Will running help me lose weight? - Women's Running

Will running help me lose weight?

Author: Laura Hilton

Read Time:   |  January 14, 2022

Nutrition expert Laura Hilton explains why weight loss shouldn't be your main concern while training

There is absolutely no doubt that running boosts our health in a large number of ways including physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Running can also help someone to lose weight but only if certain other conditions are right, as I shall explain.

A bit about energy balance

First of all we need to explain a bit about energy balance. We measure energy in kilocalories which is normally abbreviated to calories. We expend/burn energy through automatic bodily processes that keep us alive such digesting our food, pumping our hearts, breathing etc. We also burn energy by carrying out any activity that is part of our daily lives whether that’s cooking, working, commuting, looking after pets and family, cleaning the house etc. Of course we also burn energy through any forms of exercise that we do. Plus, we lose body mass when we go to the toilet, sweat and breathe out moisture. We then take energy onboard through the food and drink that we eat.

In order to lose bodyweight we need to be in an energy deficit, meaning that we are expending more energy than we are consuming. If we consume the same amount as we expend our bodyweight will stay the same. If we expend less energy than we burn then we will be in an energy surplus and therefore will gain weight. So if someone is trying to lose weight running can help them to do that, but only if they are eating and drinking fewer calories than they are burning. If running leads you to eating and drink more, there’s every chance that you will not be in an energy deficit and therefore will not lose weight.

Efficiency

Another thing it is important to understand is that our bodies get more efficient at an activity the more that they do it. This means that an activity “costs” us less the more we do it. As an example imagine that when you are new to running a 5k run would result in a 400 calorie expenditure. A few months down the line, when you have been regularly running 5k your body is much more efficient at running, and now therefore that same run may only see your body burn 300 calories. And if during that time your dietary intake and other forms of expenditure have stayed the same, you are most likely to experience a little bit of a weight-loss plateaux or even weight gain. The way to increase the amount of calories burned during your run now is either by increasing the distance that you cover, or by taking the intensity up a notch. This can be done by increasing the pace, running on a more challenging terrain or by introducing some speed, hill or fartlek sessions to your training programme.

While all of this explains how running might help someone to lose weight if that’s what they want to do, it doesn’t touch on all the other benefits that runnings offers.

Physical benefits of running

Running helps to keep the whole body healthy: from your lungs, to your muscles, to your bones, heart, lungs and brain. It boosts longevity partly by helping to prevent diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers. It also helps to keep blood pressure at a healthy level and can help us sleep better, which in turn improves our wellbeing in myriad ways.

On a more psychological level, running allows us to discover more about what our bodies can do. These days so many of us are desk-based that lacing up your trainers and running can also help remind us that we are mammals that have evolved to move! Doing so can be incredibly life-affirming.

Mental benefits of running

As with our physical health, regularly doing things to enhance our mental wellbeing is an important way to live a long, happy and healthy life. Exercise and getting outside are both well known to increase our endorphins and therefore improve our mental wellbeing. If we combine the two therefore, our mental wellbeing receives a significant boost. Those who suffer with mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, have found that running significantly helps them to manage their conditions.

Digestive benefits of running

Moving the body can help to speed up the digestive system, which can be great news for anyone who suffers with constipation. Exercise helps to improve and maintain insulin sensitivity. This means that our bodies can efficiently carry out the process involved in converting the carbohydrates we eat into energy, rather than storing them as body fat. If we become too resistant to the effects of insulin we can go on to develop prediabetes and possibly Type 2 Diabetes.

Social benefits of running

Running with other people not only gives you the physical and mental benefits of running, but also adds the emotional  benefits of bonding with others over a common interest and in the pursuit and achievement of a shared goal. Not to mention the joy of finding and maintaining connections with others, which we have been so deprived of over the last few years.

Collective benefits of running

If those around you see you enjoying and reaping the benefits of running, you may well inspire them to try it for themselves. You could, in turn, improve the health of your friends, partners, children and family in a huge variety of ways.

So while running can help someone to lose weight, it offers so many other life-enhancing benefits, that will make every facet of your life healthier and happier for many years to come.

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Written by

Laura Hilton

Laura Hilton

Nutritionist, personal trainer and mum of three Laura loves running in the countryside with her dog and has taken on numerous marathons

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