When it comes to weight loss, running is a well-known and often recommended form of exercise as there are many benefits of running. Aerobic exercises have been found to assist in weight management by raising your heart and breathing rate while boosting circulation; runners tend to have stronger muscles and bones. On top of that, running can be an effective way for people with sleep disorders (like insomnia) or mental health issues (such as depression) to manage their conditions.
But how much should you be running? And what other factors influence the effectiveness of aerobic exercise in helping you lose weight? Let’s find out!
Is Running Good For Weight Loss?
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that healthy adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week (14).
Other factors influence the effectiveness of aerobic exercise to help with weight loss. The impact running has on weight loss also appears to be dictated by your exercise intensity, muscle mass, genetics, gender, age, metabolism rate, body fat percentage, and diet.
The amount of time you spend running and your heart and breathing rates play a major role in the number of calories you burn. The more intensely you run, the more calories you burn. This is why track athletes often have such low body fat percentages; their high-intensity workouts cause them to burn an incredible number of calories every day. In addition, during higher-intensity exercise, your body uses up stored carbohydrates called glycogen for fuel. If your workout lasts longer than 60 minutes, your body breaks down muscle protein for energy too (6).
Some people are naturally more prone to weight gain than others due to factors like genetics. In addition, some people have a slower resting metabolic rate; their bodies burn up fewer calories just doing normal daily activities (7).
Women have higher levels of estrogen, which makes it harder for them to lose weight. Estrogen slows down your metabolism by storing extra fat instead of burning it off quickly (7). Men tend to respond better to exercise than women do in terms of developing muscle mass and burning off excess fat. Muscle burns more calories at rest, which is why men’s metabolisms stay high even when they’re not working out hard.
As you age, so does your metabolism. A person’s basal metabolic rate is at its highest when they are a teenager. After that, as you get older it begins to slow down, which makes it easier to gain weight (7). Therefore, the more active you are as a young adult and as an adolescent, the healthier your body will be as an adult. It’s important to exercise at least every day as a child and as a teenager because this ensures that your metabolism stays high throughout adulthood.
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories you will burn if you were completely inactive for 24 hours. The higher your BMR, the easier it is for you to lose weight. This is because a high BMR means you burn calories faster and will require more exercise to meet your weight loss goals (2).
The heavier you are, the more fat and glycogen your muscles store and use for fuel when you run. If you have less muscle mass, then it can be harder to run longer or faster without feeling fatigued (2). It’s important that people who want to lose weight also build muscle through strength training exercises like push-ups and squats to maximize their calorie burn for weight loss.
Not all runners gain equal benefits from running. Overweight people often have trouble losing weight because their bodies are designed to hoard fat for survival. Their total number of fat cells is enlarged, so they have more places where their bodies can store calories. Studies show that people with larger numbers of adipocytes are predisposed to obesity and gain weight more easily than those who have fewer fat cells (1).
How Much Running Does It Take To Lose Weight?
An hour-long run can burn between 600-800 calories, depending on your body composition and the intensity of your run. If you weigh 140 pounds and jog at a moderate pace, you will burn around 600 calories. To lose one pound of fat in a week, you need to cut out 500 calories from your diet every day (or burn 500 extra calories through exercise) (4). You can also raise your metabolic rate by building muscle mass and eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
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Health Benefits Of Running
Running is a popular form of exercise for a reason. It doesn’t need much equipment, and you can do it just about anywhere or anytime it is convenient for you.
It also has several health benefits, and we will discuss each below.
Better Cardio Health
Running regularly can help improve your heart health and decrease your risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and hypertension. These benefits come from the fact that running regularly helps you to lower blood pressure, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, and decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol levels (12).
Decreased Risk Of Diabetes
Type II diabetes is often referred to as “a runner’s disease” because it is closely tied with obesity, and research has shown runners tend to have less body fat than non-runners. So, in addition to being an excellent calorie-burner, running can also help you avoid weight gain and lower your risk of diabetes (12).
Improved Energy Levels
By lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as being an excellent calorie-burner, regular running can increase your overall energy levels because it allows your cardiovascular system to function at its optimal level. This also has the added benefit of increasing endurance during physical activity (8).
Lowered Risk Of Depression
Depression is usually tied to stress, and running can help you improve your mood through the release of endorphins, which are associated with feelings of happiness (10). This is one reason why many people consider long-distance runners to be optimistic.
Reversal Of Aging Processes
Running has also been shown to increase longevity because it can slow or even reverse some aging processes in the body (13). This includes slowing down the reduction of bone density, which helps prevent osteoporosis. It can also decrease prostate issues in men by decreasing levels of male hormones linked to prostate cancer.
