How Running Can Help You Lose Weight

How Running Can Help You Lose Weight

When you think of cardio for weight loss, running is probably one of the first exercises that comes to mind. And for good reason — running is something you can do just about anywhere, anytime, at whatever pace challenges you.

 

 Can You Lose Weight by Running?

Yes. And while even a slow jog can be beneficial in creating a calorie deficit, you can see results even faster if you follow a running workout that incorporates intense running, such as interval training.

Research suggests running can have a positive impact on weight control if you take the right approach. In a 2012 study, researchers analyzed data from more than 33,000 male and female runners to compare the effects of running and non-running exercises (including walking, cycling, and swimming) on body mass index and waist circumference.

The verdict: Running was 9.5 times more effective in reducing waist circumference in women and 6.8 times more effective in men than the non-running exercises investigated. Running was also 19.3 times more effective in reducing BMI across both genders.

 

How Many Calories Can You Burn While Running?

As with any physical activity, it depends on several factors, including your weight, your current fitness level, and your workout intensity. However, you can use the American Council on Exercise Physical Activity Calorie Counter to estimate how many calories you’ll burn based on your current weight, your running pace, and how long you run.

Using that calculator, here’s how many calories a 150-pound person can expect to burn during a 30-minute run:

RUNNING PACE CALORIES BURNED IN 30 MINUTES
5 mph (12:00/mile) 272
6 mph (10:00/mile) 340
7 mph (8:30/mile) 391
8 mph (7:30/mile) 459

 

How Much Weight Can You Lose By Running?

This question is surprisingly difficult to answer. The trouble comes when you try to convert calories burned into pounds lost.

You’ve probably heard that it takes 3,500 calories to lose a pound — in other words, for every 3,500 calories you burn in excess of what you consume, you will lose one pound. But study after study suggests this theory may be inaccurate.

Research shows the body reacts to weight change due to calorie restriction by adapting its total energy expenditure. The more weight you lose, the fewer calories your body burns at rest — so you’ll need to cut your food intake or increase your activity level even more in order to maintain the same rate of weight loss.

This process is highly individual, so it’s hard to predict how someone will be affected by it — which makes it nearly impossible to predict how much weight you’ll lose by running.

 

Can you lose weight with a short, 30-minute run?

How long do you need to run to see results? Again, there’s no single answer.

A 150-pound person who runs for 30 minutes at a 6 mph pace will burn around 340 calories, which is definitely a significant calorie burn. (And you’ll boost your cardio health too.) But whether that calorie burn is “enough” to lose weight depends on other factors like your current weight, your fitness level, and your diet.

Your best bet: Start a workout routine that combines running with strength training, see where it takes you, and make any necessary adjustments as you go. And, of course, you’ll see results faster if you stick to nutrient-rich eating plan constructed around roughly 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat — a balance of macros that’s great for weight loss.

 

Running for Weight Loss: How It Works

Back to that 2012 study — researchers speculated that one reason running was so effective for reducing BMI and waist circumference is that runners tend to measure workouts in terms of distance rather than time.

Setting your workout goals in terms of distance — rather than time and intensity — can make it easier to stay accountable and to accurately calculate the calories you burn. While it can be difficult to gauge whether you worked out at a “moderate” or “vigorous” pace during a kickboxing class, for example, you know whether or not you ran 3 miles (and can easily figure out your intensity using a running pace chart).

Another way running can help with weight loss — which is supported by research published in the Journal of Obesity — is that running has favorable effects on appetite, helping to reduce food intake following exercise.

Beginners Tips For Running For Weight Loss

Running is a beginner-friendly workout — it’s something you can do almost anywhere, at any pace, with minimal gear. Here’s how to get started.

running for weight loss

1. Start small.

Running is a high-impact activity that’s hard on the joints of the lower extremities, and it can carry a high risk of injury — and this can be an issue for beginners who are unaccustomed to the high-impact, repetitive nature of the movement.

To boost your chances of staying injury-free, start with small amounts of running, and separate runs by 48 hours to give the tissues of your lower extremities an opportunity to adapt to the repetitive impact. Don’t worry: A little running can still help with fat loss if you keep the intensity high and combine it with strength training and a healthy, portion-controlled diet.

 

running for weight loss

2. Choose the right running shoes.

Finding the best running shoes for you can reduce your likelihood of getting hurt. Not just any sneaker will do — always run in shoes designed specifically for running rather than in general cross-trainers or all-purpose sneakers.

If possible, get fitted by a trained staffer at a specialty running store. Just make sure the shoes they recommend are comfortable — when it comes to running shoes, research suggests comfort may play the biggest role in injury prevention. Some runners need more cushioning; others need less. Some do better with shoes that have special stability features; others, not so much. So listen to your feet as well as to the salesperson assisting you.

 

running for weight loss

3. Set a goal.

To keep your motivation up, consider signing up for an event, such as a 5K fun run. Many beginners find the goal of crossing a finish line drives them to keep running in a way that a weight-loss target does not, because it gives them a specific goal and deadline. And the experience of crossing a finish line can get you hooked on running more powerfully than hitting a weight-loss target — once you finish that 5K, you may be inspired to work towards a 10K or a half marathon. So while you may have originally gotten into running for weight loss, you might actually fall in love with it.

 

How to Get Started

Ready to try running for weight loss? Here are two resources that can help you start off strong.

Matt Fitzgerald

About

Matt Fitzgerald is an endurance sports coach, nutritionist, and author. His many books include 80/20 Running and The Endurance Diet. Follow him on Twitter.