Is Running An Effective Workout? How Does it Compare To Swimming And Cycling?

Picture yourself walking through a lonely path, and you get approached by a bear. Without much hesitation, your immediate reaction is to run for your life. In situations of danger or terror, running is our first impulsive line of action because the shape of our feet and the shock-absorbing nature of our spinal discs have made this easy and convenient.

An aerobic exercise such as running is always our go-to workout/exercise because it is cheap, convenient, easily accessible, and beneficial to our overall well-being. Some undeniable benefits of running include promoting weight loss, improving heart health, decreasing depression symptoms, and so on.

But a common question among fitness enthusiasts is this – “Is running more effective than other exercise activities such as cycling and running?”

Running is a more effective workout than cycling and swimming because it is widely accessible to virtually anybody with working legs. Running contributes to reducing the mortality rate, especially among the elderly. Running can help circumvent some disease processes such as heart stroke because of its effect on different body parts. Most importantly, running is very efficient for weightless and belly fat loss.

What Form of Exercise Is Running?

Running is an aerobic exercise that uses oxygen and blood glucose to produce energy. You can also refer to running as a cardio exercise, that encourages the heart’s pumping capacity to promote good blood circulation.

Other aerobic cardio exercises are cycling, walking, jogging, swimming, etc.

Also check out What Speed Is Considered Running? Running Vs Jogging Vs Walking Vs Sprinting!

Is Running an Effective Cardio Exercise?

Running as a cardio workout helps improve your heart health by increasing its pumping capacity.

This is very much cardio effective because studies show that those who run tend to live longer lives than those who do not because running prevents heart daises such as atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. When you run, your heart rate increases and more blood circulates to all organs. 

A research article titled, “Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity” (Lee et al., 2017) states that runners have a 25% – 40% reduction in mortality rate and have a life expectancy of 3 years compared to people who do not run. (Source)

Another research article titled, “Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause, and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk” (Lee et al., 2017) also proves that a daily run of 5-10 minutes is associated with  a reduced mortality rate from all causes and cardiovascular disease. (Source)

Many other studies have also proven that running is more effective at preventing chronic diseases when compared to walking, cycling, and swimming.

Although running increases your heart rate in the first instance, it decreases it too on a long run, especially for Marathon runners. 

Why does this happen? 

It happens because aerobic exercises such as running create an oxygen demand which prompts the building of the heart muscles and makes the heart beat slowly.

These two sides of the coin are actually very beneficial to the heart’s function, but note that an excessive build of the heart muscle is very disadvantageous as it leads to medical complications such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common cause of sudden cardiac death among athletes. 

In conclusion, although running is an effective cardio workout, too much on a long run is not advisable. This validates the statement that says, “too much of any good thing is bad”.

Also, we recommend that you check out our post “Should Beginners Run for Distance or Time? Brief Training Guide!

Which Triathlon Discipline Is a More Effective Workout (Swimming, Cycling, and Running)?

To determine which exercise is more effective, you ought to know what fitness goals you hope to achieve. 

If you wish to lose weight/belly fat fast, the most effective exercise for you is running. If you need a less intense activity that encourages weight loss, we recommend you get into cycling. 

For situations of low testosterone levels, swimming can help promote an increase in testosterone levels, based on research results

So, we can’t conclusively say which of these exercises is more effective than the other, however, you can have can narrow it down to individual preference. For this, we highly recommend that you check out our post: Is Cycling Better Than Running & Walking ? (Weight Loss, Fitness, Social Element & Joints Impact)

Which of Triathlons Disciplines Is the Least Effective Workout (Swimming, Cycling, and Running)?

Just like we can’t say an exercise is more effective than another, we can’t say any is less effective than the other without first knowing what fitness goals you hope to achieve.

Nevertheless, we can say that swimming is a less effective workout than running when it comes to losing weight, while swimming is more effective than running when it comes to increasing your testosterone level.

Note that for every fitness goal you have, there is an exercise that will be more effective than the other and the one that will be less effective than the other. For example Swimming and volleyball. Check out our post Is Swimming Good for Volleyball? How Can It Help !

Health Benefits of Running Listed

Running is an easily accessible activity recommended for improved functioning of the mind body and soul. Below are detailed health benefits running offers:

Running promotes weight loss and belly fat loss

People who are obese stand to gain a lot more from weight-bearing exercises like running because it helps with overall weight loss, including belly fat loss. It is very effective at burning calories because it works on large muscle groups. 

Read our article “Is Cycling Better Than Running & Walking ? (Weight Loss, Fitness, Social Element & Joints Impact)” for more on how running helps with weight loss. 

Running Helps prevent cardiovascular diseases

Most cardiovascular diseases like heart attack occur either due to obesity, a failed heart pumping capacity, or impaired blood circulation to body organs. With running, all these conditions can be reverted to normal and eventually prevent future occurrence of these diseases. 

Running helps build muscle and strong bones

Most individuals, especially women who run, are at a great advantage because it helps decrease any risk of osteoporosis (a fragile bone disease in lay terms). This is common among the elderly and can get eliminated with regular exercises like running, which helps to increase bone strength and mineral density.

– Running helps in slowing down aging effects

Running can help slow down or revert age-related effects such as the decline in bone density, growth hormone, respiratory muscle strength, skeletal muscle mass, and lung compliance.

Running helps improve learning capacity

The hippocampus is a part of the brain that contains millions of neurons responsible for learning, and it gets better with more neuronal connections. Running promotes learning by improving blood circulation to that part of the brain and promoting neuronal cell growth.

Running helps you stay happy

As funny as this might sound, this is actually very true.

When you run, your happy/feel-good hormones are produced such as dopamine, endorphins which puts you in a good mood and serves as an energy booster for your day.

We also recommend that you check out our post “Is Running Good for Kidney Stones? Or Does It Make it Worse !

Basic Safety Precautions for Beginner Runners

  • Get comfortable running shoes
  • To avoid injury learn to pace yourself by starting out with short miles and running on flat surfaces.
  • Always eat healthy meals before and after you run to avoid calorie depletion.
  • Always stay hydrated.

Also, we do recommend that you check out our post titled ” Can Cycling Replace Running? What You Should Know! &Is Running Bad for Your Hips? What Runners Need To Know!


A cardio-aerobic exercise such as running is very effective because of its impact on the body. It is efficient in promoting weight loss, slowing the aging process, and reducing the mortality rate of individuals with cardiovascular diseases.

An interesting fact is that you can get all the benefits from running without breaking the bank because running is easily accessible, cheap, and convenient. 


A medical student with passion in health and sports-related topics that discuss the optimization of one’s overall health through healthy nutrition, fitness, and adequate rest

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