Everyone knows that feeling. You have just tucked into a hearty slice of pizza and you already start to feel guilty.
For many people who want to declare war on the spare tire, the love handles, and any other excess baggage, it seems there is now only method they rely on: putting on their trainers and hitting the treadmill – or the tarmac of their local streets.
But is running really the ultimate, universal weapon for tackling excess weight? Are there more effective methods?
As a general rule, any kind of sport or exercise will burn calories and can help us to lose weight. In terms of energy consumption, running on the streets or on a treadmill actually scores well compared to other training apparatus such as cross trainers and bicycle ergometers.
Running improves the cardiovascular system, activates various metabolic processes and increases our general fitness – and these factors do also break down body fat. Nevertheless, there is a more effective solution for optimal weight loss and, most importantly, for long-term weight loss. The solution is strength training.
For sustained weight loss, there is one particular thing to pay attention to that is more important than the calories and fat cells that we use up during exercise. Even if we run for a whole hour, we will burn no more than 500 to 600 calories, which is equivalent to the number of calories contained in our next proper meal.
For this reason, is far more important to increase the number of calories burned outside of our periods of exercising. This is where the advantages of strength training come into play.
Strength training fights those hated areas of excess fat on multiple fronts. The most important thing is to increase the basal metabolic rate. The relatively high intensity of strength training leads to the build up of muscle tissue.
This additional muscle tissue requires additional energy, which increases the body’s overall demand for nutrients. As a rule of thumb, for every kilogram of muscle gained, the daily energy requirement increases by around 100 calories.
Another advantage is the afterburn effect. This relates to the period after exercising, during which the body is still running at full blast and burns extra energy. This effect is considerably more pronounced after intensive exercise sessions compared with moderate endurance training.
This has shown to result in an increase in the body’s metabolic processes for up to 24 hours after the training session. The advantage? Even when we are not exercising – when we are watching TV, sleeping or eating, for instance – we burn significantly more calories.
Although the hourly energy consumption rates of 500–600 calories for endurance training and strength training are roughly comparable, the latter is the clear winner because of the increased metabolic rate and the longer afterburn effect.
Another advantage is that by regularly integrating dynamic exercises such as stability training into your exercise routine – using balance boards or vibratory plates – you are also strengthening your core muscles.
This leads to improvements in muscle coordination and spatial awareness, as well as faster reaction times. Good reflexes are of particular benefit to older people, enabling them to avoid accidents in day to day life.
Strength training also has another positive factor – it is fun! You will only stay motivated in the long term if you approach your training routine with a large dose of enthusiasm.
Hours and hours of running can easily become monotonous, particularly for beginners. Strength training can be more varied, using a combination of exercises with weights, your own body weight, TRX devices as well as exercises to improve coordination.
For years, fitness magazines have stubbornly held to the myth that moderate endurance training is the way to burn fat. Sports medicine specialists have now arrived at other conclusions, which is having an influence on many types of popular sports and on the way that the best exercise programs are put together.
Events such as ISPO MUNICH 2016 are great places to find out more information about these topics.
Although the body does indeed make more use of fat reserves when we go running or cycling for hours, we now know that exercising at low to moderate intensity has a poor time/benefit ratio.
Of course this does not mean that you should already be hanging up your running shoes. Running is particularly good for people wishing to lose weight because it improves your basic endurance and your cardiovascular system. Running is a useful addition to every training program
but strength training should always form the basis of any training routine that is aimed at reducing fat. In combination with a balanced diet and a constant calorie deficit, your ideal figure will be well within your reach.
Topic for discussion:
Treadmill vs. outdoor running – the advantages, disadvantages and dangers