sidelined, ultimately depriving you of that reliable calorie burn (and endorphin rush) for weeks.
3. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration will heighten your fatigue, forcing you to bow out of your 5K earlier. Not good. But staying hydrated won’t just add kilometres to your Strava profile, various studies have shown that getting sufficient H20 could help ramp up your metabolism and suppress appetite. Hail hydra(tion)!