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Your guide to running at any level

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Story highlights

Running is one of the most efficient ways to blast fat and burn calories

Do 20 to 30 minutes, four days a week to see significant improvements

For beginners, by week 8 you should be running without any walking

Follow the training plans below to up your speed and endurance

Health.com —  

Running just might be the most convenient workout going. You don’t need to be a skilled athlete, and there’s no fancy equipment involved; just lace up your sneaks and go.

It’s also one of the most efficient ways to blast fat and burn calories – about 600 an hour.

Sure, walking has its benefits, but research shows that running kicks its butt when it comes to shedding pounds. One recent study of 47,000 runners and walkers, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, found that the runners burned more calories and had a far greater decrease in BMI over a six-year period. The joggers who started out heaviest (those with a BMI over 28) lost up to 90% more weight than the walkers did.

“Runners are more likely to stay at a steady weight than those who do other forms of exercise, and they’re more efficient at losing pounds when they need to,” notes Paul T. Williams, the lead researcher of the study.

One simple reason: The higher your workout intensity, the more post-exercise calories you continue to burn.

Health.com: The one-minute full-body workout

Dropping pounds and toning up are hardly the only benefits of this killer cardio workout: You’ll also reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, boost your mood, temper stress and build muscle, especially in the lower body and core. You don’t even need to dedicate a lot of time to reap these rewards; do 20 to 30 minutes, thr