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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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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