Jogging increases your metabolic rate

Running is the worst way to get in shape

Photo: Martin Zemlickis | Unsplash

This article first appeared on Tonic.

Running is a very bad way to burn fat, and for your cardiovascular system, there are better sports out there too. Even so, for some inexplicable reason, jogging has become the most popular fitness sport in the world.

That's bad, because running sucks. Up to 79 percent of all runners are pulled out of the race at least once a year by injuries. There is a simple reason for this: running is an incredibly inefficient way to build strength. And as we all know, a strong body is the best protection against injury, the best guarantee for an optimal metabolism and one of the most important elements for continued fitness in old age.

Statistically, if you are interested in keeping fit, you are more likely to be a jogger. Sure, that also seems like a very obvious sporting activity. But running around for long periods of time at a medium, lightly strenuous pace is not a traditional, natural movement pattern that makes us physically blossom. In fact, it wasn't until the 1960s that running became so popular as an "antidote to sedentary lifestyle". Virtually any form of exercise is healthier than just sitting around all day, but running hardly meets any of the criteria that make a meaningful sport.

According to Lee Boyce, strength coach and owner of Boyce Training Systems in Toronto, runners have two main reasons for choosing the sport. The most popular reason is to burn fat: you "do cardio" because you want a flatter stomach. In this area, running is a very inadequate sport.

"Most of the time, people want to get leaner and lose weight, but other exercises are likely to have a much stronger effect," he says. Like pretty much every worthwhile trainer, Boyce recommends strength exercises instead, i.e. multi-joint exercises such as squats, deadlifts, front presses, pull-ups, and pushups.

He advises cardio junkies to shorten the rest phases and to combine several exercises in a "circle" so that the heart rate remains elevated and the cardiorespiratory capacity is increased. This will get you out of breath just as much as you run, "but you get more benefit from it because you are resisting your muscles, which burns more calories, stimulates much more fat burning, and increases your metabolism."

The man is right: Studies consistently show that weight training and sprinting are much more effective at reducing belly fat and creating a good hormonal foundation for burning fat. These include better insulin sensitivity, less of the stress hormone cortisol, more growth hormone and more testosterone. (Yes, this is also desirable for women.)

A 2008 study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise was published, divided, for example, 27 very overweight women into 3 groups: one group completed light running training five days a week, the next did intensive sprints on only three days of the week, and the third group, as a control group, was supposed to leave the training complete. After 16 weeks, the results could not be dismissed: The sprinters had lost considerable amounts of belly and thigh fat, while the more leisurely runners had increased their oxygen supply, but had made just as little progress in terms of fat as the inactive ones.

The other big goal in running is improving cardiovascular health. Even for most people, if certain surveys are to be believed, that's the main reason — and slim looks are just a happy side effect, of course. (Okay, buddy.) It's true, of course, that exertion is good for your heart and cardiorespiratory capacity, and that running is a form of exertion, but the exertion is far too mild to accomplish much.

In lifting weights, a hundred foolproof repetitions aren't as effective as a few shorter sets of heavier weights, and heart rate is the same: more effort, more impact. Studies have shown that shorter sessions of anaerobic exercise, such as brisk strength exercises and sprints, are just as good for the heart as long runs. At the same time, these exercises are better at maintaining muscle mass and improving maximum oxygen uptake. In a 15-week study carried out in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research It was found that people who only did ten full sprints of ten seconds each on a training bike gained more stamina and strength than those who did moderate-intensity exercises for 20 to 25 minutes.

Running is just good "cardio" because it makes you breathe heavily, and there are a myriad of ways to accomplish this. Do you just like to run and don't want to stop? That's fine; just run faster from now on. "In many ways, sprinting is safer than running," says Boyce. "The average person has a lot of muscular imbalance, where the muscles on one side of a joint are weaker than the muscles on the other, so it's not the best idea to work them out with long-distance runs where you take maybe ten thousand steps in half an hour . "

This leads to chronic pain and imbalance, Boyce explains, while sprinting properly addresses the problem in several ways. Overall, you take fewer steps (so the joints are less stressed), you move more efficiently, you use more muscles, and you develop more fast-twitch muscle fibers that contribute more to the development of strength.

"Fast-twitch muscle fibers keep your joints protected and strong, so that's just the overall more sensible choice," says Boyce. "Plus, sprinting gives you greater fat loss than weight training for the same reasons: You do something that combines strength, explosive power, exertion, and intensity, so your muscles have to work harder, burn more calories, and improve your metabolism after your workout too . " That means you will burn extra calories long after you workout.

However, Dean Somerset, an expert in strength and conditioning training, exercise physiologist and kinesiologist from Alberta, Canada, warns that mild running training can be much gentler on the tendons than the more intense version.

Somerset also thinks that a slow, longer run may burn more calories because such training usually takes longer overall. He believes the real benefit of vigorous exercise is in the hormonal benefits. "Sprints are better at producing testosterone, growth hormone, and thyroid hormone than steady-state cardio," he says. The first two hormones have powerful effects on fat burning and muscle building, which makes sprints such a good weapon against figure problems.

If you simply prefer endurance training, you can still do your health more good if you rely on movement sequences that strengthen and protect sensitive parts of the body. According to Boyvce, running is not one of these movements. It is very bad for the joints and strength development. Remember: if you are strong, you are better protected from injury, and this is a very important advantage as you get older.

"If you don't like running, you don't have to do it just to get the cardio benefits," says Somerset. "Instead, you can use a rowing ergometer, swing a kettlebell, ride a bike or push a weight sled." The benefits of such exercises are better posture, stronger core muscles, and a healthier back.

And if you just love running too much to let it go, Boyce recommends, "Strength training should be your starter, then run can come." So if you want to run for 20 or 30 minutes, you should do 30 to 40 minutes of strength training beforehand. You will burn more fat, strengthen your heart and be agile, stable and flexible in old age. And isn't that the reason why we do sports in the first place?

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