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I was asked the other day if running is the best and fastest way to burn calories and, in effect, lose weight. According to those who specialize in exercise physiology and nutrition, the answer is “no.” While running is a very effective way to shed pounds, this transformation takes place over time and requires patience.

One of the biggest problems is people don’t have patience when starting a running program. They usually start too fast and increase mileage too quickly and become injured. As with any exercise program, you need patience. When people don’t see results fast enough, they usually quit. Remember, it takes time for the body to adapt to any new activity. If you start slowly and develop a smart plan, you will reap the benefits.

For example, a one-mile run, which on average takes a new runner 10-12 minutes, does little for weight loss or cardiovascular health, though it's a positive start. To get full health benefits, you need at least 30 minutes each time. You need to start with a walk-run scenario. For example, in week one, 3 times a week, walk 5 minutes and jog easy for 1 minute. R 3 times. That will give you an 18-minute workout. For week two, walk 5 minutes and jog east for 2 minutes for a total of 21 minutes of work. The secret is to not increase total mileage or time by more than 10 percent a week.

The key to weight loss is to slowly increase the length of your runs and build one run, usually on the weekend, to 60-90 minutes. Statistics from the Weight Loss Control Registry, a research group that studies people who have successfully lost weight and maintained their weight loss, point to the need to consistently burn around 2,800 calories through exercise each week to successfully lose weight. Rather than fast, exhausting runs, weight loss at this level requires longer, slower runs – about 30-45 minutes – spaced three or four times throughout the week.

In other words, a longer run at a slower pace will burn more calories than a short run at a faster pace. The longer, slower runs also make the body very efficient at burning a higher percentage of body fat for energy rather than carbohydrate.

To lose a pound, the body needs to burn about 3,500 calories. A 180-pound person running for 5 miles each day will lose around 5 pounds per month, with a static caloric intake. However, as runners lose weight, they begin to burn fewer calories per mile, and weight loss begins to stabilize.

Ultimately, you will need to add cross-training to your program to aid in the weight-loss program. Add another aerobic activity like biking or swimming, and develop a strength-training program 2-3 times a week.

Running also seems to change people’s eating habits. As your running evolves, you don’t crave the same foods you ate before. You tend to crave healthier foods, and running seems to suppress your appetite.

There is no magic pill for weight loss. Any successful program takes patience and dedication to see benefits and change.

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