Do you want to know does running tone your body? Running is one of the most basic and simple exercises you can do, yet it also has many incredible benefits. It is a great form of exercise to improve your health, and also a great way to lose weight and tone your body.
The Science Behind It
When you exercise and raise your heart rate, you burn calories. Running is great because it not only burns a lot of calories (a 120-pound person burns roughly 11 calories/minute while running), but it can also help to strengthen and tone the lower half of your body. Considering the low cost and ease of getting into it, running is one of the best and cheapest forms of exercise available.
Many other forms of exercise are also great for losing weight and toning your body, but many have cost barriers that some people can’t overcome. Organized sports, such as hockey or football, require money to join a league or team, plus the initial investment of the equipment needed.
Expensive gym memberships, or not having a gym close by, are barriers that prevent some people from joining a gym when trying to get in shape. While there are more and more gyms opening all the time, this still doesn’t make them accessible to everyone.
Running, on the other hand, can be done with as little as a pair of running shoes and some cheap athletic clothes. There are no age cutoffs, no monthly fees, no scheduled practices to get to, and no lineups waiting for a piece of exercise equipment. It can be as simple as running around your block every other day, or as complex as training for your first marathon.
How much or how little you put into running is your choice and only yours, which is what makes it so appealing to so many people everywhere.
How Does Running Change Your Physical Appearance?
Your physical appearance is mostly dependent on your body composition, meaning how much of your body consists of water, bone, fat, lean muscle, and organs. Getting a toned body means increasing lean muscle, and decreasing subcutaneous fat. Running can achieve both of these goals at the same time, however, your genes and diet also play a big part.
To have a healthy body, you need to have a healthy amount of fat, as well. Fats help to balance your hormone levels, and also give you energy. A balanced muscle/fat ratio is the best way to have a healthy body composition.
If you have a balanced diet, running can be used to create a caloric deficit, which will help to promote fat loss quicker. The key to getting a toned body is to begin by getting rid of any excess body fat.
The Areas That Are Targeted
When you run, the main areas of your body that are getting worked out are your legs, core, and back. Each area will have multiple muscle groups targeted all at once.
One of the reasons that running is such a great form of exercise is that it targets every muscle group in your legs, all in one motion. Strong, balanced legs are the starting point of being a strong, healthy runner.
Glutes (Maximus, medius, and minimus), quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius), hip flexors (psoas major, iliacus, rectus femoris, sartorius, and pectineus), hamstrings (semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and bicep femoris), and calves (gastrocnemius and soleus) are all used for at least a portion of every single stride you take.
Most people think “core” just refers to their abs, but it includes your pelvis, lower back, hips, and stomach. A strong core will lead to better balance and stability, and can also help prevent injuries.
Running helps to work the core muscles because the muscle groups have to work together to stabilize and support the trunk and spine, all while your arms and legs work against them. A strong core will improve running form by creating a more upright running posture, which can improve your breathing dynamics also.
The core muscles targeted when running include the diaphragm, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, transversus abdominis, pelvic floor muscles, erector spinae muscles, quadratus lumborum, and multifidus muscles, all key areas to having a strong core.
Running can help create stronger back muscles, even in people with lower back pain. Not only does running help with flexibility in the spine, but having a stronger core is also essential for avoiding back issues.
Researchers have now shown that not only do runners have more flexibility but also that running can help to create larger, more fluid-filled spinal disks in their spines. These disks prevent the vertebrae from rubbing together, so the healthier you can keep them, the less likely you will ever deal with back problems.
Are There More Beneficial Exercises?
Depending on the area of your body you are trying to tone, there may be other, more specific workouts you can do to target that particular area. However, if you are trying to tone more than one area at a time, running may be just what you’re looking for.
Upper body, leg, and ab workouts will all target areas that running will, but they will most likely only work those muscle groups that you are targeting. This doesn’t mean cross-training should be avoided, in fact, quite the opposite.
Almost every runner, whether amateur or pro, will have a weakness or deficiency somewhere in their body. These weaknesses are often what lead to injuries. So while it won’t help you tone down your whole body at once, muscle-group-specific workouts are still a very important part of any exercise regimen.
If you are injured, you can’t continue to exercise. Therefore, staying injury-free is one of the most important aspects of losing weight and toning your body.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are there other benefits to running?
Besides helping to tone your body, running has many other benefits as well. It helps to maintain strong bones, reduce stress, improve cardiovascular health, and has also been shown to help improve mental health. Running is also a great reason to get outdoors and connect with nature.
Q: Do any other parts of the body get stronger too?
Although running is generally considered to be a lower-body workout, there are still benefits to your upper body as well. Muscles in the arms (biceps and triceps), shoulders (deltoids and rotator cuffs), chest (pectoralis muscles), and upper back (latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids) are all worked out as you drive your arms forward and backward with each stride.
Q: What is best for getting toned: High intensity, low volume, or Low intensity, high volume?
There are arguments to be made for both styles of training. High-intensity, low-volume training can increase the level of growth hormones in your after exercise, which can increase fat and calorie burn. High intensity also boosts your metabolism, meaning you’ll burn more calories than usual even after your workout.
Low-intensity, high-volume is often recommended because it can also be great for weight loss and since it isn’t nearly as hard on the body. Since the workouts are less intense, injuries are less common, as is burnout from a workout regimen that is too difficult.
While there may be other forms of exercise you can do that will give you a better-targeted workout, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better exercise than running when it comes to bang for your buck. It’s pretty clear why an estimated 600 million people globally actively participate in running.
I’m Ramona, a specialist in Crossfit and functional training. I am passionate about helping people reach their fitness goals, and I have been actively involved in the CrossFit community for over eight years. I’ve trained with some of the best coaches in the world, traveled to many different countries to learn from different experts, and completed numerous certification courses. Regardless of your fitness goals, I am committed to helping you achieve them through comprehensive, challenging, and effective workouts tailored to your lifestyle.