Running vs Gym: Which is Better?

You decided to start working out but you were confused about whether you should start running or enroll in the gym nearby. You’d like to the advantages and disadvantages of both so you can decide what to do. 

In summary: Running is better at losing weight and it is more accessible to everyone. In contrast, going to the gym and lifting weights is better at building strength and muscle but it is more expensive and requires technical skill to start. 

I’ve been doing both running and going to the gym for a long time so I want to share with you the advantages and disadvantages of running outdoors vs going to the gym. And at the end of this article, I will give you a word of advice on what you should do. 

Advantages of Running

It’s cheap! – Unlike most exercises, running requires nothing more than a pair of shoes and a place to run. Plus! Unless you want to excel in running, you don’t need to hire a coach to teach you how to run. 

It gives you a chance to explore – Running is not only a great way to burn calories, it’s also a great way to explore your neighborhood. Check out new restaurants, parks, and stores near you when you’re running. 

Increases your life expectancy – A Journal of the American College of Cardiology study found that running just 5-10 mins a day at slow speeds reduces the risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular diseases. They added that runners have 3 years higher life expectancy compared to nonrunners.

It burns more calories than most exercises – Running can burn more calories per minute than most forms of exercise. In a resource published by the American Council of Exercise, they recorded the average calories burned per minute of different sports and forms of exercise in a table in which running burns nearly double the calories that of weight training. 

It burns fat – A study in Japan suggests that aerobic exercises such as running, jogging, and walking are REQUIRED to burn visceral fats. 

A similar study also found that running for 11 miles per week at any intensity prevents and reduces visceral fats even without changing the caloric intake. 

You get lots of sunlight – Aside from vitamin D, sunlight also comes with a lot of health benefits. Running outdoors early in the morning allows you to rake in all the healths benefits of the sun.

You can run anywhere – Unlike most exercises and sports, running gives you the ability to work out anywhere. 

Explore beautiful sceneries – Have you ever tried trail running? If not, then it’s definitely a thing to consider. Imagine running across mountains full of trees and endless clear blue skies while listening to chirping birds and the wind. 

It’s easier – Running is something you can do anywhere with nothing but a pair of shoes. Plus, you’re in control of everything from the pace to the duration of your runs. This is why running is considered to be one of the easiest forms of exercise out there. 

Prevents cardiovascular diseases – According to CDC, 1 in every 4 deaths is caused by cardiovascular diseases in America. One of the best ways to combat that is by running regularly

It’s beginner-friendly – Unlike most sports and exercises, running is something that is innate to humans. You’ve already been doing it as a child. That is why running is so much easier to start than any other form of exercise. There’s no new skill to learn. 

It’s a form of meditation – Running is one of my favorite ways to zone out and meditate. Yes, I sometimes meditate when I run. 

Running at a moderate pace is so effortless and repetitive that you can actually zone out while you’re in motion. It’s like hitting two birds (workout and meditation) with one stone. 

You can greet people on the road – When you run across your neighborhood, don’t forget to smile or nod to the people you come across with. It’s a great way to socialize and put them and yourself in a better mood. 

Disadvantages of Running

Running can be boring – Because running is so repetitive, running can become boring. But here are some things you can do to make running more fun:

  • Change location
  • Run in the trail
  • Listen to podcasts/audiobooks
  • Run with a friend
  • Join races and fun runs

Because I like to make good use of my time, I usually listen to audiobooks via Audible while running so I can learn and run at the same time. 

If you want to do the same, Audible offers a 30-day free trial along with a free audiobook. You can cancel anytime. 

It won’t get you beach-ready – By beach-ready I mean broad shoulders, well-defined arms, and wide chest. Running burns a lot of calories but it doesn’t build muscle. So I suggest you add any form of resistance training such as lifting, bands, or calisthenics at least 3 times a week. 

(Related: Can I get in shape just by running?)

It may even burn muscle. Running for long durations (>60 mins) can put your body in a catabolic state and you’ll start burning muscles along with the fats. 

To prevent this, mix up your running program with short sprints, threshold runs, and intervals. 

Weather conditions can prevent you from running. While running gives you the advantage of working out anywhere, it doesn’t give you the advantage of working out any time. 

Extreme heat, cold, or rain can prevent you from getting a good outdoor run. 

It can cause muscle imbalances. Running is a very repetitive sport that focuses only on some key muscles. When you have muscle imbalances, it may result in overuse injuries and pain. 

