Running helps to prevent weight or fat gain in the long-term, study shows

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Recently, some media outlets have highlighted that it is a myth that running will help you lose weight/fat. There is certainly convincing scientific evidence that after the initial loss of fat mass from engaging in exercise, the body reduces its overall energy expenditure to conserve energy and ultimately store its fat mass. Insurance policies of this nature were developed by our ancestors to prevent starvation during times of limited food availability. But a new study shows that running prevents long-term body fat gain.

Don’t be discouraged if, after a promising start, you can’t lose your weight while running. Recent work from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, ( showed that running helped prevent weight or fat gain in those who continued to run. Hopefully this will help maintain motivation throughout the coming months as the quick gains fade.

Our data clearly show that lifelong running exercise, whether long-distance or repeated short-distance sprinting, maintains lower fat mass levels than a typical physically active lifestyle and more so than participation in competitive strength sports.”

Dr. Simon Walker, Docent of Exercise Physiology, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä

Older sprinters and endurance athletes in the study even had less fat than younger strength athletes and physically active controls.

“This result definitely motivates me to keep running. I would definitely be happy with a 16-18% fat percentage when I’m in the 70s and 80s,” said Dr. walker

Lifelong strength training is best for maintaining muscle mass

The same study found that people who participated in lifelong resistance training maintained muscle mass compared to those who competed in sprints and long-distance running. Additionally, the older strength trainers had the same amount of muscle mass as their younger counterparts.

Dr. Walker suggests that a combined training approach may be most beneficial for optimizing body composition throughout life:

“In terms of increasing body composition through both improved muscle mass and maintenance of non-health-affecting fat mass, it seems that a combined approach is recommended. We know that both tissues, fat and muscle, inversely affect overall health and performance. So , the best strategy would be to optimize both.

Walker suggests that two to three sessions of resistance exercise should yield similar results, depending on your preference, mood, motivation, or seasonal changes. Studies show that in athletes.

“Preventing fat gain or loss of muscle mass in the first instance and maintaining exercise throughout life are probably key. Thus, lifelong engagement in regular exercise helps maintain a healthy body composition. This is not a myth.”

The present study Dr. Marko Korhonen and Imer. Professor Dr. Sulin Cheng respectively. It included control men aged 20–39 and 70–89 who were competitive sprinters, endurance runners, and strength athletes, and who were physically active but did not compete in sports.

“Although we only studied men, I see no reason why our results would not apply to women as well, especially considering the effects of menopause and other age-related effects.”


Journal Reference:

Walker, S., etc. (2023). Body composition in male lifelong trained strength, sprint and endurance athletes and healthy age-matched controls. Borders on sports and active lifestyle.

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