Running vs. Weight Training for Weight Loss? Answered!

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Running vs. Weight Training for Weight Loss – The Debate ENDS Here!

It can be hard to find the best way to lose weight.

Or is it?

People often argue running vs. weight training as the best way to lose weight, and there is an easy answer to the never-ending question: what is the best way to exercise in order to lose weight?

By the time you finish this article, you’ll know the answer.

fitness women holding pre-workout drink

The Real Reason We Want to Lose Weight

It is all too common for people trying to be healthy to become slaves to their scale. We often forget why we are trying to lose weight.

Our primary goal is usually to stay healthy.

We would like to start to encourage you to ignore the scale. Focus on your health, which can usually be measured best by your shape and how you feel.

Pursing health often means ignoring the number of the scale. Losing fat and gaining muscle may not always cause you to weigh less, but it is the first step for many to become healthy.

Is Running Better Than Going to the Gym?

fitness woman running on country road

Running and weight training are both effective ways to lose weight if done correctly.

I’m sure you have heard from many people that running is the best way to lose weight. This is not necessarily true, but it is often the cheapest way.


Any exercise can help with weight loss.

Lacrosse, water polo, ping pong, you name it. In each activity, your body is burning calories and improving metabolism to lose weight.

All of these, however, cost money. You need a team, a pool, or a table and paddle for all of the above exercises. With running, all you need is yourself.

Weight loss, however, can be another cost effective way to lose weight. Gym memberships, depending on where you go, can be reasonable and lifting is a great way to exercise.

The Silver Bullet

Before we get to the nitty gritty of which exercise is the most effective, both running and weight training will not be effective for losing weight if you have a poor diet.

Remember what your Mom told you!

Scientific studies over the course of many years have shown that Americans rarely get enough vegetables.

One particular study from Dr. Guenther et al. from the University of Utah found that less than half of Americans eat enough vegetables. Sounds like something your mom told you when you were a kid right?

Well, she was right.

Why does this matter?

The CDC has urged that vegetables not only help with weight loss, but they also help reduce the risk of many different diseases.

This doesn’t mean you have to go vegan or start the Keto diet or anything crazy.

You can still eat meat and dessert, but getting a well balanced diet is the first step to losing weight. For most Americans, eating more vegetables (and reducing sugar intake) is the easiest way to improve diet.

No matter what you decide between running vs. weight training for weight loss, you have to have a healthy diet to start.

Does Running Help With Weight Loss?

woman running outdoors during rain - running motivation

Running can be an incredibly effective tool for losing weight, but it relies on consistency. You can go run 20 miles today, but by next week you will probably not look any better, feel any better, or weigh a single pound less than you do today.

Whatever routine you do, make sure it is light enough that you can do it daily.

This might start with walking before you can run. Whether you choose to walk or run, start with 10 to 15 minutes and keep it up for a week.

But here’s the catch:

Of course, the longer you walk/run, the more effective it will be for weight loss. However, running longer also increases risk for injury, especially if you are new to running.

The best way to increase running is to increase a little bit at a time.

Pros of Running

  • Helps lose weight
  • Improves physical and mental health
  • Prevents diseases
  • Boosts confidence
  • Relieves Stress

Cons of Running

  • Hard to get started
  • Moderate to high injury risk
  • Can feel boring and repetitive

This creates a problem. If I can only run for 15 minutes a day, how am I supposed to be able to burn enough calories to lose weight?

This is where lifting comes in.

What About Weight Training?

crossfit workout street gym

As we mentioned earlier, any activity can help you lose weight. Weight training is one of the most effective ways to lose weight for a variety of reasons.

Weight loss depends heavily on metabolism.

It may seem logical that steady aerobic exercise like running is the best way to increase your metabolism, that is not always the case.

Here’s the real story:

It is important, however, to have the guidance of a fitness professional before starting any weight routine.

Make sure they know your health and injury history and check with your doctor to make sure weight training is a safe option for you.

Once you have that approval, there are many ways to set up a weight training routine. Let’s look at two different sides of the spectrum.

How to Lose Weight with Weight Training

Lifting light weights with a lot of repetitions (reps), especially with short rest, is a great way to get your heart rate up for a long period of time. Not only does it increase your heart rate, it also builds muscle, which, as we will explain in a minute, helps to burn excess fat.

If this is the method you choose, focus on keeping your heart rate up for the entirety of your exercise session.

How to Build Muscle with Weight Training

Active young man training with barbell in gym

Lifting heavy with a small number of reps and lots of rest, while not as obvious, can also be an effective way to lose weight.

This is an extremely effective way to build muscle. But why it is important to build muscle if I’m trying to lose weight?

Here’s the deal:

Muscles burn calories, and burning calories burns fat. Therefore, building muscles will help increase your metabolism to help you lose fat.

As we mentioned earlier in the article, this may not change the actual number on the scale, but it will have a great effect on both your health and your shape.

Pros of Weight Training

  • Helps with Weight Loss
  • Increases Bone Density (reduces risk for osteoporosis)
  • Gain Strength and improve posture
  • Improves mental and physical health
  • Can constantly mix up exercises to stay fresh
  • Improves confidence

Cons of Weight Training

  • Can be expensive to get started
  • Requires technical expertise
  • Can be difficult to do outside

Running vs. Weight Training for Weight Loss?

This depends on your fitness goals. If you want to bulk up and focus on developing strength and power, go for high weights and low reps.

However, if you, like most people reading this article, are focused on losing weight, lift light weights with lots of reps, keeping your heart rate up for the entire session.

So Running? or Lifting?

You want the easy answer? “Running vs. weight training” should never be an argument. The best way to lose weight is by choosing running AND weight training along with a healthy diet.

Fit people standing at barbells before exercise

The Ideal Way to Lose Weight

Here it is, the best way to lose weight!

First, make time for regular exercise. This should include both running and weight training.

We recommend starting with a light walk/jog for 10-15 minutes to get the heart rate up, improve blood flow, and reduce the risk of injury.

Then, get into the gym and do about 20-30 minutes of high intensity lifting, keeping your heart rate up throughout the lift.

Do a variety of lifts that work all the different parts of your body. Focus on big muscles like your gluteus maximus and quadriceps femoris.

Afterwards, go out and walk/jog for 10 to 15 more minutes. Not only will this keep your heart rate up for longer, it will also help slow your heart rate and breathing to normal and decrease your muscle soreness over the next few days.

Lastly, focus on eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep. The first step to a healthy diet for most Americans is to eat plenty of vegetables. After that, work on reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. Small changes make big results.

Sleeping a lot also helps with losing weight. Getting the CDC’s recommends 7+ hours per night of sleep will also help you stay healthy.

The Last Word

So is running better than going to the gym? No.

In the case of running vs. weight training, the correct answer is both, with a healthy diet and lifestyle to match.