How Does Running Compare to Other Activities?

While running is a great activity for losing weight and improving your health, fitness, and body, there are many other activities you could also be doing.

So let’s take a look at how running compares to other popular activities…

We’ll look at swimming, cycling, weight training, and exercise machines such as the elliptical trainer, rower, and stepper.

The effect on your body

Running, like weight training, is a weight bearing activity which means that your body has to support its own weight. This puts more strain on your body than some activities.

In contrast activities like swimming, or where you’re sat down like cycling, are non-weight bearing activities.

So which is best?

Well the disadvantage with weight bearing activities is that it’s easier to get an injury because they tend to be harder exercises and more demanding on the body.

Having said this, the risk of injury with running is significantly reduced when you gradually build up your fitness and running ability, give your body enough time to recover between runs, and use the right running shoes.

An advantage of weight bearing activities is that they tend to provide greater health and fitness benefits due to them being harder.

For example, most people will find a 10 minute run much more challenging than 10 minutes swimming or cycling. Therefore the health and fitness gains are greater.

Weight bearing activities also help to keep your bones stronger. They challenge your bones more and because of this your bones adapt to the activity and stay strong.

As people get older their bones gradually decline and become weaker. However, running slows this process which means you end up with stronger and healthier bones than if doing non-weight bearing activities.

Weight loss

Running is great for burning calories and losing weight, and it’s more effective than other activities like swimming, cycling, and exercise machines.

The more muscle mass an activity uses, and the harder it is, the better it is for weight loss. Running uses lots of muscle mass and is harder than other activities like swimming, cycling, and exercise machines.

Activities such as swimming and the rowing machine do use lots of muscle mass but running still burns more calories overall due to it being a harder exercise.

Time savings

Swimming, weight training, and exercise machines require you to visit the local leisure centre or gym, unless you’re prepared to purchase equipment to use at home.

With running you don’t need to waste time travelling or waiting for gym machines and equipment to become available. You can be out of the door, or on a home treadmill, and be running within minutes.


Running can be done almost anywhere at any time, whether it’s from home, at work, or on holiday. Just take your running shoes and clothes and get running.

With most other activities like swimming, weight training, and exercise machines, you are limited to when you can do them. Wherever you go you need to find suitable facilities and equipment rather than being able to take them with you.


With swimming most people visit the local leisure centre and pay each time or they have a yearly membership. With cycling at home you need to buy a decent bike that will last plenty of miles.

With weight training and exercise machines you either need a gym membership or to buy your own machines and equipment.

On the other hand, running is one of the cheapest activities around because you don’t need any special exercise equipment or gym membership. With running you just need a decent pair of running shoes and then you can run as often as you want for free.

Which activity should you do?

What I’ve talked about here are some of the main reasons why I believe running is the best physical activity around. It’s the best for improving your health, fitness, and body, and it’s also the most practical activity for fitting exercise into a busy lifestyle.

Does this mean you should only run?

Not at all.

Other activities like swimming, cycling, weight training, and exercise machines, can also be used as part of an overall exercise plan and they can even compliment your running.

What I suggest is to have running as your main activity because this will get you the most benefits in the shortest time. You then have the option of including other activities in your exercise plan if you desire.


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4 Responses to How Does Running Compare to Other Activities?

  1. Alice Clark says:

    I can only manage a 15 minute run at the moment due to, time available, as I run before work in the morning, and due to my lack of fitness!
    Is this long enough to make a difference to start improving my fitness level and enough to start losing weight?
    If so how many times a week do you suggest I run for this length of time to feel the benefits?
    Thanks Alice.

    • James says:

      15 minutes running is enough to make a difference Alice. You would get better results with your fitness and weight loss if you could commit more time to running, however a 15 minute run is far, far better than no run at all.

      I would start with 3 times per week and the build it up from there by adding more days.

  2. Nicoleta says:

    I liked this analysis of running vs other exercises. The main reason I chose running was exactly this: it was cheap and convenient. I had years and years of fitness club mambership that I paid, and sadly I had years and years of not going. So this time when I decided to get in shape I chose wisely =)

  3. Donna Sutton says:

    Hi, I try to either run on the treadmill in winter we get alot of snow and really cold temperatures! And when it gets nicer I get outside. I try to run 3-4 times a week. I am a slow runner. I’m wondering what is a good amount of time to run.