By Darren Croft

Whether you are pounding the streets, hitting the track, or jumping on a treadmill, there’s no doubt that running is one of the most popular forms of exercise. 

According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, around 50 million people in the US participate in some running or jogging – that’s 15% of the entire population. 

But is it the best way to lose weight?

You probably don’t have endless time to exercise, so if weight loss is your goal, you want to know what will give you the most bang for your buck.

So, if you enjoy running and want to make this part of your exercise routine, is long-distance running or sprints best?

Long-distance running vs sprinting: what’s the difference?

First, let’s figure out the difference between long-distance running and sprints before going further. 

What is long-distance running?

Many people think of long-distance running as marathons and cross-country races, which certainly counts as long-distance running, but it doesn’t have to be that long. Anything that involves running for two miles or more, can be considered long-distance. 

It requires stamina, aerobic endurance, and mental toughness. It’s the chosen run for those with more time on their hands and who enjoy taking time out to reset their body and mind.

What is sprinting?

Sprinting is running flat out over a short distance so that you are anaerobic and finish the exercise out of breath. It’s an all-out effort designed to test your lungs to their maximum capacity. The benefits of sprinting include improvements in speed, blood pressure, and cardiovascular health.

This should be an exercise you can complete in under 30 seconds. The idea is that you’ll recover afterward and repeat several times. The recovery time between groups will depend on how fit you are, but ideally, it should give you enough time to get your breathing back to relative normality, between 1.5 and 2 minutes is ideal. 

Long-distance running vs sprinting: which helps you lose more weight?

There’s an argument for both disciplines, for sure. Both long-distance and sprints are exercises that will get you moving, and your body will know it’s been in a workout at the end, so there’s plenty to suggest that both will burn enough calories to make a marked improvement in body composition.

 Is long-distance running good for weight loss?

When you think about losing weight, long-distance running is probably one of the first places your mind goes. After all, you don’t see many overweight long-distance runners – so it must work. However, it’s not always the most effective way to burn calories, especially considering the time it takes.

As a general rule, an average-sized runner will burn about 100 calories per mile. So, if you want to burn 500 calories, you need to run around 5 miles.

At an average pace, five miles would take around 50 minutes to run, although realistically, it would take you longer if you were new to running. So, theoretically, you could burn loads of calories and be in a calorie deficit, but only if you had lots of time to run. 

Long-distance running is a great way to get your muscles moving at a speed that suits you, get your heart rate up and build strength and endurance. 

If you’re new to exercise, your body increases its sensitivity to insulin, which means you can use carbohydrates more efficiently and burn fat. This means that, to begin with, long-distance running could be an effective way to lose weight. 

However, your body is just too damn clever; over time, it adapts to whatever new stresses are thrown at it and the stimulus becomes more effortless. This means that eventually you’ll burn fewer calories over the same distance, and harder it will be to lose weight. 

Plus, long-distance runs can leave you feeling starving afterward. The temptation to eat more sugary or high-cal foods as a treat needs to be avoided. Otherwise, you are canceling out the workout. 

When is long-distance running good for weight loss?

If you are new to exercise or live a sedentary lifestyle, jogging or long-distance running is an effective way to lose weight. However, this will taper off once your body adapts, and fat and weight loss will plateu. 

Is sprinting good for weight loss

Short bursts of sprinting are over so quickly that you might not realize just how great they can be for burning calories and fat. A 2019 study concluded that high-intensity sprint interval training resulted in a 28.5% higher fat reduction.

You can burn up to 500 calories by running 10 x 100-meter sprints, and the entire session will take around twenty minutes, which is perfect to incorporate into a busy schedule. 

However, warming up is still essential. Going from zero to full speed from a cold start will put immense pressure on your joints, muscles, and heart. It’s vital to take up your heart rate progressively. 

Start with some stretches and star jumps. Make sure you’re working your hamstrings and quads (gently, of course- don’t put massive pressure on them during the warm-up). 

When is Sprinting good for weight loss?

Sprinting is excellent for weight loss and is most likely one of the most effective exercises you can do. However, it’s high-intensity and puts great stress on your body – so it’s not something beginners will likely be able to do immediately.

Long Distance running vs. sprinting: how to get started

If you want to get started with long-distance running or sprints, then the best way is to progress slowly. 

Whether you intend to concentrate on high or low-intensity workouts, you need to get your body used to what you’ll be asking it to do. Even if you’re in decent enough shape, a new discipline such as running will use new muscle groups, so it’s essential to ease yourself in. If you go at it too hard and fast in the early weeks, you’ll risk causing yourself an injury and setting yourself off-course.

In the first week or two, try some slow, easy runs. Keep your breathing steady throughout the run and if you feel you’re getting out of breath, slow down or stop. Once you can comfortably run three miles, it’s time to ramp things up.

At the end of each session, try eight to ten strides. These short, faster sessions aim to get your heart rate up and prepare you for more intense workouts. The aim is not to sprint “all out”; you move comfortably and with speed. Strides are vital whether you intend to take sprinting or long-distance routes long-term.

Once you have adjusted your body to the rigors of running and it has become familiar, you’ll be ready to progress to the next stage. Ideally, allow three or four weeks of these long easy runs before moving to the next level.

If you are new to sprinting, try eight to ten sprints per session, and increase gradually as you get stronger. The key to burning calories isn’t the number of sets; it’s the intensity of the sprints, so that should be your primary focus.

As the weeks and months progress, you can increase the intensity by reducing the recovery time between reps and adding gradients, so you run slightly uphill.

You can perform this exercise on a treadmill or outdoors, but the latter is preferable.

Should you run long-distance or sprint?

If you are managing your calorie intake efficiently, there’s no denying that you could lose weight through steady, long-distance runs. However, it can be a tricky and time-consuming process. 

In comparison, high-intensity sprints can be performed in less time and burn more calories than slow long-distance jogs. You’ll also find you won’t encounter the kind of sugary cravings at the end of your workout you would in the long run. The bonus is that your body will continue to burn fat even after the exercise due to your raised heart rate.

WINNER: High-intensity sprints are the way forward. So long as you are managing your calorie intake efficiently, you’ll find they are a giant stride forward in your weight loss goals.

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