Is Running Long Distance or Interval Running Better for Losing Weight?

Most long distance runners have very little body fat, but they also have very little muscle. During long distance runs, some of your muscle is metabolized for energy. On the other hand, interval running allows you to burn a significant number of calories without sacrificing your muscle mass. In addition to interval running, you should consider adding strength training to your weight-loss routine.

Long distance running has its pros and cons. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Weight-Loss Misconceptions

Not all weight loss is good. If you cut a significant number of calories and drop weight fast, the scale may show a 10- to 20-pound weight loss, but you most likely lost a lot of muscle. This means you now burn fewer calories than you did prior, which can result in an increase in your body-fat percentage. ExRx says to focus your weight-loss goals on your change in body composition rather than just your overall weight, and include both strength training and cardiovascular exercise into your weight-loss program.

Effects of Interval Running

ExRx conducted a study in which half the group performed high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT. This group alternated sprints with a lower intensity of running. The other half of the group performed an endurance style of running where they were kept at a constant lower pace than the HIIT group. At the end of the study, the HIIT group lost three times the amount of subcutaneous fat than the endurance group.

Effects of Long Distance Running

It seems that the risks of long distance running outweigh the benefits. ExRx says that test subjects who ran for more than 30 minutes three times per week showed minimal cardiovascular improvement, but the orthopedic injuries were greatly increased. When you combine the increased risk of injury with the fact that interval training has been shown to burn three times the body fat, you are better of with interval running for weight loss.

Add Strength Training

Strength training is just as important to your weight-loss goals as running or any other type of cardiovascular exercise. The American Council on Exercise says strength training helps reduce your body-fat percentage and increase the amount of muscle you carry, both of which translate into a more fit physique. It will also increase your energy, elevate your mood and decrease stress. Try adding strength training to your interval running program for maximum results.

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