Newbie Runner FAQ: Running and Weight Loss

So you've decided to take on a running program. Before you start, it's important to figure out your source of motivation. Most beginners start running to lose weight or get in shape. If one or both of these are your objectives, you're in good company. But will running actually help you achieve your weight-loss goals, and how much running do you need? Here are some answers to common beginner questions about running and weight loss.

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Will I Lose Weight?

If you've decided to take up running to shed a few pounds, you're not alone. While there are countless benefits to running, weight loss can be a bonus side effect.

Many runners want to know how much weight they can lose and if the pounds will simply melt off once they start logging miles.

While running can help you burn calories and slim down, patience is a virtue. You may shed some pounds initially—especially if you were previously sedentary—substantial weight loss requires sound nutrition and a balanced diet.

"Running can be a great way to improve your fitness," says Road Runners Club of America-certified coach Kim Lovejoy. "But you'll only lose weight if the amount of calories you're eating is less than the amount of calories you're expending through activity."

Rather than drastically slashing your calories, remember that you may feel hungrier as a result of your increased activity level, and it's important to eat enough food to fuel your workouts. To be safe, you may want to consult a nutritionist or health professional to make sure you lose weight gradually without sacrificing your health.

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Do I Need to Lose Weight Before I Can Start Running?

Some people think that they can't start a running program until they lose a certain amount of weight. The truth is, this all depends on the individual.

While it's important to listen to your body and not overextend yourself, you can find a program that works for you, regardless of your current fitness level.

"Running is going to be more strenuous on your joints, heart and lungs initially if you have a lot of weight to lose," says Ron Bowman, an RRCA-certified running coach. "A smart way to start running if you're worried is through a run/walk program. Consult your doctor or health professional before beginning any type of exercise program if you feel a reason to be concerned."

More: How to Execute a Run/Walk Program Properly

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