Improved Sleep Quality
Regular running improves sleep quality due to decreased stress levels, therefore giving you more energy during the day and helping you fall asleep faster at night (10).
Better Fitness And Appearance
Running also helps you to stay fit and lean, which contributes to both better appearance and health. Running more will help improve your muscle tone, decrease body fat, and increase bone density as mentioned above. Overall it can greatly contribute to improved fitness levels.
Aerobic exercise makes your heart beat faster, and your body perspire. This can improve the size of your hippocampi, which is involved with memory and learning. Running consistently can help improve your memory (10).
Running regularly will help your body fight off illness by increasing its resistance to bacteria and viruses. Regular running also lowers the risk of other inflammatory diseases like arthritis, which is an immune system malfunction (10).
Improved Sex Life
Since running increases blood flow throughout the body, it can increase libido, vaginal lubrication, erectile function, and overall sexual performance in both men and women (3).
Decreased Symptoms Of Menopause
One way that running helps with menopause symptoms is through increased estrogen production due to fat-burning during exercise. It has also been shown to decrease hot flashes for many people who run regularly because it can regulate hormone levels better than medications alone (9).
How To Begin Running For Weight Loss?
Running is a simple, easily accessible aerobic exercise that has far-reaching benefits.
To get started, follow these tips:
Check Your Diet
Before starting a running program, you need to ensure that your diet is healthy and low in calories. This not only includes reducing your overall calorie intake for weight loss but also ensuring that the foods you do eat are nutrient-dense and high in vitamins and minerals.
Use The Right Gear
Start by investing in a good pair of running shoes that fit your weight and physical structure. You should also wear breathable athletic clothing when you run to reduce chafing or skin irritation, along with a water bottle for hydration.
Gradually Increase Intensity and Time
It’s important to ease yourself into a fitness routine gradually to avoid injuries from over-exertion. Start by walking daily if necessary before adding jogging to your workout plan when comfortable enough.
You don’t have to start by running as far as possible; instead, start with short distances and increase the amount of time you spend running each session. Gradually increase the intensity until your body begins to adapt to this form of exercise.
Use Correct Form
It’s essential to pay attention to your running form to avoid injuries (11). This means using the right stride length for your size, keeping your elbows at a 90-degree angle with your shoulders, and pushing off with the balls of your feet.
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Listen To Your Body
The number one mistake runners make is pushing themselves too hard. If you start feeling pain or soreness anywhere after starting this exercise routine, it means you are doing too much too soon. Reduce frequency or intensity until you can recover properly.
Use Intervals To Increase Intensity
Interval training is a great way to burn more calories and increase your speed, but should only be performed after you’ve been running for an extended period. Intervals require short bursts of intense exercise followed by longer recovery time, which keeps your heart rate elevated throughout the session.
Increase Recovery Time
Recovery time is important after any kind of exercise because it allows muscles to repair themselves and prevents injury (5). As your fitness levels improve over several months, you can begin running more frequently with less recovery time in between workouts. Within six months of consistent training, you should notice improvements in overall weight loss goals, as well as improved health and happiness.
The Bottom Line
Running is a simple, effective way of boosting your heart rate and burning calories. Combined with a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, it can help you achieve your weight loss goals over time by improving your cardiovascular health and fitness levels.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Adipose Tissue Dysfunction as Determinant of Obesity-Associated Metabolic Complications (2019, nih.gov)
- Adult Weight Loss Diet (2014, wiley.com)
- An investigation of the relationship between physical fitness, self-concept, and sexual functioning (2018, nih.gov)
- Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Editorial: Post-Exercise Recovery: Fundamental and Interventional Physiology (2016, nih.gov)
- Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (2006, nih.gov)
- Factors Affecting Weight & Health (2018, nih.gov)
- Greater Weight Loss from Running than Walking during 6.2-yr Prospective Follow-up (2014, nih.gov)
- High Physical Activity Level May Reduce Menopausal Symptoms (2019, nih.gov)
- How Does Running Improve Your Health (2021, webmd.com)
- Injuries in Runners; A Systematic Review on Risk Factors and Sex Differences (2015, nih.gov)
- Leisure-Time Running Reduces All-Cause and Cardiovascular Mortality Risk (2015, nih.gov)
- Training for a First-Time Marathon Reverses Age-Related Aortic Stiffening (2020, sciencedirect.com)
- Why Walk? Why Not! (2020, cdc.gov)