We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it.

How Much Should You Run to Lose Weight? (Duration, Safety & Diet Tips)

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 9 August 2022

Knowing how much to run to lose weight isn’t always black and white due to individual differences, but we can provide an estimate as to how much you should strive for at first. Figuring out how to lose weight running can be simple, affordable, and rewarding if you start off on the right foot. And by the right foot, we mean starting out on any foot and you don’t necessarily have to make extreme adjustments to your diet either.

Remember, you can always improve your diet along the way and work your way up in duration, frequency or intensity.  

No matter how little you run or how much you eat, any movement is beneficial, and running is something that can be done anywhere with just a little determination and a pair of shoes. Simply lace them up, walk out the door, and start running!  

But how long do you run for at first?

How Much Should You Run To Lose Weight?

A brisk jog once a week is a great pace to begin and you can always increase this to 3-5x per week as you feel able. Of course, you don’t want to run 5 miles five days a week at first because you’ll be utterly miserable, sore, and this will deter you from making it a habit. Once you get started though, you can begin striving for what WHO (World Health Organization) recommends and even exceed that in time. 

For general health, the WHO recommends a total of 150 minutes of exercise per week, or approximately 30 minutes a day if you allow for two rest days. Other studies encourage up to 185 minutes per week. Both of these amounts are a great place to start and provide an achievable goal to work towards. You can always increase the duration once your body is comfortable pounding the pavement. You can also change the frequency to twice a day if you prefer two smaller runs or one run every weekday becomes too easy. 

The body burns approximately 100 calories per mile of running, and if you do not change your eating habits at all. That would mean jogging 35 miles every week to reach the deficit of 3,500 calories (to lose 1lb a week). That’s a daunting number, but the calculations become much more friendly when you factor in a change of eating habits. 

Let’s say you need 2000 calories a day to maintain your weight, and you decide to jog 5 miles a week. By jogging 5 miles a week, that’s 500 calories burned and means you only need to cut out 3000 more calories throughout the week, or about 430 calories a day. 

So if you eat 1570 calories a day and jog a mile 5x a week, you’re nearly guaranteed to lose a pound a week in this scenario. 

Once you understand how to lose weight running and how much you should run based off of your specific needs, making adjustments to the way will allow you to lose weight quicker than you can imagine. 

Of course, using running in conjunction is a sure-fire way to cross the weight loss “finish line”, but be sure you’re taking the appropriate safety measures to avoid injury. 

8 Tips To Start Running Safely

If you’ve never ran as a form of exercise, or it’s been years since you’ve taken a jog, it’s best to start small and gradually increase the intensity and distance. Here’s a few basics on how to lose weight running, in a safe manner:

  1. Take the time to warm up and cool down properly. These two elements only need to take up a few minutes of your exercise time, but they are vital for reducing injuries so that you can stay consistent with your training. The warm up should consist of walking and dynamic stretching that lasts about five minutes. For the cool down, walk for a few minutes until your heart gets close to its resting rate and some light static stretching.
  2. Focus on time versus mileage. When you first start out, hitting a mile or more in distance can be challenging or can result in disappointment if your body isn’t quite able to go that far yet. Begin with 5 or 10 minutes of constant movement and slowly increase from there. You can even add walking intervals, such as 5 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of running. It’s still keeping your heart rate elevated but without over-exerting yourself.
  3. Add intervals and hills. Once you’re comfortable jogging over a fair distance, it’s time to up the intensity. Replace the walking or running intervals above with jogging or sprinting intervals. You can also increase the intensity at the same pace if you have hills near you. This is called HIIT (or High Intensity Interval Training), or when you vary the intensity in intervals. Studies have shown that sprinting burns more calories per minute, so it can have a fast-track effect on your fat loss goals.
  4. Recovery days. Even when that runner’s high starts to hit and it’s become a habit or craving to exercise every day, your body needs time to recover. All exercise causes micro-tears in the muscles that can only be repaired through rest and sufficient nutrients. Think about beginning with 3-4 days of running and make your way up to 5-6 days. It still allows for recovery while not going overkill on your body’s newfound habits.
  5. Hydrate! Your body will need additional help replenishing the exhausted muscles, and water is absolutely essential to this recovery. You’ll notice an increase in thirst, and drinking a quick glass of water pre and post run is ideal. 
  6. Run on grass. Running on pavement isn’t the end of the world, but since running is a high impact sport it can take a toll on your joints in the long run. So run on the pavement if you have nowhere else to go, but try running on grass, a track or dirt if possible. 
  7. Know your limits. Understanding how much you should run for weight loss will be a learning curve, but within a few weeks you should have an idea of what you’re capable of. To progress, it’s important to push, but knowing your limits and abilities can help mitigate injuries.
  8. Wear reflective gear. Whether you’re running at night, the morning, or even in the middle of the day, wear bright clothes to make others aware you’re there. Most running shoes are bright because of this, but getting a reflective vest is a great idea as well.

