What is the best exercise to lose weight? A lot of people, myself included, will include walking, running and jogging in every effective weight loss plan’s arsenal. The logic is quite simple – it uses up a lot of energy, particularly as the muscles have to move in unison in order to support your body weight throughout the whole session.
One point of confusion that remains is the way to go about it. Sure, it would be easy to suggest going out and run like a lunatic escaping from the cops, but really is it necessary? Which is more important – speed or distance? Although in the long-term it is worth working on both, as I have stated in my ebook the Lifelong Fitness Blueprint, I’d like to, in the name of being professional, get the input of other experts in the topic.
After consulting with other fitness professionals, I have come to the end of the road simply because they have echoed similar sentiments to what I already know and have discussed extensively in the past. All workouts, running included, need progression in difficulty levels be it distance or speed – and this is a point which everyone agrees on. But the truth remains that your approach should be determined by your goals.
Everyone agrees that if your starting point is as a beginner or an obese person, walking is the way to go. The number one reason cited for this is that it allows you to ease into the workout by getting your body used to the added stress gradually. The second reason is to prevent injury – it’s better to lose some weight before stressing your joints out. Thirdly, it is also better psychologically as it will stop you from losing motivation by burning out.
What if you are slightly more advanced? Fitness experts seem to agree that increasing your speed will be the next step. After all, it will allow you to cover more distance in less time. Fitness and exercise will only work in your life if it fits into your life and timetable. Most of us have other obligations such as work or childcare, so ensuring you manage your time well is vital. So speed up your runs.
Now that we have established that, what intensity should you run at? The answer is not an absolute value, but what is challenging for you. One litmus test that experts recommend is that if you are only able to say a few words at a time, you are working out at the right intensity. In theory, this should be 85 to 90% of your maximum heart rate. Running quickly also allows your body to learn to adjust to high levels of lactate, which causes muscle soreness.
Does that mean that you should always favour fast runs over long distance slow jogs? Well, no! You should alternate them. But why? Think about how fast intense runs affect your body. Sure, it will increase athletic performance and build white muscle well, but don’t forget that it is also resource-intensive and can result in long-term wear and tear injury.
This is where your long slow jogs come in. By including this in your arsenal, you are allowing the blood to flow back to those vital areas to wash away the lactate and therefore decrease your recovery time. How good is that? It also, obviously, reduces your chance of a premature injury occurring. Finally, it trains your body in the area of endurance and resilience, which is always useful.
Now to some dry science – high intensity workouts use a slightly different ratio of energy sources than lower intensity ones. If you are running at a high speed, your body needs more resources more quickly, and it turns to stored glycogen (think carbohydrates) as a primary source of fuel. Low intensity exercises, however, will prioritise using fat as the main energy source, since the lack of intensity permits time for the energy conversion process.
Then there is high intensity interval training (HIIT). This refers to an exercise regimen where short bursts of high intensity is interspersed between longer periods of low intensity. This is accepted as an effective way of losing weight, as the sudden changes in heart rate forces the body to adapt. However, this should only be attempted by people who have been exercising for a while.
So what is the bottom line? It is that there is no one way to go about it. Some ways might be better than others, but anything is better than nothing. Honestly, if you feel that a low intensity but long jog is what you can stick to, then go for it. Don’t be put off by people who insist on high intensity workouts only. All the best!
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