A balanced view on running for weight loss

Come January, as the New Year’s Resolutions start to kick in, you will see many people hitting the roads for a run, some to get fitter or dreaming of being the next Mo Farah, others because they want to lose weight. You’ll see the same increase in jogger numbers in the weeks after the London Marathon has inspired the British public in the middle of April.

So is running a good option for weight loss? We’ll present both sides of the argument for you here and let you decide for yourself, after all, we’re not called balance for nothing!
The pros
1)   Running burns calories
This is an undeniable fact! You’ll hear some say that cardio is no good for weight loss and they’ll upsell the virtues of resistance training (and they’ll be absolutely right to do so on the latter). But let’s be honest, you don’t see very many overweight professional long-distance runners do you??? OK so cardiovascular training doesn’t build muscle and increase calorie burn after workouts in the way that weights training does, but it burns plenty of calories in the process.
If you want to know how many calories you burn during a run, Runners World provide a nice simple calculator here:
Of course, this is an estimate but it gives you some idea and shows how much of a dent you are making towards your goals.
2)   You might like running
Doing something you enjoy is fundamental to success in any weight loss or health programme. For those that enjoy running, it may well be a good idea. If you don’t, we guarantee there will be an alternative that is just as effective for you, be it cycling, swimming, walking, weights training or whatever works for you.
3)   Running improves health
From improvements in blood glucose and blood cholesterol to better control of mood and mental health, running provides a range of health benefits. We’ve also shown many times that getting outside amongst nature has important effects on health and running is a great way of doing this.
4)   Running can improve bone density
Various studies have shown that bone mass is increased, maintained, or the rate of loss with ageing slowed through running, in both the lower limbs and lumbar spine. Running is of benefit because the strain frequency is high. This means that during a running session the number of times the foot comes into contact with the floor are high, putting repeated stresses on the bones and causing adaptations to occur in order to cope with these stresses and strains.
The cons
1)   It places stress on joints
Yes we know, we just told you that placing stress on bones and joints was a good thing, and it is, for the right people at the right time. If you are overweight and deconditioned however, it may not be the best place to start. When running, up to five times your bodyweight can pass through your joints. For those who are normal weight or slightly overweight, this may not pose too much of a problem, but if you carry more weight then running may place too much stress on your joints, increasing the risk of injuries.
2)   It is repetitive
The nature of running means that you have to perform the same movement time and time again. This increases the likelihood of overload on specific muscles and joints, again increasing the likelihood of injury, especially if the body is not conditioned enough to undergo these pressures. Running with poor posture or technique, or doing too much, are the things likely to cause issues here. If you have tight muscles, have had injuries, have a predominantly seated job or have not been active for some time, it is well worth conditioning your body first before ploughing straight into the running regime. You can do this through resistance training, stretching, yoga or Pilates.
3)   Walking can burn more calories
You may be surprised to hear that walking quickly actually burns more calories than running. This means brisk walking (that special type of walk, the type you see in the Olympic Games), at a speed of 8 kilometres per hour or faster. At this speed it is less economical for the body to walk than it is to run, and as such it makes it harder to do, burning more calories in the process.
4)   You might not like running
See point two in pros. If you prefer another form of exercise, don’t run! There are plenty of other choices available to you.
Key messages:
   1)   If you haven’t exercised for a while, have poor posture or tight muscles, or are very overweight, consider doing something else in the earlier stages of your exercise routine. As you increase your fitness and lose weight, you can gradually add running into your routine.
   2)   Mix it up. Don’t just run; mix it up with stretching and resistance training to ensure your muscles, bones and joints can take the stresses and strains placed on them.
   3)   Learn to run - this might sound daft but ensuring you run with good posture and technique, and have the appropriate footwear to suit your style, is key to you getting the most out of it.
   4)   Run if it’s fun! Don’t slog through exercise if it is a chore, you won’t stick to it in the long-term. Find what you enjoy and mix it up regularly to keep it fun and varied.
   5)   Little by little – if you are going to take up running, build up gradually and be sure to get yourself a proper programme that includes periods of rest to prevent you overdoing it and to decrease your risk of injury or boredom.
If you have a question about your own running programme, get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to offer some friendly advice:

balance your exercise routine, balance your scales J