We are reminded every day that obesity is an epidemic. We need to watch our eating and exercise more to maintain weight. It sounds easy, right?
But it isn't. Life is hectic, temptation is everywhere, and eating is such a big part of socializing, it's almost impossible to stay on track What is the solution? You have probably heard that running is the best way to lose weight. It burns the most calories; is good for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being; and is relatively low-cost. But just how much do you have to run to actually lose weight?
If you want to lose body fat, you need to maintain a calorie deficit while increasing your exercise and strength training. However, lower body fat does not necessarily mean a lower body weight; muscle is heavier than fat, meaning you need to decide what the priority is with your weight-loss goals.
Running to lose weight
For the average person, running a comfortable pace burns around 8.5 calories per minute. Running for 30 minutes will burn around 255 calories, the average apple with peanut butter. In comparison, yoga burns around 120 calories per 30 minutes. Before you start running 10 miles a day and end up injured, consider this: It's important to build up to running slowly.
You might now think the more you run, the more calories you burn, and the faster you lose weight, but unfortunately, the more you run, the more efficient your body becomes—meaning you burn fewer calories. That's where interval running comes in.
Interval running to lose weight
For new runners, even running for 30 minutes continuously might seem impossible—and this is where the walk-run method of training comes in and will actually help you to burn calories at a higher rate. By alternating running and walking, not only are you able to extend the duration of your workout, but research has found that intervals allow you to run harder and faster on the running parts, which increases your calorie burning during and after activity.
Yes, that's right. After high-intensity intervals, your metabolism will be so revved up, it continues to torch those calories for up to 14 hours after you stop. Runners of all levels and abilities use interval workouts with walk breaks to get the most out of their workouts. As an elite runner myself, I can attest to this. Intervals a few times a week not only help to be race ready but also help toning.
One thing to keep in mind, though: As running revs up your metabolism, your hunger increases, making it very easy to eat even more calories than you just burned.
How much running is needed to lose weight?
There are around 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, meaning that if you wanted to lose 5 pounds, you would need to run 180 miles if you did not change anything else about your lifestyle! Making smart choices with your nutrition will go a long way with losing weight while running. The safest weight loss is around 1 pound per week if you weigh under 150 pounds, and 1 to 2 pounds per week if you weigh over 150 pounds. This will be a 500-calorie-per-day deficit through a combination of exercise and cutting calories.
If you reduce your deficit by much more than this, you will burn out quicker and end up unable to exercise at all, which for most of us, means eating away our frustrations. How do I know this? Let's just say whenever I get injured, my consumption of sugar far outweighs healthy, nutritious foods.
It may seem like it will take forever to reach your goal weight, but research has found that people who lose weight quickly tend to gain it back quickly as well, whereas those who lose weight slowly will make the lifestyle changes to keep the weight off for good.
Workouts for first-time runners to lose weight
We have determined that running is the most effective method of weight loss and that you should lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Just how do you use running for weight loss if you have never really run before?
One of the greatest things about this method, is that you can decide what your walk-to-run ratios are and how many times you repeat it. This will depend on your fitness level, running experience, and speed.
Here's something to try:
Start by brisk walking for 10 minutes to warm up. Once you are ready to begin the intervals, run for two minutes, followed by one minute of walking. After the one-minute walk, run for another two minutes, and then do another one-minute walk. Repeat as many times as you can, and cool down with a 10-minute easy walk to bring your heart rate back down.
Over time, you should be able to increase the time spent running or the number of intervals. Mix it up to keep workouts interesting, and allow at least one day of rest between these workouts to recover. You should be able build your endurance to include combinations of continuous runs with no walking breaks (but run slow and easy!) and these interval-style workouts. Have some fun with it, and enjoy the endorphin rush that follows a job well done. Even after 14 years of competitive running, that feeling never goes away!