The tips above are all crucial if you’re just beginning to run, but dieting may or may not be a crucial factor when it comes to losing weight on running protocol. Believe it or not, there’s actually a debate weather or not one should diet in combination with running to yield results.

Do You Need to Diet to Lose Weight Running?

Technically, it may be possible to out-run poor eating habits and keep the same diet; some people suggest to begin running first and worry about food later.

Yet, many newcomers overestimate the calories burned while running or exercising and allow themselves to eat more than usual afterward. And if you stop running for any amount of time, it’s likely you’ll quickly gain those pounds back. 

Not to mention, if you’re striving to lose weight and want to keep it off, it’s best to tackle it from two angles – exercise and dieting. Before you run away, when we say diet we simply mean eating better and avoiding junk food when possible. 

Indulgences are absolutely okay, but they should be just that: an occasional enjoyment. Even if you deserve it, everything is better in moderation, and the longer you go without a treat the tastier it’ll be when you finally take that bite!

Avoiding cookies is a great start, but consuming a diet full of nutrient-dense and low-calorie foods is an optimal choice when beginning your running journey. 

This can mean cutting back on the packaged meals, learning to eat intuitively, counting calories, or just finding healthy foods you enjoy. And if you’re wondering which fitness app is best between Lose It vs MyFitnessPal, we have you covered and prove an even better alternative. 

Adding Up Calories or Eating Better

We’ve established that to get the best results, it’s best to pair running with healthy food choices, but do you need to go gung-ho about counting every single calorie and macronutrient? The truth is, it depends on the individual. 

Some people thrive on structure and want to know exactly what they’re consuming, while others may benefit from a more intuitive approach or consciously eliminating junk foods. 

Even if you decide that calorie counting isn’t for you, it’s important to understand that the only true way to lose weight is through a calorie deficit (burning more calories than consumed), and this can be obtained in a few different ways. 

Counting Calories

Counting calories can give you empirical insight on how much you’re consuming, how much you need to adjust by, what drives results, and will give you great results when paired with exercise.

To lose one pound of body fat, the body needs to burn a total of 3500 calories more than your maintenance calories. Suppose you’re gauging this over a one week period. In that case, you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories daily to lose a single pound or multiply exponentially depending on your goals. 

So if you’re counting calories, simply count the amount of calories typically consumed each day for seven days. Then add all the calories between the seven days and divide it by 7 to get the daily average over the course of that week.

Next, subtract 500 from the daily average to figure out approximately how much you need to eat each day to lose 1 lb a week. Again, if this is too involved, there’s surely simpler ways that can also provide serious results.

Eating Intuitively or Eliminating Foods

If you aren’t counting calories, we suggest weighing yourself regularly and making small adjustments to figure out what eating and exercising habits will put you into a deficit without having to actually count them. 

For instance, if you’ve been running 2x per week and cut out cookies alone, which results in losing 2 lbs. in the first week, then you’re on the right track. 

However, if you took the same approach of eliminating cookies but haven’t lost any weight in a week, you may need to cut out other foods, add in more protein, or substitute a semi-healthy meal for a nutrient-dense meal. 

So if you eat a Cliff bar every morning, try substituting that with low sugar oatmeal for a week instead and see if you make any progress the next week. These small weigh-ins and adjustments are crucial whether you count calories, take an intuitive approach, or experiment with fasting. 

Fasting

No matter if you count your calories religiously or simply experiment with an elimination or intuitive type of diet, many have seen great results when running on an empty stomach or with fasted runs. 

The idea is to make your body call on it’s glycogen stores rather than fuel that was just consumed. Be aware, though, that these runs don’t have to be long-distance or racing bouts. Try to start small with even a 5-10 minute run. Then gradually work your way up to 30-75 minutes for a moderate cardio workout. 

Of course, you can always forego fasted running if it makes you dizzy, doesn’t work for your schedule., or you’re achieving your goals without it. 

Goal Setting for Weight Loss

Goals should be incremental and achievable to keep you going. Nearly anyone can learn how to lose weight running if they’re able bodied and start small. If you’re starting at a higher body fat percentage, the plus side is that you are likely going to burn more calories per mile due to the extra resistance weight creates. 

As your body begins to adapt to running, though, this will level out and you’ll no longer need to expend as much energy to continue jogging forward. 

Adding in sprint intervals can be a game-changer when you feel that you’re plateauing or running several miles takes too much time out of your day. Studies show that increasing intensity through speed and intervals can increase caloric expenditure up to 28.5% more than just moderately-paced jogging. Alternatively, you can use running as a form of HIIT if light pace jogging isn’t your forte. 

