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Is Jogging worth it?

Now that cooler weather has arrived in the mid-atlantic region, I see more and more neighbors out jogging around the neighborhood. Presumably most are doing this to improve their fitness levels. Unfortunately for them, that is not the case. Let's look at what really happens when you jog at a steady pace for 45 minutes to an hour:

First, you will burn several hundred calories. However, remember when you are looking at the tread mill computer or the fitness tracker on your wrist, they take into account your basal metabolic rate in addition to the activity. So, if the computer says you have burned 300 calories, you have really only burned 220 to 240 calories above your baseline rate. If you are lucky you have not just stimulated your appetite; however, most people do. If you then go home and eat some fruit or a protein bar to counter your hunger, you have completely negated any calories burned during your run!

Second, contrary to popular belief, steady state activity like jogging does nothing for the lungs and very little for the heart. The stimulus is simply not intense enough to improve lung capacity or enhance cardiovascular efficiency. In fact, most "improvements" people make over time are attributed to skill improvement (ex. more efficient stride length, sole strike, arm movement, etc.) The leg muscles can see some initial strengthening but over time this can halt and even reverse (see below).

Third, jogging frequently (meaning about 4 days or more per week) will cause loss of muscle mass. Steady state activity like jogging only uses a small percentage of your muscle fibers. Jogging does not put a high demand on muscles - that is precisely why you can jog for a long time. When you do an activity like jogging excessively, it sends signals to your body to get rid of that excess muscle mass you are not using. Over time, frequent joggers will lose much of their lean muscle mass. For instance, take a look at top marathon runners. Do you see any muscle mass on them? They actually look emaciated. In the long run, this is not good for your health.

Fourth, jogging has a very high injury rate. The high force of the foot hitting the pavement repeatedly over time can cause damage to your feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips, and back! We have had many clients at Total Results over the years who were runners for years until injuries forced them to stop. In fact, several had to have corrective surgeries and even joint replacement.

I understand the allure of jogging. It is very simple - throw on a pair of shoes and head out the front door. Breathe a little harder. Work up a little sweat. Feel better about yourself. You think you are "getting in shape". However, as mentioned, jogging burns relatively few calories, does not improve cardiovscular health or fitness, can tear down muscle mass and therefore lower your metabolism, and has a high rate of injury over time. All this begs the question, is jogging worth it? Unless you are training for a particular athletic competition, the answer is NO!

So what should you do instead of jogging? First, walking is a great activity to do every day. It burns the same calories per mile as jogging, is great for mental health, and is much safer than jogging due to the lower forces involved. Second, you must lift heavy things once in awhile in order to stimulate the skeletal muscles and the cardiovascular system to adapt in improve. This is our specialty at Total Results. Lastly, you must eat modestly and mostly natural foods in order to have a caloric balance and get adequate nutrition. By following these simple steps, you will improve health and fitness levels more than by running but without the risks associated with running.

Posted October 14, 2017 by Tim Rankin