Fitness information is everywhere.

Unfortunately, much of it is taken out of context, unhelpful, or just bad.

Among this information you’ll find some things repeated more often than others. Some of these “ideas” are repeated so often that they are accepted as fact.

Some of the more popular “facts” are:

You have to exercise every day. No, you don’t.

Eat six meals a day to keep your metabolism high. Not really. 

Don’t eat after 7PM. Ugh, no. 

You have to do 30+ minutes of cardio every day. Do I need to say “no” again? 

And my personal favorite…

You have to run to lose weight.

Is running the best form of exercise to lose weight?

Do I have to run to lose weight?

I really don’t want to run. Please say it ain’t so??

No, no, and no! None of these statements are true.

Running is not the best exercise to lose weight, and you certainly don’t have to run if it is not an activity you enjoy or want to do.

It isn’t hard to see why running is so popular and why many believe it is the best form of exercise. You don’t need any equipment, you can do it anywhere, and it is a social activity for many. Also, everyone’s heard a story about a person they know that started running and how it completely changed their life.

The mental aspect, or “zoning out” and being able to focus on one thing is another reason running is popular. For experienced runners and some people with demanding jobs, running is a form of stress release and even meditation.

Whether it is for personal or performance reasons, if running is something you enjoy then by all means, run to your heart’s desire.

If you want to run a marathon, triathlon, or obstacle race, running is a must.

Makes sense, right? If you’re participating in these events you’d want to perform at your best, and that means training yourself to run.

Maybe you’re the opposite of someone like me who prefers to push themselves in the weight room or with other non-running activities. That’s cool too! Work to finish a mile faster, run longer distances, or at a faster pace than before. It’s all good.

But…

If your goal is to lose body fat, look better, and be healthier that’s a different story. You need to exercise, but running is not a must.

To lose weight, you must expend or “burn” more energy than you consume.

“If I don’t have to run to lose weight, then what’s the best exercise for me to do?”

The best exercise is the one you’re able to do consistently and without issue.

Not everyone loves to exercise, and some people aren’t built for running. Some folks might try to convince you otherwise, but it is ok if you don’t want to run!

You are much more likely to be successful if you are doing something you enjoy or at least don’t hate.

By now you’re thinking I have some secret hatred of running… and you’re half right.

As a tall, 235-ish pound man, I’m not built for it. Any kind of distance running was painful back when I played basketball and I was 40 pounds lighter, so it would be a disaster now. There’s no need for that kind of stress on my body when I can do something less painful and more effective that I enjoy somewhat.

From a professional perspective though, I have no grudge against running. I write this because in all my years as a personal trainer, in all my conversations discussing fitness with people from all walks of life, this myth comes up more often than anything else.

Aside from being false, who knows how many people have been turned off from exercise or injured because they thought they had to run in order to get fit or lose weight?

How do you lose weight, get fit, and be healthier?

Eat better.

Exercise regularly.

Rest up.

Do something to manage your stress.

That’s it. That’s all you need to do.

There are enough activities and forms of exercise that no one should have to do anything they hate. True, some forms of exercise are more effective than others. But the more of a “chore” it is, the less likely you are to stick with it.

In other words, find an activity you enjoy and do it often!

Get out and walk, hike, swim, play your favorite sport, or start a new one. In addition to this, some form of strength training is recommended as a means of preparing your body for the activities you’ll spend more time doing.

As I mentioned above, what really matters for weight loss is that you consistently expend more energy than you take in.

You can do this one of three ways:

  1. Exercise only. Expect slow and short lived progress. Save yourself the frustration and skip this approach.
  2. Improve your food intake.  Progress will be slow, but it works.
  3. Exercise and improve your food intake. This is the best of both worlds.

There’s more than one road to success when it comes to weight loss and improved fitness. You don’t need to run to lose weight, but make sure you do something!

It is more important to exercise regularly than to force yourself to stick to a single type of exercise that you’re less likely to do. Find something that works for you.