Can We Shape Our Bodies Just by Running?

Running is a great cardio exercise to get your body in shape, but that's not all you need. Your body requires three aspects to become fit: cardio, strength training and a healthy diet. While running will help burn calories, it won't get you in shape if you're strictly burning the unhealthy food you're eating and nothing more. And while cardio and eating healthy will help burn calories, strength training will finish it off by providing the stability and strength you need to avoid injury and carry out everyday activities.

Running is a great cardio workout, but that alone isn't enough to reshape your body. (Image: Martin Novak/Moment/GettyImages)

Tip

Although running is a very beneficial exercise, you must incorporate other workouts and follow a healthy diet to achieve the body shape you want.

Choose Your Cardio

Cardio exercises, such as jogging, swimming, dancing, jump rope and running, all provide constant movement to get your heart pumping and make you sweat. Sweating allows you to burn calories and fat. To lose weight and shape your body, your cardio routine should be long enough to burn more calories than you consume.

With a healthy diet, you should burn off about 500 calories a day to lose 3,500 calories a week, or 1 pound. To advance toward that goal, run or perform any other type of cardio exercise three to four times a week.

Health.gov's Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends doing about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week, or 75 minutes per week of intense cardio — but you might need to add more for weight loss.

Strength Training for Health

Strength training workouts can tone any major muscle group in your body: arms, back, shoulders, stomach, butt and legs. Various workouts include mountain climbers, planks, pushups, wall sits, lunges, squats, step-ups, calf raises, donkey kicks, triceps dips and crunches.

Perform strength-training workouts two to three days a week on nonconsecutive days. Anaerobic workouts that target a specific area of your body, such as your arms, should never be done on consecutive days to avoid straining or pulling a muscle.

Eat for a Long Life

Without eating healthy, all the energy you're exerting in cardio and strength training won't make as much difference in shaping your body. To start eating healthy, cut back on sugar, red meats, full-fat dairy products and fried foods. Eat smaller portions and stop eating at night.

Eating breakfast and smaller meals will keep your metabolism running and going throughout the whole day. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, calcium, monounsaturated fats — found in plant oils, nuts and seeds — and polyunsaturated fats — found in fatty fish and fish oil supplements — in your diet.

Tips for Safe, Successful Exercise

Always perform a five- to 10-minute warmup and cool down when performing cardio and strength-training exercises. To shape your body, avoid running at the same pace for the duration of your run. Varying your intensity will increase your metabolism more and help you burn fat faster.

To avoid injury, rest at least a day between strength-training exercises. If you feel pain, give your body a day or two of rest. Never push your limits. Shaping your body will take time.

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