Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Another goofy anti-running "fitness" column

I get that running isn't everyone's cup of tea. Some people just don't like it. Others have physical issues (knees, back, etc.) that prevent them from running. As much as I like running, I don't proselytize about it to other people.

What's weird is how there's a cottage industry of fitness experts who bash running, over and over. Here's the latest example from Yahoo!: "11 Workouts That Burn More Calories Than Jogging."

What are the 11? Cycling, jet skiing, walking uphill with a load, in-line skating, dancing, rock climbing, jumping rope, rowing, boxing, swimming, and running up stairs.

Again, I emphasize that if someone prefers any of these activities to running as a form of exercise, then by all means, he or she should go ahead and cycle, jet ski, etc. But the idea that any of them will be an easier way to burn as many or more calories than running is pretty absurd.

The column uses the term "jogging" rather than "running," which should give a clue about where it is headed. According to the column, a 125 pound person burns ~400 calories an hour jogging and 557 calories an hour running. Livestrong.com estimates that a 125 pound person burns 94 calories a mile, so the Yahoo! column is assuming around a 10 min/mile pace. Now, I could be speed elitist and laugh at that estimate -- I think it would be a lot harder, for example, for someone to match the calorie burn from a 7 or 8 mile run in an hour doing most of those other activities.

But actually, speed elitism doesn't even need to be brought into the analysis. Judging from the number of people who work hard to break 30 minutes in the 5K (which would call for ~9:40 min/mile), it seems like a 10 min/mile pace is already moderate-to-high intensity for many people. If running an hour at a 10 min/mile pace is hard enough that someone needs to be shown other activities that are going to burn more calories, how many of those people are going to be able to swim or row or box or jump rope at a similar level of intensity?

Take boxing. I haven't stepped into a real ring, but I've messed around with the Wii boxing game. I've managed to play back to back matches for 15 minutes at a time before I'm gassed. Of course, I'm primarily a runner, so I don't have the same arm strength/endurance as I do legs, but still . . . . (And obviously, Wii boxing is less taxing than the real thing.) I should put on my heart rate monitor and test how many calories that burns, but LoseIt! estimates just 57 calories burned in 15 minutes from Wii boxing for my weight, whereas in 15 minutes, I could run 2 miles and burn ~200 calories. (That's a faster than "easy" pace for me, but I'm using roughly equivalent intensities.)

So, yeah, that's 11 workouts that for the most part burn more calories than running, if you're comparing an easy pace of running to an intense pace of something else.

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