Why Running Isn't The Best Way To Lose Weight

Certified Personal Trainer By Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT
Certified Personal Trainer
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the author of The 12-Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster, and Stronger Using HIIT and Your Bodyweight and a leading expert on HIIT and bodyweight fitness. She lives in Venice, California, and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

So many people think running is the only way to lose weight or unwanted body fat. And while some people actually do enjoy lacing up their running shoes and hitting the road, trails or even a treadmill, others among us (myself included) are not natural runners. In fact, I can't imagine any exercise I enjoy less than going for a long run (sprints are OK with me, though). And I'm definitely not alone.

The good news is that running isn't the only way to lose weight. In fact, it might not even be the "best" way. Here's why:

1. It takes a lot of time.

One of the most common excuses people make for not working out is that they simply don't have the time for it, and one of my biggest problems with running (and any form of moderate intensity or endurance exercise) is that it just takes so much time to actually do.

The longer your workout takes, the less likely you are to actually work out as it eats into your day, preventing you from doing other activities you want or need to get done. If your main objective is to get fit and/or lose weight, not working out because it takes too long is a surefire way you'll end up staying exactly where you are health-wise.

2. It limits maximum calorie burn.

Running at a steady pace for an extended period of time does burn quite a few calories — 30 minutes of running can burn anywhere from 300 to 500 calories, depending on how much you weigh and how hard and fast you run. But when your run is over, that's it for the calorie burn; your metabolism goes back to what it was before you started your run.

Compare that to HIIT training, where you can achieve maximum calorie burn by not only burning a lot of calories during your workout, but also boosting your metabolism afterward. This means you'll burn more calories for up to 24-48 hours after your workout is complete. We like to call that the "afterburn effect," and it's your greatest weapon when trying to lose weight and burn fat.

It's the intensity of your workout, not the overall time, that helps you burn the most amount of calories and speed up your weight loss efforts.

4. Your body gets too used to it.

One of the downsides with running (and any steady-state form of cardio) is that the more you do it, the more efficient your body becomes at burning fat. But the more efficient your body becomes, the less energy it has to expend for a given amount of activity, meaning that if you want to continue to lose weight, you'll have to go for longer and longer runs to continue to make progress.

On the other hand, you can make more progress in just 15 minutes of HIIT than you can running for an entire hour. So unless you actually enjoy your long distance runs, you might as well skip them and do a shorter, harder workout instead.

5. It makes you hungry.

If you've ever trained for a half- or full-length marathon and wondered why you didn't end up losing any weight despite all your hard training, there's a very simple answer: exercising for long periods of time makes you hungry.

When you start moving more and for longer periods of time than your body is used to, it naturally wants to replace all those calories you lost during your training with more food. But since most people think they're burning more calories than they actually are during moderate intensity exercise, they end up not losing any weight (sometimes even gaining weight) despite the extra training due to an increased appetite.

So if your goal is weight loss, you're better off keeping your workouts shorter and more intense rather than longer and steadier to help keep your appetite at bay.

6. If you hate it, you'll make excuses not to do it.

Before I started doing mostly high intensity interval training, when running was my only form of exercise, I'd use almost any excuse possible not to do it. So if you're one of those people who also dreads running but force yourself to do it anyway, here's my advice: stop.

The truth is that the very best form of exercise is the one you'll actually do. And if you hate to run, you just aren't going to do it as often as you should to meet your weight and fat loss goals.

Photo courtesy of the author

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