How far do you have to run to lose weight?

Taking up running to lose weight is very popular, but some people don’t seem to be able to make it work. What are they missing?

There are a few essential ingredients to making a success of losing weight by running. The first and most obvious is to make sure you do the right quantity and quality. Twenty minutes light jogging on a treadmill per week just won’ t make a lot of difference. Conversely, if you haven’t carried out any serious exercise for years, you may not be able to manage even that to start with.

The solution? Start with what you can do and build up. Walk if that’s all you can manage, but make sure you do it every day, building up to 30 minutes per day. Then start interspersing walking and jogging for your 30 minutes. Slowly but steadily increase your level of exertion. This may seem like a slow way of losing weight, but it works.


A major study looked at people who started running as a way of losing weight. They all started out being seriously overweight or obese and started at a low level. Nearly all managed to lose significant amounts of weight AND keep it of after 12 months. The tipping point appears to be around 10 miles per week running. Above this level and almost everyone lost significant amounts of weight. And the more running they did, the more they lost, regardless of any other factors.

Now you have a clear target of running to workup to, all you need to do is start. The key is persistence. Most people didn’t put on their excess pounds all in one week. Therefore they shouldn’t expect to lose it all in one week either. But starting at a level they can achieve, doing it regularly (and I mean daily, not monthly!), and building up to a target of 10 miles a week of running or more, and everyone can lose weight. Just make sure you don’t treat yourself for your exertions by scoffing cream buns!

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Why is running so good for weight loss?

Running for weight loss really is the best way to shed those extra pounds. If you want to get in shape and lose weight, running is about as good as it gets and here’s why.

Firstly, running uses more calories per hour than just about any other form of exercise – typically 800 – 1000 per hour. To lose weight you have to burn up the calories stored in your fat reserves. The more calories you burn, the more you lose. Just make sure you don’t compensate for your exercise by consuming extra calories or you’ll never lose any weight.

Many people start running with a target in mind. This is a great idea if you are trying to lose weight. Having set yourself a goal, maybe running your first marathon or entering a triathlon, keeping the goal fixed in your mind helps keep you fully motivated to keep running.


We all know it’s too easy to ‘fall off the wagon’ when you are trying to diet to lose weight. After all, dieting is just about bad news, drudge and thinking of things you want but can’t have. However, if you are working on a longer-term project like your first marathon, you are much more likely to keep it going. And persistence is the key. Remember, you didn’t gain those extra pounds in one week, so you can’t expect to lose them that quickly either!

Another great benefit of running is that you can tailor it to your personality. Some people need the support of others and enjoy the camaraderie of getting fit with friends. And having a running buddy is a great way of overcoming the urge to skip a run because you can’t be bothered.

Other people may prefer solitude – quiet reflection on the universe without interruptions from other people. People like this (er, like me in fact!) will find the idea of joining a club or gym really off-putting. If you want to be alone, going for a run can be a great way of finding your own space.

Finally, a thought about why it’s easy to lose weight some ways but not others. Think about going on a diet. It’s all about not having things that you like. It is really hard graft, but you can have the rewards of a new slimmer you if you succeed.

On the other hand, running and other aerobic exercises have some killer weapons to help you through. They are called endorphins. They are Nature’s natural feel good drugs. After exercising vigorously, your body releases endorphins into your blood stream to give you a completely legal ‘high’. So in addition to burning through a load of calories, you also get a ‘feel good all over’ reward. You feel good at the time, AND you are completely motivated to keep on going out for your runs.

Soon you can get to the stage where you go out running because you enjoy it, and forget that you were meant to be losing weight. You will still lose weight, of course, but it is now just a natural by-product of doing what you enjoy anyway! Running really is the key to successful weight loss!

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Does walking to lose weight work?

Many people want to know if walking to lose weight really works. It can be difficult to find a clear answer to the question, as there is so much conflicting information available on the subject. So I’m going to try and shed some light on the real answer…

The short answer is ‘No’. When you realise that each pound of fat is the equivalent of around 3500 calories, you can see that just walking for 30 minutes a day isn’t going to make a huge difference. In round numbers it is reckoned that walking 1 mile uses around 100 calories. So 30 minutes a day walking makes about 10 miles a week – the equivalent of less than a third of pound of fat! If that was all you could hope for, you may well think that it’s impossible to achieve any significant weight loss this way.


