Since the dawn of fitness, folks have used running as a tool to shed extra pounds.
After all, you’ve probably heard the tip, “Why don’t you pick up running? It’s great for weight loss.”
But how does running help us lose weight? More importantly, how quickly can you lose weight with running? If you started today, how long would it take you to reach your desired weight?
Let’s break it down.
How Running Helps You Lose Weight
We can cause weight loss by doing many things, but it all boils down to one simple requirement:
Establishing and sustaining a calorie deficit. In other words, consuming fewer calories than we burn each day. Doing so forces the body to break down fat and lean tissue for energy, making us lose weight and get thinner.
To understand how running helps with that, we first have to take a quick look at the components that make up human metabolism. These are:
- Basal metabolic rate (BMR) – the number of calories your body burns each day to carry out its many processes that keep you alive and well. This value is mostly unchanged from day to day.
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – the number of calories you burn collectively from all movements outside dedicated exercise time. Brushing your teeth, playing with your kids, carrying groceries, and everything else you can think of.
- Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) – the number of calories you burn from dedicated exercise time. In our case, this would mean the calories we burn while running.
- Thermic effect of food (TEF) – the number of calories your body expends to break down the foods you eat and absorb their nutrients.
Collectively, these values produce our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), which tends to fluctuate from day to day, depending on activity level and what foods we eat.
Running elevates our metabolic rate through EAT, which boosts your overall TDEE, and allows you to more easily put yourself in the required calorie deficit for weight loss.
Of course, running also depletes glycogen (the complex carb form we store in our muscles and liver) and leads to water losses, both of which lead to weight loss on the scale. But these are temporary drops, which go back up once you’ve had post-run food and water.
Here Is How Quickly You Can Lose Weight While Running
Now that we’ve gone over the tedious (but important) metabolic stuff, let’s get practical and see how much weight you can lose by running regularly.
To estimate how much weight you can lose with running, let’s set a benchmark first. According to online calculators, a person burns between 80 and 140 calories per mile of running. Additionally, running for 30 minutes can net a calorie burn of 280 to 500+ calories. The exact value will depend on running technique, efficiency, weight, running speed, wind resistance, and more. Most notably, we have to consider weight and running speed.
For our example, we’ll make the following assumptions to make the calculations more specific:
- You’re in your twenties
- You’re 5’5”
- You weigh 170 pounds
- Your average running speed is 5.2 mph
Based on these, you should burn roughly 105 calories per ten minutes of running. So, here is how much weight you should expect to lose based on daily running goals:
- 10 minutes (0.86 miles) – 0.2 lbs per week
- 20 minutes (1.73 miles) – 0.4 lbs per week
- 30 minutes (2.6 miles) – 0.6 lbs per week
- 40 minutes (3.46 miles) – 0.8 lbs per week
- 50 minutes (4.33 miles) – 1 lb per week
- 60 minutes (5.2 miles) – 1.2 lbs per week
This example assumes that your calorie intake doesn’t go up as a response to cardio. Some people feel particularly hungry after doing cardio, which can lead to compensatory eating, and you need to keep it in mind. If you start eating more, you might not lose any weight, even with daily running.
The calculations are also based on daily running, or seven sessions per week. If you choose to run less often, the rate of weight loss will go down.
It’s also important to note that the calculations apply to a hypothetical person. Your calorie burn and results will likely differ. We’ve put this together simply to give you an example of what you can expect.