Is running good for losing weight? James O’Keefe, 58, is a cardiologist at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO. A self-proclaimed “exercise enthusiast,” O’Keefe says there was a time—decades, in fact—when he would routinely spend 2 to 3 hours a day running and working out vigorously. “I seldom took a day off,” he remembers. But in case you see O’Keefe exercising today, you will probably spot the MD on a post dinner amble with his family. He also enjoys practicing yoga or doing some mild backstrokes in the pool.
What Changed? And Is Running Good for Losing Weight?
O’Keefe investigated the effects of extreme physical activity on the human heart and body. The fruits of his and others’ research inspired him to dial down his routine.
“If your target is exercising for general well-being and enhancing your longevity, then walking is perfect,” he says.
Jogging Is Tough On Your Heart
In one of his studies, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, O’Keefe and his colleagues found that people who run most days of the week at a pace faster than 7 miles per hour have the same risk of death as sedentary individuals. Another study, presented at the EuroPRevent2012 assembly in Dublin, Ireland, found that people who run more than 25 miles per week have no mortality advantage, compared with nonrunners.
So, is running good for losing weight? Both studies suggest that moving at a gentler pace—such as a brisk walk or a slow jog—for 1 to 2.5 hours every week lowers your risk of death by 25%.
“We are not meant for continual degrees of exercise for extended intervals,” O’Keefe describes. “After 60 minutes of extreme physical activity, like running, the chambers of your heart start to stretch and overwhelm the muscle’s capability to adjust.”
He also says amounts of dangerous free radicals increase, adrenaline increases, and inflammation happens inside your coronary arteries.
“Extreme training over the course of several years may also bring about long-term changes in your heart changes that can establish the stage for serious cardiovascular troubles,” he says.
“The escalation in the flow of blood to your heart leads to micro tears,” he clarifies. “It is not a huge deal in the event you do it once or even twice. They will fix in a day or two. They’ll heal in a few days. But when you do this over and over again for many years, it causes stiffness and scarring in the heart that can accelerate aging and contribute to congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation.”
Run More Difficult, Get Worse?
Your heart is not the only part of you that might endure from vigorous exercise. Excessive endurance training could also dampen your immune system and raise your risk for sickness. Researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign found that lengthy extreme action improves levels of certain inflammatory proteins that could enable viruses such as the common cold to boom. This means you might get ill more often; and feel worse during spells of sickness if you are taxing your body with vigorous exercise on a regular basis.
What About Weight Reduction?
Is running good for loosing weight? Despite common assumptions that work out “torches” body fat, vigorous workouts are not frequently linked with dramatic weight loss. A close look at the medical literature shows that diet shifts, not work out, are the big drivers of dropped pounds.
One example: A recent study in the journal Obesity found that after a full year of aerobic exercise—5 days a week for 45 minutes—overweight or obese women lost just over 2% of their body weight. That jumped to 11% among girls who joined exercise with diet shifts.
Another study, this one in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that an extreme work out fosters women’s appetite so substantially that they have a tendency to eat enough calories to replace the ones they burned off completely.
Exercise is undeniably healthy for you and in innumerable ways. But should you presume you must run hard as a way to slim down, there is not much information to back that up.
Walking For Wellness
So should you scrap your plans for your upcoming event or marathon? Not necessarily.
“I don’t think that short-term training for marathons or another singular event is deleterious to our health,” says Todd Astorino, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology at California State University, San Marcos. “What becomes problematic is long-term training on a lengthy period of insufficient healing.”
But if you fight to find motivation to run, and have consistently presumed walking is not hardcore enough to enhance your well-being, set those fears aside; walking seems to bestow all the same health benefits as running without the dangers.
In a new study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, routine walkers turned out to be fitter than their running counterparts. The risk for hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease all dropped more significantly among walkers, compared with runners. So, if you want to know is running good for losing your weight – walking can be much better.
Both O’Keefe and Astorino suggest adopting the CDC’s physical activity guidelines. They recommend half an hour of moderate-intensity exercise such as lively walking most days of the week; together with a few days of strength training.
O’Keefe includes: “As important as exercise is, it is crucial that you get the appropriate dose. More is not always better.”