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Run and shed the lbs!

Sometimes it seems impossible to fit in all the exercises that are recommended for helping to lose weight and tone up in different parts of the body.

Sit-ups for wobbly tums, squats for chunky thighs, tricep curls for bingo wings, buttock clenches for saggy bums; the list is endless and after a while gets really quite depressing! Surely there's an exercise that will work on all these problem areas at once?

Well, not quite. No single exercise will shift fat from such specific parts of the body all at once, but the good news is that there is an exercise which is extremely good for all-round fat burning as well as cardio activity. What's more, it's free and easy to get started, requires minimal kit and can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone anywhere. What is it?

Why is running so good for shifting fat?

To burn fat your body needs to be using most major muscles groups for a long duration at a moderate intensity. During these moderate intensity cardio activities your body uses up more calories from fat, whereas exercises involving brief spurts of movement (such as tennis or badminton) tend to burn calories from carbohydrates. While burning carbohydrates is beneficial to your overall fitness and uses up calories (always a good thing!) high intensity short duration exercises will not burn as much fat as running.

This is because running is the best moderate intensity activity for using all muscle groups, and the more muscle groups you use the more fat you'll burn. An aerobic exercise such as running also increases your metabolism, which means you'll carry on burning calories after you have finished exercising. By exercising regularly, even if it's just half an hour three times a week, you will develop more fat burning enzymes.

How hard should I be working when I run?

Ideally, you should be exercising aerobically in order to maximise fat burning. Once you push yourself too hard your body switches to anaerobic respiration which means that your body is relying on carbohydrate fuel in order to keep going. As a result lactic acid accumulates which inhibits the fat burning enzymes and slows down your body's metabolism. So it's probably better to run a little too slow than too fast.

To burn fat you need to be in your target heart rate zone, which for most people is around 60-65% of their maximum heart rate. For fitter people this will be higher. You can roughly calculate your target heart rate with this simple equation:

220 - age = X
65% to 80% of X = target heart rate

The best way to measure your heart rate when running is to use a heart rate monitor which will keep track of how hard you are working, tell you how many calories you are burning and ensure you get the most out of your workout. Alternatively, a cheaper, though less accurate, option is to make sure you exercise at a speed at which you are breathing comfortably and can still carry on a conversation.

The advantages of running at this moderate intensity is that you can sustain the exercise for longer periods whilst burning more calories and minimising the risk of injury.

How do I get started on a running programme?

If you can not start running for half hour intervals straightaway, begin by walking for half an hour and gradually build more running intervals into your walking. Eventually your fitness levels will build up so that you can run the whole of your planned route. Bear in mind that you won't burn as many calories walking for half an hour (around 150 calories) as you will running for half an hour (around 300 calories).

You are advised to seek medical advice before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle with an aim of weight loss. This website and the content provided should not be used by persons under 18, by pregnant or nursing women, or individuals with any type of health condition, except under the direct supervision of a qualified medical professional. The information contained in these articles, and elsewhere on this website, is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only, and is not intended to replace, and does not constitute legal, professional, medical or healthcare advice or diagnosis and may not be used for such purposes. Continue...

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