Is Running Good For Weight Loss?

Photo of author
Last Updated On

Running is one of the most popular ways to move more. Find out whether this activity is also good for weight loss and how it compares to other options.

To lose weight, you need to make it so your body uses up more energy than is coming in from food.

You can say that running is good for weight loss in the sense that it helps this process by increasing your energy consumption.

Compared to alternatives, running is actually very good for burning calories (energy).

On the flip side, you do need to keep in mind that your habits in other areas like nutrition still need to be good enough. Only running is not always enough to see weight loss results.

Additionally, running can be hard on your body. Especially if you are new to exercise and have a few extra pounds to lose.

This article will also go over things like exactly how running compares to other activities, what results are possible with running, a few tips, and more.

Can you lose weight by running only?

You likely already realize that running can benefit weight loss because of the intense workout you get. However, whether running alone is enough to see the results you desire is less straightforward.

The first principle to note is that the heavier you are, the more calories you burn.

Next, gaining weight is the result of absorbing more energy than is going out.

The combination of these things means that a suboptimal lifestyle can make you gain weight up to a point where you hit a point where this is an energy balance again.

If you are in a situation like that, start running, and don’t change anything else, only running should be enough to lose at least some weight.

However, as the things above imply, sooner or later you will hit a point where your new running routine stops being enough to lose weight.

Even if you are willing to make your running workouts more intense, in combination with certain diets and lifestyles is not always possible to lose weight by running alone.

In short, many people will be able to lose weight by running only, at least initially. At the same time, you may also need to make changes in other lifestyle areas like nutrition to see results.

Woman jogging in the park

Calories burned running vs other exercises

Running can help you lose weight but this is not the only relevant detail. You only have a certain amount of time to exercise more so how effective alternatives are will influence your choice too.

To compare these exercises for weight loss you can look at how many calories (energy) they burn.

The estimations about this are not perfect but do give you an idea of how effective running is compared to other options.

A 155-pound (70 kg) person can burn more or less the following amounts of calories when doing the exercises for 30 minutes (1):

  • Running 5 mph: 288 calories
  • Running 6 mph: 360 calories
  • Running 10 mph: 562 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 144 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 144 calories
  • Dancing (Fast, ballet, twist): 216 calories
  • Stair Step Machine (general): 216 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 324 calories
  • Swimming (general): 216 calories
  • Bicycling 16-19 mph: 432 calories

Something that stands out is that how many calories running burns depends a lot on how fast you actually go. There is a big difference between a light jog and a sprint.

Besides that, it should become clear that running can be very effective for burning calories and in turn, weight loss.

Can you lose belly fat by running?

There is a common belief that you have to do certain workouts or eat certain foods to lose fat from certain areas like your belly.

Unfortunately, it is generally not possible to choose where you burn fat in significant amounts. This not only applies to running but other exercises too.

That being said, you can still lose belly fat by losing weight overall. As you continue in your weight loss journey, your body will start using more and more of the fat from areas like your stomach.

In simpler words, you can lose belly fat by running but your habits in other lifestyle areas still need to be good enough and even then, you will not necessarily target this area specifically.

How long this takes can vary a lot and will depend on details like your genes and how far you are in your weight loss journey.

man enjoying running

How much should you run a day to lose weight?

The amounts of calories burned while running sound nice but you are likely more interested in how much weight you can actually lose with these workouts.

By now, it should be clear that how much you should run a day to lose weight depends a lot on your other lifestyle habits.

Some people can lose weight without running at all. Others can run an hour a day without seeing any weight loss results.

That being said, assume there is a 155-pound (70 kg) person who has a routine that keeps them at the same weight. The only change they make is running more often.

In that case, this 155-pound (70 kg) can burn an extra 2016 calories or about 0.58 pounds (0.25 kg) of body fat by running 30 minutes a day at 5 mph for a week.

If this person implements the same routine for four weeks, they can burn an extra 8064 calories or about 2.3 pounds (1.01 kg) of body fat.

As mentioned, by losing weight, these amounts of calorie burning will also go down. You likely have to adjust your running routine to keep seeing results over time.

Important tips when running for weight loss

Running can be a great workout for weight loss and change your body in positive ways.

That being said, you still want to keep a few tips in mind to make sure you’re using running as a weight loss tool in the right way.

Running might not be right for you

Running consistently can be a good way to burn a lot of calories over time. Even so, for this to happen, you need to be able to keep doing it.

More specifically, running can be challenging for body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. Up to the point where many people can get injured in these areas.

If you’re not used to exercising or moving a lot you may first need to strengthen your body with lighter alternatives to running like walking, cycling, and using a rowing machine.

Make your running workout more fun

Running can be effective for weight loss but not everyone enjoys it as much.

If this is the case, you likely want to find ways to make it more enjoyable. This can help you stay consistent with the running routine you plan to do.

The first way you can do this is by changing up your workouts.

You can change the distance you run, the intensity, the location, etc. All these variations can make your weight loss exercise more interesting.

Another example is getting yourself a running buddy. This allows you to catch up with a friend or have some quality time with a family member.

This also offers the added benefit of some accountability.

Next, you can get a good pair of headphones and listen to your favorite podcast or music.

Lastly, you can sign up for an upcoming race. Wanting to perform well can motivate you to stick to your workout schedule.

Can you lose belly fat by running

Is running a good exercise for losing weight?

When it comes to cardiovascular workouts, running is one of the best choices for losing in terms of how many calories it allows you to burn.

Additionally, it is often easy to implement because many people can just walk out of the door and get started.

At the same time, you do need to keep in mind that running can be rough on your body. Especially if you are new to exercising and have a few extra pounds to lose.

In situations like that, it can be smarter to start with low-impact workouts instead.

Besides that, not everyone enjoys running. Keep in mind that enjoying your workouts can help a lot with staying consistent with your exercise routine.

Lastly, keep in mind that it is hard to out-exercise bad habits in lifestyle areas like your diet.

To make sure all of the calorie burning from running comes from body fat, you have to meet other conditions too.

Photo of author


Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.