The Worst Exercise For Fat Loss

First off I realize that this blog title is a not only a big dramatic generalization but also my own opinion.

Second, if you ever read anything I write and you do not agree because you have real life proof that works for you, then go for it. I am not here to argue what obviously works for someone. I am here to give you a different perspective.

Now let me get this out of the way. Running works for some people. Some people love to run and use it as their primary or secondary method of fitness. It has a host of positive benefits from being a fabulous mood booster, great for heart health, a high calorie burned and can be just plain enjoyable! 

It is quite ironic though, that running is often the go to exercise for weight loss (I use fat loss and weight loss interchangeably) and people think they need to run to get in shape, when really they need to get in shape to run. And by running I mean long, moderate intensity runs.


Running is hard on the body.

I was at a fitness conference about 5 years back when a presenter compared running a mile to 2,000 plyometrics. Plyometrics being a form of jump training and 2,000 being the number of steps in a mile. If you are out of shape or have a lot of weight to lose, running is not only going to be hard on your endurance but hard on your joints. Jumping  or high impact activity is the last thing I would recommend. The constant pounding on the cement is, is in a sense, like jumping over and over and over again for however long it takes you to run a mile, or worse 3! This can put you at a higher risk for injury and/or make it harder for you to recover from your workouts.

The more you run to lose weight, the more you have to run to maintain it and keep if off.

It has been suggested that you will have to continue to add mileage to your runs to stay lean, especially as you age. If you run 15-20 miles a week in your 20’s you may have to increase that 20-25 miles in your 30’s and 25-30 miles in your 40’s to stay lean. That is not only a lot of time invested in your running but a lot of pounding on the pavement as well.

I am all about the least effective dose of exercise when it comes to maintaing weight. If you exercise 6 hours a week to maintain your weight, what happens when you only have the opportunity to workout 2 hours a week for a extended period of time. You will not be able to control that with exercise alone and will have to make sure you adjust your diet accordingly.

The body adapts well.

The body is a pretty smart cookie and adapts to your activity to become more efficient. When you run your first mile after not running in awhile, it is going to be at least a little challenging and your body is going to have to work harder to run that mile. But as you keep running that same mile your body will adapt and use less fuel and burn less calories to do so.  You will have to continue to run more to see results or maintain your results.

Running is a great way to stimulate your appetite. 

I am all for more exercise, but if you are failing to control your appetite at the same time, it is going to cancel the physique results you are seeking. Certain types of exercise can make you hungrier and typically moderate, longer duration type exercise will do so. Check out this great piece on appetite, hormones, and exercise by metabolic effect. Typically when people set themselves up to get back in shape, they start to eat less which makes them hungrier, while bumping up their workouts at the same time, which will, you guessed it, make them hungrier.

Sprinting is a great fat burner ONLY if you are in shape.

I do rave about high intensity exercise and sprinting on my social media posts but I encourage caution. Sprinting and plyometrics are great alternatives ONLY if you are in good enough shape to do them. Both these forms of activities are great fat burners, help maintain appetite, and are very time efficient but also require a great deal of technique. These types of activities are NOT good for beginners to use. Again you need to get in shape to sprint, not sprint to get into shape.

What to do instead:

  • Get the cardio effect without the impact. Set a timer for 15 minutes and perform 8 squats, 8 push ups and hold a 20 seconds kneeling or full plank. Repeat continuously, resting as needed.
  • Climb a set of stairs. Rest when needed and repeat.
  • Try a lower impact form of cardio like incline walking or swimming.
  • Use leisure walking to reduce stress, maintain appetite and move.
  • Find your own, unique, least effective dose of exercise.  Exercise is important but the less you have to do will help you stick to your routine.
  • Eat enough to support your activity level. Not more, not less.


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