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Running is one of the most accessible, affordable, and effective exercises for weight loss. However, due to the rise of various fitness programs with cool promotional videos claiming to lose weight fast, many people started to question: how long does it actually take to lose weight just running?
In general, a 180-lbs person who runs 30 mins a day will lose 4-5 lbs in a month without dietary changes. However, other factors such as age, overall health, and the intensity of the run may affect the rate of weight loss.
Ahead, we will dive deeper into weight loss and how a combination of diet and running can help you achieve it. We will also discuss the frequency and intensity of your runs as well as other factors that could affect the rate of your weight loss. But first, let’s jump into a rundown on running and weight loss.
A Background on Running and Weight Loss
Losing weight is not rocket science. Its whole idea revolves around being in a calorie deficit state. That is, consuming fewer calories than your calorie expenditure.
Technically speaking, it is possible to lose weight just by reducing your overall calorie intake and living a normal active life (eg walking to your work, working in a factory, etc.).
However, combining diet with exercise is still the best way to achieve a fit and healthy body. Running is one of the best ways to lose weight simply because it burns more calories per minute than most forms of exercise and it has a very low barrier to entry. All you need is a pair of running shoes and you can pound to lose a pound.
According to a resource published by American Council on Exercise (ACE), a 180-pound person burns approximately 17 calories per minute when running. To compare it to other common forms of exercise, here’s a snippet from a table from ACE that shows the calories burned per minute of different forms of exercise.
|Activity||140 lbs||160 lbs||180 lbs|
|Basketball||8.8 cal/min||10.0 cal/min||11.3 cal/min|
|Cycling (10MPH)||6.4 cal/min||7.3 cal/min||8.2 cal/min|
|Dancing||8.6 cal/min||9.8 cal/min||11.1 cal/min|
|Hiking||5.2 cal/min||6.0 cal/min||6.7 cal/min|
|Jogging||10.8 cal/min||12.4 cal/min||13.9 cal/min|
|Running||13.2 cal/min||15.1 cal/min||17.0 cal/min|
|Swimming||9.0 cal/min||10.3 cal/min||11.6 cal/min|
|Walking||7.6 cal/min||8.7 cal/min||9.7 cal/min|
|Weight training||7.6 cal/min||8.7 cal/min||9.8 cal/min|
To lose a pound of fat per week, you need to reduce your calories by 500 calories a day or 3,500 calories a week. You can do that by a combination of diet and exercise.
How Long Before You See The Results Of Running In Weight Loss?
I know I answered this question earlier. A 180 lbs person running 30 mins a day will lose 4-5 lbs of weight per month. However, not everyone can run 30 mins every day. Furthermore, when do you consider an activity to be running vs jogging? Because based on the table above, jogging burns fewer calories per minute than running. So using time as a basis affects the number of calories you burn.
So, here’s a simpler analogy to make losing weight more applicable to everyone:
Running/jogging 1 mile a day burns approximately 100 calories. And we know that you need to be in a deficit of 500 calories every day to lose a pound of fat in a week. So if you run/jog 1 mile a day and reduce your calorie intake by 400 calories and maintain it for a week, you will be able to lose 1 pound a week.
Within 5 weeks of running just 1 mile every day and reducing your calorie intake by 400 calories, you will be able to lose 5 lbs of body fat which is a considerable and noticeable amount of fat.
However, we are not in an ideal setting. There are a lot of factors that play into how long it takes for you to see the results of running in weight loss.
Some of those factors include:
- Lifestyle choices
- Adherence to a weight loss program
- Amount of running
- Intensity of running
- The current level of endurance
- Your body’s adaptation to running
For example, if you’re a beginner, you work harder to run a mile because you are not trained to run yet. Meaning, you are less efficient at running and, therefore, spend more energy to reach your 1-mile mark.
But once your body has adapted to the activity, you naturally become more efficient and start to burn fewer calories for the same amount of work.
Another example would be lifestyle choices. In a book published by Matthew Walker, Ph.D., he cited a study that concluded that sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to consume 300 calories more each day than individuals who had a full 8-hour sleep.
He also cited a study on adults who are going through a two-week strict low-calorie diet. One group was given a full 8-hour bedtime while the other group was given only 5 and a half hours of bedtime. What they found was both groups were able to lose weight. However, the sleep-deprived group lost 70% of weight from lean muscle mass—not fat.
By the way, if you’re interested in the book, you can listen to the book for free if you sign up for Audible’s 30-day free trial. You can sign up through that link and search for Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker.
Is Running Effective For Fat Loss?
There are hundreds of exercise programs with complex systems explaining why their program is the best for weight loss in an effort to justify why they have to charge a hefty price for it.
However, it doesn’t take a glorified scientist to understand that the key to weight loss, as I’ve mentioned above, goes back to the basics—take fewer calories than you expend.
As you can see from the table presented above, running burns the most calories per minute than any other form of exercise on the list.
Furthermore, the best way to lose fat—aside from calorie deficit—is a long low-to-moderate intensity workout, which happens to be easily achieved by running.
Therefore, running at a low-to-moderate intensity, combined with a proper diet and healthy lifestyle choices is very effective for fat loss.
Another good thing about running and why it is such an effective tool is the low barrier to entry. Aside from a good pair of running shoes, you only need a pair of shorts, a shirt, and a route to start running. Plus, the learning curve is relatively low. Most people know how to run and will eventually adapt to better running over time.
Compare that to having to enroll in a gym, learning all the proper forms and safety of lifting weights, and buying all the gear. Only to find out that they’ll actually let you run on a treadmill or do some low-to-moderate intensity cardio if your goal is weight loss.
Related post: Running vs Gym: Which is Better?
How Much Should You Run A Week To Lose Weight?
There’s no magic number as to the amount of running that you have to do. Again, it depends on multiple factors including your daily activity, your diet, and your current level of fitness.
For most people, running for 15 to 30 minutes a day 4 to 5 days a week combined with a healthy diet is an effective way to lose weight safely.
If we were to follow what we learned from above. A 180 lbs person burns approximately 17 calories per minute when running and you need to reduce 3,500 calories to burn 1 lb of fat.
In 15-30 minutes of running, you’ll burn 255 to 510 calories a day. Combine that with eating 300-500 fewer calories per day, it should get you to a calorie deficit of approximately 3,500.
Again, these numbers are not exact. There are other factors involved in how your body loses weight and it’s different for everyone. These are just figures that are accepted in the fitness industry.
Experts recommend losing 1-2 lbs (0.5-0.9 kg) a week is the healthy way of losing weight. If you’re losing more than that, you may be pushing your body to the extremes. It is best to monitor your weight loss and follow the expert’s recommendation.
How Hard Should You Run To Lose Weight?
Technically speaking, the harder you run, the more calories you burn. However, the harder you run, the sooner you get tired and the less likely you will be able to come back and run again the next day.
In most cases, running at a comfortable pace is ideal for weight loss because it allows you to train longer and more frequently. This comfortable pace is often referred to as “conversational pace” or RPE 5.
But it doesn’t mean you should maintain that pace for the rest of your life. You should gradually increase your pace as your body adapts to running.
Don’t be afraid to walk or jog if you have to. Your main goal as a beginner is to establish a habit and make sure you stay consistent on running.
As you become more efficient, you can also extend the duration or increase the frequency of your runs.
- Weight loss is simple, calorie intake should be lower than calorie expenditure
- You need to reduce 500 calories per day or 3,500 calories per week to lose 1 lb of fat
- A combination of diet and exercise is the best way to lose weight
- Running is one of the most effective exercises to lose weight