Running for Weight Loss

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on May 13, 2020 and last updated for accuracy on May 15, 2020

Have you thought about pursuing running as a way to say goodbye to all of those extra body pounds and get your beach body ready for this summer? Are you worried that running may not be the perfect way to get there? Let us let you on a secret – Running is for everyone! It is powerful enough to strengthen your body and soul, and weight loss is only one way that running is taking care of your body. In today’s article, we will discuss the different health benefits of running and focus on how exactly does running help induce weight loss!

Health benefits of running

Running is a high-impact exercise that is linked to multiple health benefits. It represents one of the most beloved types of exercise for most Americans, according to a 2018 statistic that shows over 64 million Americans running at least once in the past year (1). 

This is perhaps the most inexpensive physical activity that you can do. You do not need to pay a fortune to any fancy gym, spend hours going back and forth to any fitness studio, and you do not even need any special equipment. Any pair of shorts or leggings, depending on the current weather state, and a pair of comfortable sneakers will do the trick for you. You can easily go for a run before or after work/school, running just a few laps around your neighborhood, so that it does not consume much time from your otherwise busy schedule. 

But now, let’s discuss the health benefits that you can expect thanks to your daily runs. A 2017 study showed that running only 5-10 minutes a day at a moderate pace efficiently reduces the risk of:

  • Death due to heart attack and stroke (2);
  • Heart disease;
  • Cancer;
  • Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety (3);
  • Reduces knee pain and damage (4, 5);
  • Improves balance among the elderly (6);
  • Lowers blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity, etc. (7, 8)

How running helps you lose weight

Running is not only a great way to improve one’s health – both physical and mental, but it is also a great weight-loss method. Many people start running to lose weight only to fall in love with it later and fit it into their daily routine. In the following, we will explain how exactly does running help you get rid of your extra body weight in an effective, sustainable, and safe matter.

 

  • It helps you burn more calories than most other physical exercises

 

The general rule for weight loss says that you need to burn more calories than you consume. It is only through daily physical activity that you get to burn more calories on a daily level, thus losing weight. But which physical activity you choose makes a lot of difference. Running, for example, helps burn more calories than most physical activities.

Instead of focusing on one single muscle group, running forces your body to activate different muscle groups, which is why you get to burn more calories than ever (9). A 2004 study examined the difference between the calories burned during running and walking. The results clearly showed that running 1 mile burned approximately 33-35 more calories as compared to walking that very same distance (10).

 

  • Your body continues to burn calories after a run

 

One amazing effect that happens thanks to running is the calorie burn that continues after the run. This is a unique characteristic that only running and a few other physical activities have. And we are not talking about a few minutes or even a few hours after you have completed a run. Science has demonstrated that high-intensity runs continue burning calories up to 48 hours after you have completed your run (11). Those are some amazing results that we have there. 

This is known as the “afterburn” effect. Running causes the “afterburn” effect to take place since it activates different major muscle groups. These muscle groups require more energy afterward so that it is possible to properly relax and recover. It is only through the process of calorie burning that the body can produce this required energy.

 

  • It suppresses your appetite and limits your calorie intake

 

One of the most popular ways to limit our calorie intake so that we lose weight faster is to simply eat less. However, this is often the hardest part of the overall weight loss process. A lot of people struggle with the mid-day and late-night cravings and end up eating way too many “empty calories” that threaten their weight loss results. 

Luckily, running does the job for you and helps you to limit your calorie intake by suppressing your hunger. Many different studies have talked about the appetite-suppressing ability that most high-intensity activities, such as running, have (12, 13). 

Running can suppress our appetite by suppressing the levels of ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone while increasing the production of satiety hormones such as peptide YY. Research published in the American Journal of Physiology measured the ghrelin and peptide YY levels in 11 men before and after they have been running for 60 minutes or doing strength training for 90 minutes (14). While both activities caused a decline in ghrelin levels, a noticeable increase in peptide YY levels was noticed only in those who ran for 60 minutes. 

Yet another research came to the same results. This one measured the ghrelin levels in 9 men who either engaged in no physical activity of any kind or have been running for 60 minutes. The results showed that running efficiently lowered the ghrelin levels in the next three to nine hours after the run, as compared to those who did not exercise and had experienced no changes in their ghrelin levels (15).

