How Fast Should I Run To Lose Weight?

Running is one of the best exercises for weight loss. But a lot of those who want to start running for weight loss think so much about running speed. But how fast should you run to lose weight?

I’ve helped many people lose weight, and one of the best exercises I give them is running. But often they try to speed things up too soon, tricked into believing that running faster will get them to their dream body faster. But the truth is…

You don’t have to run fast to lose weight. Running as slow as 5-6 mph for 1 hour can burn 650-800 calories. The more important thing you should consider when trying to lose weight is becoming consistent.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s look at the benefits of running fast and slow. And let’s look at a scenario so we can better understand why running slow is a better weight loss option for beginners. 

Why Choose Running to Lose Weight

Weight Loss is simple. Burn more calories than you intake. 

You can do this with basically anything. Lifting, rowing, cycling, Zumba or even just having a good diet. But one of the best ways to lose weight is running. 

Multiple studies confirm that running burns more calories than most exercise. This can be seen on the table published by the American Council on Exercise comparing the number of calories burned per minute of various exercises. 

I have here an excerpt of the table comparing the most common exercises and their calories burned per minute for a 140 and 180 lbs person. 

Activity140 lbs180 lbs
Basketball8.8 cal/min11.3 cal/min
Cycling (10MPH)6.4 cal/min8.2 cal/min
Hiking5.2 cal/min6.7 cal/min
Jogging10.8 cal/min13.9 cal/min
Running13.2 cal/min17.0 cal/min
Swimming9.0 cal/min11.6 cal/min
Walking7.6 cal/min9.7 cal/min
Weight training7.6 cal/min9.8 cal/min
Zumba8.6 cal/min11.1 cal/min
Calories per minute burned on different exercises. Source: American Council of Exercise

In addition, running has a very low barrier of entry. That means you can run wherever and whenever without spending anything but a pair of running shoes. 

This makes running one of the best and accessible methods of exercise on the planet. Plus, you get to explore the city or nature with this sport. 

If you want to know more about the other health benefits of running, check out this article. 

Running Fast Vs. Running Slow for Weight Loss

Before anything else, I just would like to point out that running fast is different for everybody. Meaning, what I consider slow is fast for you. 

Therefore, a better way to measure is the intensity of effort you put in. Slow is when you can maintain your running speed for long periods of time. We can consider this a conversational pace — that is, a pace you can run and still converse.

Fast is when you run out of breath after just a few minutes. You can talk but merely a small sentence or words. 

Running Fast for Weight Loss

Running fast allows you to burn more calories. It’s simple logic. The harder you work, the more calories you’ll burn.  

To give you an example, a 70kg person can burn approx 822 calories running 8 mph for one hour. Compare that to 683 calories at 6 mph. You’ll burn 139 more calories for the same duration if you run a little bit faster. 

But… What’s the likelihood that you’ll be able to hold an 8 mph pace for 1 hour?

If you run too fast, you’ll also have to take a break sooner, decreasing your total running duration and distance covered. 

Another good advantage of running fast and short is that it benefits from the afterburn effect — calories expended after an exercise bout.

That means you’ll continuously burn calories even after you run. 

Running Slow for Weight Loss

Running slow keeps your heart rate higher than usual but steady for a long time. That means you can keep burning calories for longer durations than you would if you run fast. 

In addition, running at slower speeds keeps you in the ‘’fat burning zone’’. Your body uses fat as fuel, allowing you to burn more harmful fats than calories. 

Therefore, running slowly is better at burning fats than running fast.

Which Is Better for Losing weight?

To see which one’s better, let’s look at a scenario.

Say you’re a 176 lbs male who can run continuously for an hour at 5 mph. In 1 hour, you’ll burn 624 calories.

Then a week after, you decided to try to run faster at 6 mph. If you’ve completed 1 hour, you would’ve burned 737 calories. 113 calories more than just running at a speed of 5 mph.

But… Because you ran faster, you also got tired quicker. So instead of running for 1 hour, you were only able to run for 45 mins which are equal to 553 calories. 71 calories less than if you run a little slower and longer. 

The next day you woke up too sore from running fast for too long and decided to skip running that day. So instead of being able to burn an extra 312 calories from doing a 30-minute easy run, you burned nothing from running. 

This scenario can happen at different scales. 

I’m trying to point out that as a beginner, you’re more likely to benefit from running slow but consistently. Your goal at this point is to practice getting off the couch and make running an enjoyable experience that you’d want to do regularly. 

Consistency will beat intensity and it will pay off in the long run.

In summary, here’s why I recommend running slow first to lose weight. 

  • It keeps you coming back: By running slow you reduce the mental barrier of the fear of pain. You’re more likely to want to run more if you run easy, which will result in more calories burned in the long run.
  • It keeps you fresh: Running fast will beat you up fast and you’re less likely to get off your couch for tomorrow’s run session. Running slow, on the other hand, is less brutal on your body. 
  • It burns more fat: As mentioned earlier, running slowly uses fat as energy giving you the ability to shave off those unwanted belly fats. 
  • It’s doable: True, running at high intensity produces the afterburn effect. But achieving the stimuli needed for that to happen is unlikely to be tolerated by non-athletic individuals. 

As your body adapts to running and you’ve already made it a habit, then you can start having fast days.

If you’re interested in running faster, I’ve made an article giving you 19 tips on how to run faster.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to think faster is always better. That’s what we’ve been taught. But in the case of running for weight loss, it’s important to think long term rather than thinking for today alone. 

Running slow but longer and often will help you lose more weight as a beginner than running fast and hard. 

I hope this article was able to give you an idea of how fast you should run for your next session. 

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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