Fortunately, this is not the whole answer. Extensive reviews of many studies on weight loss have clearly shown that the best way to lose weight is to combine vigorous exercise with control of the diet to create a significant calorie deficit. For long-term weight loss it is believed that 1 – 2 pounds per week is a good, achievable amount to lose. More than that is not sustainable. Less than means that will take too long to make a difference, so people tend to ‘fall off the wagon’.

So that means creating a deficit of 7000 calories a week, or 1000 calories a day. And cutting 1000 calories a day from your diet is going to make you really miserable and flip your body into survival mode, where it tries to compensate for your rash actions by using fewer calories to keep itself running. This does not help! It’s also why diets simply don’t work for most people.

Strangely it seems that the number of calories burned for running a mile is more or less the same as for walking a mile. The only difference is that you can obviously run more miles in 30 minutes than you can walk. The more vigorous the exercise (i.e. the faster you run) the more calories you burn in your allotted time. Hence you make more inroads on your target. Say you can run 4 miles in 30 minutes (and many people can after a few months of training). Then you can reach nearly half of you target calorie deficit in just 30 minutes exercise a day. Then you only need to save 600 more a day by careful eating and you can reach your target. Cutting out a couple of cappuccinos a day and a Danish pastry, or avoiding sugary drinks and replacing them with water or simple tea can easily make up that difference. Then you are on the way to your goal!

So is walking a waste of time? Absolutely NOT! The fact is that most people who want to lose weight cannot and SHOULD NOT try to run straight away. If you haven’t exercised for years you MUST give your body time to adjust to the new demands that you are putting on it. So walking is the essential first step in using exercise to help lose weight. It works for two good reasons:

  1. It gets you into the habit of exercising regularly. It’s often said that if you do something everyday for 2 weeks it will become a habit. So go for a 30 minute walk every lunch break, or when you get in from work and it will soon become a habit, so you won’t have to think about it or find any willpower.
  2. When you start out, this is probably all you can manage. So start with what you CAN do, and build up. Over the weeks most people are able to walk further and faster than they could before. Then they may start walking a bit then jogging a bit. And so on. Before they know it they really can start running for 30 minutes non-stop.

This is the best way to achieve long term weight loss that will not just be regained when the diet stops. And the other health benefits from all that exercise will make you feel so good you just won’t want to stop! Walking really is the best way to start losing weight!

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Running to lose weight – tips to make sure it works!

Don’t go on a diet – running to lose weight is much better!  Some people have trouble making it work so here are a few tips to make sure that your running weight loss program really works:

  1. Don’t over compensate by eating too much.   Many people give themselves a treat after going for a run.   Nothing wrong with that.   But if you eat more calories than you burn, you will actually put weight on.   For example, many runners like to have a beer after going for a run.  A typical pint of beer contains as many calories as you would burn by running 2 miles!   If you run 4 miles in 30 minutes, half of your run went into burning the calories from your ‘treat’!
  2. Don’t try to do all of your running in one or two runs per week.   You may be pressed for time (aren’t we all?), but to really make some inroads into shedding those extra pounds you need to run regularly.   Ideally 4 or 5 times a week.   Once it becomes a habit it’s easier to get those running shoes on and get running.   Also doing more frequent but shorter runs you will still use as many calories but you are much less likely to overstrain your joints and muscles.   If you haven’t exercised for a while (and since you are reading this I’m guessing that you haven’t!), you need to take care not to try too hard, too soon.

