How to Use Running for Weight Loss

If you’re relying solely on running for weight loss, you may be disappointed. Here’s how to work out smarter to get the results you want.

Running is an incredibly popular way to exercise.
In fact, it’s estimated that in the US alone, over 64 million people have run at least once in the past year .
Running is also linked to many health benefits, and is one of the best types of exercise to help you lose weight.

There are many different styles of running, each with their own unique purpose and benefits.
These are the most popular types:

  • Base runs: What most people would call a normal run. They are short-to-moderate length runs around 6 miles (10 km) and done at your natural pace.
  • Long runs: Longer versions of base runs done at the same pace but over a greater distance of around 10–12 miles (15–20 km). They help improve your overall fitness and endurance.
  • Interval runs: Short, intense runs repeated several times with short breaks in between. For example, 5 x 0.5 mile runs with 1/4 mile (400 meters) light jogging between each interval. These runs train your running power and speed.
  • Hill repeats: Similar to interval runs but done uphill. For example, 10 x 1-minute hill repeats. They train your running power and speed while improving stamina.
  • Recovery runs: Slow runs done after harder runs like hill repeats to add extra distance to your overall run. For example, a 4-minute run at a comfortable pace after a harder run.
  • Progression runs: These mimic competition-style runs by starting slow and finishing at a faster pace. They build endurance, speed and reduce fatigue. For example, 5 miles (8 km) at a natural pace, then 1 mile (1.5 km) at a fast pace.

It Burns More Calories Than Most Exercises

Losing weight requires you to burn more calories than you consume, and exercise can help you do so.

Running is a great option, as it burns more calories than most other types of exercise because it requires many different muscles to work hard togetherv

In particular, high-intensity interval training involving running burns the most calories per minute by using various muscles at their maximum power.

The difference in calories burned by running versus by other exercises is supported by research.

For example, a study with 12 men and 12 women compared how many more calories running 1 mile (1,600 meters) burned than walking the same distance on both a treadmill and track.

Results showed that, on average, running 1 mile on the treadmill burned 33 more calories than walking, and running 1 mile on the track burned 35 more calories than walking.

33–35 calories may not seem like a huge difference at first, but over a 10-mile run, this may equal burning 330–350 more calories than walking the same distance.

A report by Harvard University compared the calories burned over 30 minutes by people at three different weights and found similar results.

Specifically, they discovered that a 155-pound (70-kg) person could burn 372 calories in 30 minutes running at a moderate pace of 6 miles per hour (10 km per hour).

This is as many calories as are burned during vigorous swimming and martial arts, and even more than those burned during a 30-minute game of basketball.

Running Has Many Other Benefits for Health

Aside from weight loss, running has been linked to many other health benefits.
A few specific health problems that running may help prevent or alleviate include:

  • Heart disease: A 15-year study with over 50,000 participants found that running at least five to ten minutes a day, even at low speeds, reduced heart disease risk up to 45%.
  • Blood sugar: Running can lower blood sugar by making muscle cells more sensitive to insulin. This helps sugar move into muscle cells for storage.
  • Cataracts: One study found that moderate-pace walking and vigorous running both reduced the risk of cataracts, with more exercise directly resulting in a lower risk.
  • Falls: Running may reduce the risk of falling among the elderly. Research shows that elderly participants who run are less likely to fall because their leg muscles are more responsive.
  • Knee damage: A common myth is that running is bad for your knees. An analysis of 28 studies refuted this misconception, finding strong evidence that links physical activity with stronger knee tissue and healthier knees.
  • Knee pain: Running may also help reduce knee pain. A study of participants with an average age of 64 years found that running was not linked with knee pain or arthritis. Instead, participants who ran more actually had less knee pain.

How to Get Started

There are many items available for running, but most beginners can get by on the bare minimum.
This includes good running shoes, a comfortable top, a water bottle and running shorts, tights or comfortable pants.
It is highly recommended for women to wear a sports bra while running to reduce pain. Reflective gear is highly recommended as well if you plan on taking your run during early hours or late at night. This will help to prevent any accidents.
Here are a few basics you should know before beginning a running workout:

  • Frequency: To get started, aim for 3 to 4 days of running per week. This allows for enough recovery time between workouts.
  • Warm up: Before every running workout, it is important to warm up and stretch in order to prepare your body for the run. Start by stretching, followed by 5 minutes of walking at an easy pace. Then, slowly progress to a power walk.
  • Cool down: At the end of your run, make sure to cool down with 5 minutes of walking, gradually decreasing the speed as you go.
  • Total time: Aim for around 30 minutes total. This includes 5 minutes for a warm up, 5 minutes for a cool down and 20 minutes of running.

Sample Running Plan

If you would like to enjoy the benefits of running, here is a month-long plan to get you started.
A beginner’s plan will start with alternating between running and walking, increasing the minutes spent running every week.
Do each set of activities 3 to 4 days per week.


Week One

  • 5 minutes warming up
  • 1 minute running at your natural pace, and then 2 minutes moderate-pace walking repeat 7 times
  • 5 minutes cooling down

Week Two

  • 5 minutes warming up
  • 2 minutes running at your natural pace, and then 2 minutes moderate-pace walking repeat 5 times
  • 5 minutes cooling down

Week Three

  • 5 minutes warming up
  • 3 minutes running at your natural pace, and then 2 minutes moderate-pace walking repeat 4 times
  • 5 minutes cooling down

Week Four

  • 5 minutes warming up
  • 4 minutes running at your natural pace, and then 2 minutes moderate-pace walking repeat 3 times
  • 5 minutes cooling down

After the month is over, try to progress by running for longer at your natural pace or walking less between each run. Try adding different styles of running as you feel more comfortable.

If you are not used to regular exercise or have any preexisting medical conditions that can be affected by exercise, consult a health professional before starting any exercise program.

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