Everybody’s metabolism (the amount of energy required to continue to exist at rest) is different based on various factors, such as age, muscle-to-fat ratio, gender, and amount of physical activity. 

As your body adapts to the exertion of running, the amount of lean muscle acquired will raise your metabolism (muscle requires more energy to maintain). As this happens, you’ll notice less and less weight loss benefits, but regardless, running can help you maintain weight and improve cardiovascular health, too. If you plateau, you can always increase the amount you run, begin weight lifting, interval training, or adjust your calories to get back on track. 

Be sure to evaluate your body’s needs every so often and set yourself up for lasting success. 

Equip Yourself for Success

The most obvious and most important piece of equipment you’ll need for running is your shoes. There’s plenty of brands out there claiming to be the best running shoe, but the one you choose should be the best for you

Do a little bit of research on the shape of your fit and hit the web for recommendations. REI has countless running shoes listed on their website for the more serious road racer, but as long as it fits and feels right after a few jogging steps, there’s no need to spend hundreds on shoes right away. 

There are also stores that will give you a free evaluation and on-site experts that can help pick the right shoe for you.

Here’s a few things to consider when picking out a shoe:

  • Where will you be running? There’s shoes for hitting the road, trail running or even cross-training.
  • Make sure the shoe fits. This seems obvious, but the fit of the shoe can vary even if it’s the same size as your everyday wear. Take a couple bouncing steps and walk around a little to make sure you aren’t sliding around to avoid blisters. Some shoes also offer wide or narrow toes.
  • Understand your gait. Check out the soles in your other shoes to see what part of your foot strikes the most. This will indicate what type of support you’ll need while running.
  • Cushion preference. Decide if you want to feel like you’re running on a cloud or you want to feel the ground beneath you. Cushion and heel-to-toe-drop have a role to play in this.

Aside from this, you may need to consider certain clothing or a GPS tracking watch if you live in an area with extreme weather such as snow or excess heat in desert areas. Plan accordingly for intense runs like this with equipment that will help moderate body temperature and ensure you don’t get lost. 

Running and Weight Loss Can Be Friends

Aerobic exercise is a great facilitator to weight loss, and multiple studies show that people who choose to work out in addition to a healthier diet have a better chance of keeping the weight off in the long run. 

It’s all about creating good habits and improving upon the body for the sake of future health, not always pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion every time.

Running adds benefits to your weight loss journey, such as:

  • Increased Metabolism. Training age (how long you’ve been exercising), as well as the lean muscle to fat ratio, boost the metabolism. Lean muscle requires more energy simply to exist on the body than fat does, allowing you to live at a higher caloric intake for maintenance.
  • Physical exertion thrives with a better diet. You’ll notice as you become more and more active that your body begins to crave whole foods and proteins to better fuel the exercise. They both rely on each other to make improvements.
  • The calories expended during running can help with weight loss without having to significantly reduce calorie intake. You’re burning fat as you move, so there’s no reason to drastically decrease the amount of food you eat in order to lose weight. Even with switching to lower calorie items such as whole foods (not packaged/processed), you’ll still be able to satiate your hunger and the diet won’t need to be as severe for your goals.

No matter what road you choose to take or how much you run – whether you like long-distance runs or short sprints – if you count calories or you eat intuitively – learning how to lose weight running can be very effective. 

It burns calories while increasing endurance, strength, and even your self-esteem. A combination of consistent running, strength training and calorie deficit will help you achieve your weight loss goals. 

The continuation of this heart-healthy habit will help to keep those pounds off long after you’ve gained the body that you want.

References

[1] Runner’s World. (2021, November 3). Running for weight loss? here’s 6 ways to do it properly. Runner’s World. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/health/weight-loss/a776244/running-weight-loss-tips/ 

[2] PT;, W. (2013). Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-up. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23190592/ 

[3] Daniela Rodea, et al. “Why You Might Not Lose Weight While Running.” Runners Connect, 18 Sept. 2021, https://runnersconnect.net/not-losing-weight-running/. 

[4] ​​Johansson, D. (2014, October 15). Does The Method of Weight Loss Effect Long-Term Changes in Weight, Body Composition, or Chronic Disease Risk Factors in Overweight or Obese Adults? A Systematic Review. NCBI. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4198137/

[5] Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT). (2019, May). Pubmed.Gov. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30765340/

[6] Schoenfield, B. (2021, June 30). How hard should you train? A meta-analysis of studies comparing body composition changes between interval training and moderate intensity continuous training. Sport RXiV. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjk4IXMouT0AhXCmGoFHXKMA7EQFnoECB0QAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fosf.io%2Fpreprints%2Fsportrxiv%2Fzye8h%2Fdownload&usg=AOvVaw1ljoYoKsxah2-jOkcrJtev

[7] Metabolism – Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Better Health Channel. Retrieved December 14, 2021, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/metabolism

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.