  3. If losing weight is your main goal, try thinking about what you eat as well.   You don’t need to go on a diet – we all know they don’t work – but you can still think about moderating your worst excesses.   We all have them.   Mine are glasses of wine in the evening (120 calories each!) and a cappuccino when I’m out shopping (100 calories a go!), not to mention the cake!   Incidentally, I know a place (a famous supermarket coffee shop) where you can have a toasted teacake with over 600 calories in it – and that’s before you add any butter or spread!   You don’t need to be too harsh – just think about what you can do without which is bad for you (you know what it is!), and try not to have one every time you go out.
  4. Make sure you drink enough water.   Running can really make you dehydrated.   You only feel thirsty when you are already dehydrated (i.e. it’s already too late).  Make sure that you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration – after all there are no calories in it and it really helps your body to get rid of toxins and keep you healthy.   In an ideal world we’d all drink only water – but I’m not giving up my occasional glass of wine, even if you are!
  5. Don’t try to run before you can walk!  The biggest problem new runners face is getting a niggley injury virtually as soon as they start.   It’s not surprising really.   Maybe you haven’t exercised since you left school (that was me!).  Trying to run a mile in 4 minutes first time out of the house will probably result in a hasty visit to hospital!   It makes much more sense to start out with what you can do – walking, or maybe (but probably not) jogging for a few minutes.   And slowly build up.   I understand the frustration.   And once you’ve decided to start losing weight by running, you expect to lose 20 pounds a week and be able to run like Usain Bolt.   However, you will make much quicker progress towards your goal if you start steady, exercise regularly, and slowly build up.
  6. Lastly, and most importantly, remember it’s meant to be fun.   Don’t go out for a run or a walk thinking that you’ve got to do this horrible punishment for all the bad things that you’ve eaten.   That will make it feel like HARD LABOUR, which no one wants.   Instead go out and relax.   You’ve got some YOU time.   You can just think about the things that YOU want, without any hassle from anyone else.   Enjoy looking at the scenery.   Watch how the trees are changing as the seasons change.   See how many different bird species you can spot in your 30 minutes.   Just enjoy it.   Then you’ll be home and ready for a nice refreshing shower before you even realise that you’ve been exercising.

Running to lose weight really is a great choice.   If you start gently, build up and make sure you enjoy it, it will soon become a great new healthy way of life.

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Is jogging for weight loss better than running?

Many people wonder what the difference is between running and jogging to lose weight.   I think that the answer is…time.   Let me explain.   When people set out to lose weight by exercising, they are not able to run for any significant period of time without overexerting themselves.   In fact most people are better off starting with walking and building up rather than diving straight in at running.

It is widely reported that it is better to exercise in the so-called ‘fat burning zone’, so jogging, being lower intensity, should be better for weight loss than running.   Whilst it is true that your body cannot burn fat as quickly as other forms of stored energy, what really matters for weight loss is the total number of calories used.   Where the energy comes from in the short term is irrelevant, as the short-term energy stores will be replenished after exercising by burning fat.


Incidentally, don’t be put off jogging or running to lose weight by the anti-running BS which lazy people like to promote, which says that runners are much more likely to get injured than non-runners.   There is evidence that starting any exercise can cause injuries.   Running for the first time in years without any build up can overstress underused muscles and joints.

How can people start losing weight by exercising?   All the evidence points to following some basic rules:

  1. Seek medical advice BEFORE starting out on an exercise regime, especially if you haven’t exercised for some time.
  2. Start with what you CAN do.   Usain Bolt wasn’t able to run 100m in 9.58 seconds the first time he put on running shoes, so why should you expect to be able to run continuously for 30 minutes if you haven’t walked for more than 10 minutes in the last 5 years?   Start with walking.   Aim for 30 minutes per day.   If you can’t manage 30 minutes, start with what you can do and build up.   Then start increasing your pace.  And so on.
  3. If it hurts STOP.

In a very short period of time most people will have reached the stage of running for 30 minutes per day.   That’s when the real weight loss kicks in.   But even before then the health benefits will have started – improvements to cardiovascular health, and an improved immune system to name just two!

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Running weight loss increases with distance.

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A study of over 120,000 runners has found that running weight loss increases with the distance run per week.   It sounds pretty obvious really, but the people that run most miles in a week weighed less and had smaller waist measurements than those who ran less.   This is a clear indication of just how effective running or jogging can be for reducing weight.

The fundamental reason that running is so effective is that weight loss depends upon creating a deficit of energy, or a calorie deficit.   Simply use up more calories everyday than you consume (e.g. from eating) and you will start to use up your fat reserves – and lose weight.  Running uses more calories per hour than any other form of exercise.   This is because it is fully weight bearing  – unlike, for instance, swimming or cycling.   It is also very intense – most other exercises are intermittent, but running is full on for the whole time.


Another study of mildly overweight people in their 50s and 60s found that, as long as the participants did not change their diet, those who started running regularly lost around 10% of their body weight in a year.   So much for middle age spread being inevitable!   At the same time they increased their VO2 max – the scientific measure of physical work capacity.   Whilst not covered by this particular study, the participants also will have benefited from improvements to their cardiovascular fitness, and a strengthening of their immune systems.   Running really is the best way to lose weight, and improve your health!

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