 

  • It aims to eliminate belly fat

 

For a lot of men and women, belly fat is the source of their low self-confidence, depression, and anxiety, but also the hidden cause of numerous health risks. For years now, researchers have been finding new links between the excess belly fat and diabetes type 2, heart disease, inflammation, high cholesterol levels, etc. (16).

If you want to eliminate your belly fat, then you might want to think about trying some kind of aerobic exercise, such as running. Aerobic exercise has been scientifically proven to be able to reduce belly fat, even without major diet changes (17). But to see the biggest changes, you need to peruse moderate to high-intensity running, according to science. 

A study on 27 middle-aged women showed that although high-intensity running efficiently reduced their belly fat, low-intensity running and walking did not (18). Similar results have been seen in an analysis of 15 studies. Although running has helped the participants to reduce their belly fat, the most effects have been seen among those who participated in high-intensity running (19).

Tips on how to get started with running for beginners

When done improperly, running can lead to injuries and cause your motivation to drop, thus leading to unsuccessful weight loss results. This is exactly why beginners need to ease into it, similar to how they would ease into a new workout program at the gym. To help you reduce your risk of injury and make sure that your weight loss results are maximized, here are a couple of tips that anyone new to running will find useful.

 

  • Start by walking

 

Once you set outside, it would be unwise to start running without warming up your muscles first. To save time, use one of the best warm-up techniques – walking. Walking puts the exact amount of stress on your joints and muscles so that it does not hurt them, and yet it is enough to prepare them for what is coming. Start your workout by walking. Mix a bit of walking and running and rely solely on running once you feel as your balance, strength, and endurance have improved. Even when you are further into your training, make it a habit of yours to use walking as a warm-up and a cool-down for your muscles.

 

  • Give your body a break

 

In the beginning, sore muscles will probably be your number one problem. They need time to recover and adapt to this new physical activity that you have introduced them to. And so, you will need to take a break and run at least every other day as opposed to running every day. Remember that nobody expects you to run a marathon with only one week of training. This is a rule that you can follow for at least the first couple of weeks of your workout and try stretching and other non-impact workouts in between to achieve the ultimate results. That way, you can protect your muscles from injuries and maximize your weight loss results.

 

  • Take on new challenges gradually

 

Start by running a short distance by a short amount of time and gradually increase both the time and the distance. Also, do not change too much of your routine all at once. If you extend the time this week, extend the distance to the next one, and so on. This is another way to help you protect your joints and muscles from getting overtrained and sore, rather than strong and toned as you wish them to be.

How to stay motivated while running

As effective as it is, running is still not a magical technique that will transform your body overnight. Like any other physical activity, to achieve your goals, you will need to dedicate time, effort, and patience to the whole experience. At times like these, it is often difficult for us to maintain our motivation and remind ourselves what it was in the first place that made us change our lifestyle and become more active.

And so, we are bringing you a couple of tips that might come in handy while maintaining your motivation. For starters, we recommend asking a friend or a family member to join you as often as they can. That way, you can use this whole experience to spend time together, while both of you are doing something good for your body and soul. And if that is not an option, then you can always take your dog with you so that it can also get a bit of physical activity during the day.

The next tip would be to invest in some sports clothing that you feel amazing in and are actually looking forward to wearing it. Also, do remind yourself to change your usual running route every couple of days, just so that you do not become bored with it. Try to play around with the different intensities and types of runs and come up with exciting new combinations that are challenging but also doable. 

Take the time to schedule your daily runs so that it would be harder to find an actual excuse as to why you are not going for a run. The last and probably the most important tip that we have for you is to remember your goal. Write it down and set it in stone. Use realistic goals and goals that bring a smile to your face instead of overly-bearing goals that will cause you to give up way too sooner.

Conclusion

Being overweight/obese does not only lower your self-esteem but more importantly, it harms your physical health. It exposes you to so many health risks than you could ever count. And to think that all of that could change if you simply go for a daily run. Just 5-10 minutes of running, at a low-intensity even, can help lower these many health risks simply by shredding a lot of calories. Backed up by science, running is one of the most effective weight-loss techniques that leads to sustainable weight-loss results that you can be proud of.

References

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/227423/number-of-joggers-and-runners-usa/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0033062017300488
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6018895/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20631641
  5. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/acr.22939
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17063362
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2650561
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4625541/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2973845/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15570150 
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17101527
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18987287
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17347386
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18987287
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17347386
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5599249/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3135883/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2730190/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3568069/

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