Less time to talk and make friends. This can be both positive and negative. But if you’re someone who likes socializing and making friends at the gym, you’re going to have a hard time talking to someone while you’re running. 

Advantages of Enrolling In a Gym

It increases lean muscle mass – Lifting weights is one of the most effective ways to build lean muscle mass. 

There’s so much you can do at the gym – Unlike running, the gym offers unlimited things to do from cardio to yoga to lifting weights. You’ll never be bored if you enroll in the gym. 

Heavy lifting increases testosterone level – Testosterone plays an important role in a plethora of things including muscle building, libido, and strength. Heavy lifting has been proven to increase your testosterone levels regardless of age. 

You can hire personal trainers who can help you achieve your goal – Looking for a professional coach to help you reach your goals faster? Almost every gym in the world has a trained coach that can help you. 

You can work out regardless of the weather – It’s nice to be able to work out anytime regardless of the weather. 

You can meet and socialize with people more – The gym is a great place to get to know people. 

You’ll get more balanced workouts – Unlike running, the gym offers you more workouts to improve your strength, endurance, and physique. 

You can prevent muscle imbalances – Muscle imbalances are common for repetitive sports such as running. The gym allows you to work with opposing muscle groups to prevent muscle imbalances. 

Keeps your joints healthy – Lifting strengthens the muscles around the joints which will help maintain its proper function. 

Tones your muscles – Want to look ripped this summer? Doing resistance exercises will tone your body.

It strengthens your heart – In an article published by Medical News Today, they revealed that recent studies reveal that strengthening exercises fare better in improving your heart health than aerobic exercise. 

You’ll experience the ‘afterburn’ effect – The afterburn effect is where your body continues to burn calories even after your workout. Compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts performed at a high intensity result in a greater afterburn effect. 

Makes you stronger – Resistance exercise is the single most effective way to improve your strength. 

Improves bone density – If you place your body under stress such as lifting heavy weights, your body will adapt and strengthen your bones over time in order to better support this activity. In physical therapy, this is known as Wolff’s law

Reduce the risks of developing low back pain – Improper body mechanics is one of the leading causes of back pain around the world. Lifting weights teaches you the importance of body mechanics and will greatly impact how you perform functional activities in real life. 

This will reduce the risk of developing low back pain when you lift stuff from the floor or when you’re doing your job. 

Disadvantages of Enrolling In a Gym

It’s expensive – Between paying for a gym membership and a personal trainer, working out at the gym can get really expensive. 

There’s a lot of waiting time – There are times where you’ll have to wait for your turn to use a machine or equipment. My advice, make friends and ask the other person using the equipment if you can alternate between sets. 

Lots of barriers to entry – From membership fees to personal trainers and gym programs, it can get overwhelming before you can even start. 

The gyms can be full-packed – There are times where your gym is just packed and there’s no way you can do your program seamlessly. Unlike running where you can just choose a spot and go. 

It requires technical skills – Unlike running which is a skill you grew up with, lifting requires technical skills to do it effectively and safely. So you’ll have to sacrifice time to learn and money to pay a personal trainer. 

Which is Better for Weightloss?

Running is better for weight loss than resistance training because it burns more calories per min. In addition, running is more accessible, cheaper, and easier to learn than resistance training which makes it easier to start.

Which is Better for Gaining Weight?

Weight lifting and other forms of resistance training are the best and only ways to gain lean muscle mass. 

Strength training, if done right, causes your muscles to undergo hypertrophy (increase in muscle size) and increases your testosterone level (a hormone that helps you build muscle). 

In contrast, running (at long distances) puts your body in a catabolic state that causes the shedding of fat and muscle mass. 

A Word of Advice

Both running and going to the gym offer different pros and cons. Choosing what you should do will depend on your goal.

If you’re looking to reduce weight, you can start running and eating a proper diet first, then you can enroll in a gym once you shed a couple of pounds, or if you’re bored with running. 

If you’re looking to build muscle mass, make weight lifting and other forms of resistance exercise a priority. 

It may also depend on your time and resources. If the gym is an hour away from your house or is out of budget but you want to keep yourself physically fit, you can run and do bodyweight exercises at home. 

Regardless of the form of exercise, the most important thing is that you do physical activity at least 30 mins a day to keep yourself in good physical condition. 

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

Recent Posts