Running helps prevent increases in body fat long-term, according to a study from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. The study also found that lifelong resistance training is most effective for maintaining muscle mass. The researchers suggest a combined approach of endurance and resistance exercises for optimal body composition throughout life.
Lifelong Running Prevents Body Fat Increase, Research Reveals
There’s a prevalent myth that running does not aid in losing weight or fat. However, a recent study from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, provides evidence that running can prevent long-term gains in body fat. It may be discouraging when weight loss plateaus after an initial decrease, but consistent running can deter weight gain over time.
Running Versus Strength Training: Maintaining Fat and Muscle Mass
“Our data clearly shows that lifelong running exercise, be it long-distance or repeated short-distance sprinting, maintains lower fat mass levels than a typical physically active lifestyle and also more than participating in competitive strength sports,” says Dr. Simon Walker, a Docent in Exercise Physiology at the University of Jyväskylä.
The study observes that older sprinters and endurance athletes have lower fat mass than young strength athletes and physically active individuals. Simultaneously, those engaging in lifelong resistance training demonstrate better muscle mass than those involved in sprint and long-distance running sports.
Combining Strength and Endurance Training for Optimal Body Composition
Dr. Walker suggests a mixed approach of endurance and resistance training for the best body composition results. Consistent exercise throughout life can maintain a healthy body composition, preventing a rise in fat mass or muscle mass loss. The key, according to Dr. Walker, is “lifelong engagement in regular exercise.”
The study is based on data from larger cohort studies (ATHLAS and CALEX-family cohorts). It examined males aged between 20-39 and 70-89 who were competitive sprinters, endurance runners, strength athletes, and controls who were physically active but did not compete in sports. Dr. Walker believes female results should mirror these findings.
Full study: University of Jyväskylä.