What does 30 minutes of running do to your body?

What does 30 minutes of running do? Image shows group of women running
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We all know that running can have enormous health benefits, but have you ever wondered what 30 minutes of running does to your body? A fantastic way to keep fit, not only does running help improve your cardiovascular health, burn calories and boost your circulation, but it can also improve your mental health. 

Whether you prefer to jog outside or you like to track your running progress via a treadmill (if so, see our guide to the best treadmills for home use (opens in new tab)), lacing up your running shoes every day has a plethora of health benefits, including improved blood pressure and better digestion. 

If you want to discover what running 30 minutes every day can do for your health, then read on to find out how many calories it can burn and the various health benefits that come with it, from strengthening your bones to boosting your mental health. 

Burn calories

Exercising is great for our health, and the good news is that pounding the pavements can provide you with a full-body workout. Running can also make you seriously sweat, and even if you stick to a slow pace, you’ll still torch calories. 

How many calories you burn will depend on a few different factors, including your height and weight, but you can burn roughly anything from 220 to 400 calories running for just 30 minutes. 

The best fitness trackers (opens in new tab) and smartwatches can be useful tools for monitoring how many calories you burn during your run (although their accuracy is hit and miss, so use them as a rough guide for things like calorie estimation.)

Woman checking her smartwatch after a run

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Strengthen bones

Regular runners will know that a vigorous jog can feel just as hard on your legs as a strength training session at the gym, but does that mean that the 30 minutes of running has muscle-building benefits?

“Continuous running for 30 minutes every day provides a fairly low stimulus for the neuromuscular system compared to other types of activity such as resistance training, so gains in strength are small at very best,” says Richard Blagrove, lecturer in physiology at Loughborough University. “For example, in our training study with adolescent runners (opens in new tab) who were running less than 30 minutes every day, there was no change in maximal or explosive strength in a group who just ran for 10 weeks.”

Richard Blagrove
Richard Blagrove, PhD

Richard Blagrove is a Lecturer in Physiology at Loughborough University. Richard's extensive coaching and consultancy work with distance runners provided the inspiration for his doctoral research at Northumbria University, which investigated the utility of strength-based exercise in middle- and long-distance runners. 

However, that’s not to say that your daily run will result in zero gains, especially if you’re just starting out.

“These runners had a training background. In individuals who have never run before and who start running most days there will be some (small) improvements in strength in the first few weeks,” adds Blagrove.

Improve cardiovascular health

It’s no secret that running is a sure-fire way to improve your cardiovascular health, but a study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (opens in new tab) revealed that running, even from as little as 5-10 minutes per day, at slow speeds, such as 6mph, is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease.

Not only that, but running is also a drug-free approach to lowering blood pressure. A study from the Journal Hypertension (opens in new tab) showed that 30 minutes of moderate exercise during the day can help to reduce blood pressure in older overweight adults. 

Man running in the park

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Better mental health

There are plenty of studies that show that going for a jog can do wonders for your mental health, but the most recent study from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (opens in new tab) shows that even a 10-minute run can result in improved mood.

“It summarizes trials of acute and regular running interventions and suggests that‌ a single episode of running between 10 and 60 minutes elevates mood and eases anxiety in sedentary volunteers and existing runners,” says Clare Stevinson, a senior lecturer in behavioral aspects of physical activity and health at Loughborough University. “Regular running interventions have often led to improvements in mental health outcomes in healthy adults and those with mental illness.”

Claire Stevinson
Clare Stevinson, PhD

Clare Stevinson is a senior lecturer in behavioural aspects of physical activity and health at Loughborough University. Clare has a BSc (Hons) in Psychology (University of Leicester) and an MSc in Exercise and Sport Psychology (University of Exeter).  

Helps with weight loss

Many people struggle with maintaining their weight, but, along with a healthy diet, moderate aerobic exercises, such as running, can be a really effective way of maintaining and losing weight (if that’s what you’re looking to do). 

A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen (opens in new tab) showed that 30 minutes of daily training resulted in the same amount of weight and body mass loss as training for 60 minutes daily. In the study, the men who exercised 30 minutes a day lost 3.6kg in three months, while those who exercised for an entire hour only lost 2.7kg.

Plus size woman smiling while running in the park

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Better sleep

Some runners report sleeping better when they incorporate a run into their day. Studies to back up the link between better rest and your daily jog. In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (opens in new tab) revealed that 75 minutes of running (or 150 minutes of walking) every week eliminates the consequences that poor sleep can have on your mortality. 

Researchers believe that this is because moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave, or deep sleep, that people experience. This is an essential process that helps the body and mind to rejuvenate, explains the John Hopkins Center For Sleep (opens in new tab), which would account for the range of health benefits. However, avoid running too close to your bedtime, as those feel-good endorphins that make you feel alert will impact your ability to wind down nearer bedtime.

Stacey Carter is a Freelance Health Writer who has written print features and digital content for titles such as Woman & Home, Natural Health, Women’s Health, Get The Gloss, and Stylist. You'll find her covering a wide variety of health-based topics, talking to leading figures in the fitness industry, and investigating the latest trends in wellness. When she’s not at her laptop, weekend hikes, testing out new recipes in the kitchen and LISS-style workouts are her favourite ways to switch off.