Any exercise is good exercise, but when it comes to losing weight, it's hard to beat running. After all, running is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories and get fit without having to restrict your diet. If you're already a runner, keep on keepin' on. If you're not a runner yet but interested in losing weight, here are four reasons running can be the best exercise for weight loss.
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1. Running works even when you're at rest. High-intensity exercise like running stimulates more "afterburn" than low-intensity exercise. That is, even when comparing running with walking the same distance, studies find that running will lead to greater weight loss, most likely because your resting energy expenditure stays elevated after you run. In a long-term comparison study of runners and walkers, calories burned through running led to 90% more weight loss than calories burned through walking.
2. Running is time-efficient. Even if the myth that running a mile and walking a mile burn the same number of calories were true (find out the truth about calorie burn here), running is a considerably faster way to burn those calories. Most people can run two or three times as far as they can walk in a given amount of time. At the other end of the spectrum, super-intense but short workouts, such as the "Scientific 7-minute Workout" from the Human Performance Institute, may burn more calories per minute per running, but because they're so short, your total caloric burn isn't as great if you ran.
PLUS: The Truth About Running vs. Walking for Weight Loss
3. Running is convenient. Though many of us have accumulated a vast arsenal of GPS gadgets and tech tees over the years, little is actually required to go running. You can do it alone. You can do it almost anywhere. You don't need any equipment beyond a pair of running shoes. (And if you're careful about injury and build up slowly, you may not even need those. Check out the Benefits of Barefoot Running for more.) For this reason alone, running is the best workout for weight loss because it's cheap, it's accessible, and there are fewer barriers to maintaining a routine, even while traveling.
4. Two words: runner's high. The first rule of exercising for weight loss is that if you don't enjoy it, you won't stick with it. Fortunately, studies support what many runners have experienced on an anecdotal level--running can actually get you high. Scientists have found links between moderate to intense exercise and morphine-like brain chemicals called endocannabinoids, which suggest endorphins alone aren't responsible for the occasional flood of euphoria that rushes over you during a hard run. That floaty, happy sensation you had after your last race--makes you want to go for another run, right?