5 Myths About Running, Calories and Weight Loss

Myth: You should run six days a week to lose weight.

Research suggests exercising four times a week might be better for weight control than six times a week. A study with sedentary women (ages 60 to 74), who built up to exercising for 40 minutes of cardio and weights, suggests those who did four workouts a week burned about 225 additional calories in the other parts of their day because they felt energized.

The group that trained six times a week complained the workouts not only took up too much time, but also left them feeling tired and droopy. They burned about 200 fewer calories in the non-exercise parts of their day. Yes, they were ages 60 to 74, but the information might also relate to you.

More: Can Too Much Running be Bad for Your Health?

Myth: Couples who run together, lose fat together.

Not always. In a 16-month study looking at exercise for weight loss, the men lost 11.5 pounds and the women maintained weight, even though they did the same amount of exercise.

In another study, men who did an 18-month marathon training program reported eating about 500 more calories per day and lost about five pounds of fat. The women reported eating only 60 more calories, despite having added on 50 miles per week of running. They lost only two pounds.

 What's going on here? Well, a husband who adds on exercise will lose more weight than his wife if he's heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout.

But, speaking in terms of evolution, Nature seems protective of women's role as child bearer, and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient. Obesity researchers at NY's Columbia University suggest a pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500-calorie deficit. No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then do men.

More: 5 Liver Health Tips for Weight Loss

The Bottom Line

If you are running to lose weight, I encourage you to separate exercise and weight. Yes, you should run for health, fitness, stress relief and most importantly, for enjoyment. (After all, the E in exercise stands for enjoyment!)

If you run primarily to burn off calories, exercise will become punishment for having excess body fat. You'll eventually quit running—and that's a bad idea. (A better idea is to seek personalized help by meeting with a local sports dietitian. Use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.)

Instead of focusing just on exercise as the key to fat loss, pay more attention to your calorie intake. Knocking off 100 calories a day from your evening snacks can theoretically result in 10 pounds of fat loss in a year. Does one less cookie a day seems simpler than hours of sweating...? 

More: Learn to Snack Strategically

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