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Does Losing Weight Help You Run Faster?

Whether you're a competitive athlete or simply trying to stay in shape, running can be a rewarding, heart-healthy form of exercise. Although building strength and training regularly will positively impact your running pace, the amount of body weight you carry also influences how fast you can move. In some cases, losing excess weight can help you pound the pavement with more agility and speed.

Effects

For individuals carrying excess body fat, losing weight can significantly boost your running speed. As Marathon and Beyond explains, higher body weight requires more oxygen and energy to move, and reducing your weight--especially by losing body fat or extra upper-body muscle--increases the efficiency of your running, resulting in faster times. The triathlon resource Serpentine notes that top runners are generally very lean because of this principle. For runners who don't already have a low body fat level, weight loss can translate to increased speed.

Benefits

Along with boosting your running speed, losing weight can lower your risk of running-induced injury by reducing stress on your joints and giving you a lighter load to carry. Weight loss can also benefit your biomechanics by improving your running form, and a sleeker figure may help prevent certain running discomforts such as chafed thighs.

Considerations

In some cases, losing weight can be hazardous to your running performance and health in general. Drastically reducing your calorie intake to shed pounds can cause you to be under-fueled during your runs, resulting in a lack of energy and slower running times. If you already have low body fat levels, losing weight can also pose dire health consequences: Today's Dietitian notes that underweight individuals are more prone to infection, may have compromised immune systems, can experience hair loss in both genders, and may develop osteoporosis and anemia due to nutrient absorption problems. Women may also face pregnancy complications, infertility and irregular or absent menstrual periods when their body fat dips too low to support hormonal function.

Alternatives

Losing weight is only one of many methods for increasing your speed. If you're already at a healthy weight and don't have extra pounds to spare, you can try reducing the heft of your clothing and accessories by opting for running uniforms with low wind resistance, wearing light-weight shoes, and leaving heavy items such as headphones and cell phones at home. Other strategies for increasing your speed include engaging in endurance runs several times per week, practicing intervals of sprints or hill climbs, wearing properly fitting shoes, and engaging in regular weight-training workouts to build strength in your lower body.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.