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Running long distances to lose weight? This is why you're wasting your time

If your goal is to be leaner, then greater endurance isn’t really to your benefit.

In the United States, a nation more obese than any other, running remains the most popular workout activity. That's according to a Fitbit analysis of fitness tracker user data.


And if new pandemic routines across the country are any indication, much of that running is long distance. But here’s the cruel catch, running miles at a time doesn’t shed fat as efficiently as other forms of exercise. The human body, ever-resourceful, eventually adapts to the repetitive nature of running. This added efficiency means the body burns fewer calories for the same amount of work.


But if you're looking at a gym (which is not a great idea at the moment) and at what can give you the most bang for your buck, it’s whatever moves and works the most muscle groups at the same time. That requires strength training.


Losing weight requires about 40 to 60 minutes of activity most days of the week and at least half that time should be spent strength training. If you can build strength and build muscle mass, you’re going to burn more calories.


Strength training causes microtears in the muscles. Those tears require calories as they repair, meaning your body keeps working long after you leave the gym. That’s less so with steady, moderate jogging. With cardio, you can slog away for 30 minutes at a lower intensity and burn 200 calories — or you can just eat 200 fewer calories per day. From a weight loss perspective, it's the same thing.


If you love running, fear not: Sprinting may work as well. A study from the University of Western Ontario asked one group of people to run at a slow, steady pace for 30 to 60 minutes, three times per week. Another group ran 30-second sprints, between four and six of them, three times each week — a way less time-intensive routine.


Both groups gained some muscle mass. But after six weeks, the sprinters shed more than twice the body fat of the joggers.


The Fitness Doctor offers a one-of-a-kind fitness experience. Utilizing a clinical approach to exercise and nutrition, you will reach your goals quickly and safely. We offer private, sanitized suites, and HEPA filtration systems to ensure a safe and effective workout!

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