Is running good for weight loss?

Is running good for weight loss? Image of woman running
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve been asking yourself "Is running good for weight loss?" you’re not alone. Whether you're pounding the pavement or racking up the miles on one of the best treadmills, running is a fantastic and accessible way to get fit; it's easy to get into and doesn't necessarily require major financial investments . What's more, heading out for a run has only increased in popularity during the pandemic, according to a recent World Athletics study

Why take up running? There are plenty of reasons and, according to a 2021 study by World Athletics, the benefits typically ranged from the opportunity to go outside, plus the affordability and adaptability of running, to using it to help destress and focus during the day. One of the most common reasons, however, is for physical health and weight loss. Exercise has mental health benefits as well as the physical benefits. Plus, running can provide a way to take care of your health and lose some pounds at the same time.  

Running and weight loss

Exercise of all kinds can be good for weight loss, and aerobic exercises - like running - have been found to assist in weight management by raising your heart and breathing rate while boosting circulation. Using one of the best running watches is a great way to keep track of this, showing how running at different intensities can impact your cardiovascular system. Getting our bodies moving and using more energy than we consume in calories each day is a great start in terms of a weight loss journey. Exercise can help you achieve a caloric deficit through your fitness and diet choices.

A 2014 study from the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Disease examining the role of exercise and physical activity on weight loss found that "Overall, aerobic ET programs consistent with public health recommendations may promote up to modest weight loss (~2 kg), however the weight loss on an individual level is highly heterogeneous...Patients wishing to lose weight should participate in physical activity and caloric restriction to improve the chances of weight loss." 

This means that you could achieve modest weight loss with regular aerobic exercises, such as running sessions, but the exact changes will depend on your body and how many calories you consume.

Is running good for weight loss? Image of woman running up subway stairs

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How much should you run to lose weight?

According to the World Health Organization, adults should aim for between 150 and 300 minutes of exercise per week. This means that even running for 30 minutes five times a week could help you see results in your weight management. However, how you run, along with other factors, could contribute to how many calories you actually burn. If you're having difficulty finding time to run, you could consider one of these treadmill deals to run at home. We have a feature on treadmills vs running outside, so you can see what the differences are.

The American Council on Exercise suggests that the number of calories burned when running and jogging is different due to both your speed and weight. For example, they estimate that a 120-pound (54 kilogram) person could burn 9.3 calories a minute jogging and 11.4 calories a minute running; this means that they would burn 279 calories jogging and 342 calories during 30 minutes of running. In contrast, a 180-pound (82 kg)  person could burn 417 calories jogging for 30 minutes and 510 calories running. It takes more energy to move more mass, naturally increasing the number of calories burned for the 180-pound person.

How you run could also affect how much weight you lose over time. Trying different running styles or techniques could help you maximize your training and challenge your body to improve. Just as jogging and running are different types of running, high-intensity interval training can be a more efficient form of aerobic exercise for those with limited time for working out. For more on that, see the effects of high-intensity interval training.

Is running good for weight loss? Image of woman running

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can just running help you lose weight?

While running regularly is a great start, using only running to achieve a calorie deficit will put unnecessary stress on your body and increase your chance of injury. 

"Weight management is mainly about energy balance, so to lose weight we need to eat fewer calories than we expend through our resting metabolism and physical activity,"  Dr. Javier Gonzalez of Bath University in the U.K., said in a statement. In other words, our caloric intake needs to be lowered to lose weight. 

Experts also suggest that tracking your diet and exercise, eating mindfully, cutting back on sugar and refined carbohydrates, balancing your gut bacteria, and sleeping well can also contribute to weight loss. The NHS in the UK supports this and suggests that those looking to make healthy changes in their lives can start by making small changes. The NHS suggests avoiding sugary drinks and snacks, swapping to healthy food choices, and trying to fit one extra walk into your day. 

Making changes to your lifestyle can seem overwhelming. Some people find it easier to make one or two small changes, such as the ones described by the NHS above, and to slowly incorporate other changes until they seamlessly fit into their life. Some find things like fitness trackers help too - we have a breakdown of today's best fitness tracker deals for anyone looking to get stats from their runs.

Is running good for weight loss? Image of legs running up stairs

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What are the other benefits of running?

There are a range of perks associated with running regularly, according to research from Better Health. While you may take up running to achieve one goal, like weight loss, you can find plenty more advantages than just losing weight. Running regularly can have the following benefits: 

  • Helps to build strong bones
  • Strengthens muscles over time
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • Burns calories and fat for weight loss 
  • Can help maintain a healthy weight
  • Can lower cholesterol levels
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Improves mental health by reducing anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Improves sleep patterns and quality
  • Adds social time if part of a pair or group
  • Has a small learning curve for novices
  • Is an accessible activity for a range of physical abilities and types
  • Is affordable

So, is running good for weight loss? Whether you are a novice or an old hand, running is an excellent way to aid in weight loss and improve your overall health. Eating well and keeping a regular running routine can be key parts of your weight management, no matter your experience or age. Whether you prefer to use a treadmill or explore your local neighborhood, it is possible to lose weight while running as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Chloe Page

Chloe Page is a UK-based freelance writer and editor with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of Winchester. Over the span of her seven-year freelancing career, Chloe has covered various niches, including health, fitness, plumbing, entertainment, and music. Her work includes interactive fiction, blog posts, and web copy. When she’s not writing, Chloe enjoys streaming, cycling, and trying new recipes.