If you’re considering running to lose weight, you’re in the right place. Running is rightfully called the king of cardio, exercising all major muscle groups simultaneously. And did you know your body continues to burn calories even after the run is finished?

Weight loss aside, running can offer multiple other health benefits. It improves the function of the cardiovascular system, prevents heart disease, can help increase energy levels, and improves mental health. 

Want to find out how to start losing weight by running and experience these benefits? Let’s dive in!  

In This Article

Does Running Help Weight Loss?

Does running help you lose weight? Definitely yes. Research shows that those with the best success when losing weight are performing moderate exercise for 250–300 minutes per week, and running is a perfect type of exercise to fit that.

However, you can’t outrun a bad diet. A balanced, healthy diet is still the most important factor when trying to manage body weight and maintain good health. So, combining a proper diet with running will lead to lasting results and tons of health benefits.

If you’re someone who doesn’t want to spend hours in the gym, running can be the perfect addition to your daily routine. A morning run can be energizing before you start work and a good way to clear your head in the evening. 

While you don’t have to start with high-intensity workouts or long runs, learning how to begin running for weight loss is important, especially if you’re overweight.

How Much Should You Run to Lose Weight? 

How much do you have to run to lose weight? The answer is not straightforward and will depend on your body composition, weight, sex, age, and the intensity of your exercise program. 

Generally, higher weight correlates with increased calorie burn during exercise. For example, a 125-pound person will burn 240 calories, while a 185-pound person will burn 336 calories while running at 5mph for 30 minutes. You can use an online chart measuring calories burned during different activities for reference.  

If you want to lose weight by running, calculate your caloric deficit – or a state your body enters by burning more calories than consumed. 

Track your daily calorie intake and subtract daily calorie burn, including running sessions. Aim for a 500-calorie deficit daily for healthy weight loss. This should put you on track to shedding roughly 1 pound per week.

How to Start Running to Lose Weight

You may be a completely new runner, not used to regular physical activity, or returning to running after some weight gain. 

Either way, there are several important things to consider before you hit the pavement.

overweight woman running to lose weight

#1 Start with walking or walk/runs

A run-walk involves planned or unplanned periods of running and walking to reduce exhaustion and increase training volume while you work to improve your physical fitness.

Try Joggo for FREE

We combined exercise and meal planning for the most effective way to LOSE WEIGHT.

You can start with a running workout of as little as 2 minutes of running, alternating with 4 minutes of walking. Gradually increase running intervals and decrease walking breaks as your fitness level improves. 

If runs are too taxing on your body at first, you can start by walking. Make sure you choose the right shoes, start at an easy pace, and simply walk longer distances in the beginning.

#2 Run every other day

Should you run every day? After all, burning calories to get rid of excess fat is the goal, right? 

Not really. Following a safe running plan to lose weight means training every other day, which is enough to build your aerobic endurance and allow your body to recuperate between sessions. 

Running every day will increase your risk of injury and can lower your physical fitness due to less recovery time. 

On the days you don’t run, you can utilize strength training, yoga, or other forms of exercise to burn more calories and strengthen your body if you’d like. 

#3 Increase distance gradually

You may be wondering how long it takes to get in shape by running and start with long, high-intensity running sessions to burn as much fat as possible. 

But if you want to lose weight and maintain your motivation, slow and steady runs will win the race. Just like you should increase your speed over time, you should increase your distance gradually. Nobody runs a marathon without months of ramping up! 

A good rule of thumb is to not exceed a 10% increase in distance week-to-week. For instance, if you’re running 20 miles per week, limit the following week to 22 miles and progress to 24.2 miles the week after that.

#4 Add some strength training

An effective running schedule to lose weight should not only include rest days but incorporate some strength training. It can help you lose weight and ensure you progress safely. 

Strength exercises help to build lean muscle mass, which increases metabolism and helps burn more calories, even at rest. Stronger muscles improve running performance, allowing for longer and more intense sessions that contribute to weight loss. 

A well-rounded strength training routine also addresses any potential imbalances in your muscles and strengthens key muscle groups used in running, reducing the risk of injuries.

#5 Patience is key – learn to play the long game

You may have gotten here wondering, “Will running help me lose weight”? That shouldn’t be your sole focus, though. 

Motivation is easier to keep up when you don’t push yourself too hard. By setting realistic goals and listening to your body, you can enjoy a sustainable running practice that keeps you coming back for more. 

Approaching running with this mindset creates a positive feedback loop that fuels commitment, making it easier to achieve your weight loss goals in the long term. 

#6 Have a running plan

Having a game plan for your running and weight loss can significantly boost your results and contribute toward your success. Scientific research shows that setting specific goals promotes self-regulation and enhances long-term weight management. 

A well-structured plan is crucial for maintaining motivation. It provides a clear direction and measurable progress markers. It will allow you to focus on precise targets and monitor your progress. 

Your running program should not only focus on losing weight but consider other important factors such as your fitness level and medical history. 

Running Plan to Lose Weight

Learning how to run to lose weight effectively is key to achieving your goals.

To develop an effective program, start by setting achievable short-term and long-term goals, then gradually increase your running intensity and duration. Incorporate rest days and strength-training activities to prevent burnout and injury. 

If crafting your own plan seems daunting, Joggo offers a custom, easy-to-set-up alternative that takes the guesswork out of designing a personalized running program. 

Avoid Committing Common Mistakes

With many tips on how to start losing weight by running, there are also common mistakes to avoid for both beginner and experienced runners.

running beginner struggling to walk or run up stairs due to exhaustion

Cutting down too many calories

The food you eat should give you enough energy for your daily tasks, plus for any extra physical activity you’re performing to drop pounds. 

Setting a caloric deficit that is too high isn’t a healthy approach to nutrition, especially as you begin to exercise more. 

Instead, use a reputable calorie calculator to find how many calories you should be eating, and don’t drop below that unless you don’t see progress. 

Don’t forget to plan your nutrition before and after the runs, as it affects your performance and results. 

Eating as much on a rest day as you would do on a full workout day

I’m not burning as many calories on rest days, so should I eat less on rest days? Yes! More exercise equals more calories, and vice versa. Eating fewer calories on non-workout days accounts for the lack of calories burned through running.

Not planning for snacks and meals

Track your daily nutrition to ensure you hit your calorie goals. You could simply track the calories as you eat them, but the best way to track food intake that can perfectly hit your calorie and macronutrient goals is to plan snacks and meals ahead of time. 

A common tactic is to plan the entire day out so you know when and what to eat to hit your calorie goal exactly instead of just winging it.

FAQs 

Can I lose weight by running for 30 minutes?

Yes, running for 30 minutes can help you lose weight, especially when combined with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. 

Running is an effective cardiovascular exercise that burns calories, boosts metabolism, and increases muscle strength. A 30-minute run can burn anywhere from 200–500 calories, depending on factors such as your weight and running speed. 

To maximize weight loss, consider incorporating interval training, hill sprints, or longer runs into your routine. Remember, consistency is key – aim to run at least 3–4 times a week for the best results.

Is running good for losing belly fat?

Running is an excellent exercise for losing belly fat. As a form of cardiovascular activity, it helps burn calories and reduce overall body fat, including the stubborn fat around your waist. 

While you cannot specifically target belly fat through running alone, combining regular running sessions with a healthy diet and strength training exercises can lead to a slimmer waistline. 

To optimize fat burning, try incorporating high-intensity interval training or long, steady-paced runs into your routine. Consistency is crucial, so aim to run at least 3–4 times a week for noticeable results.

Can you lose weight just by running?

Running can lead to weight loss, as it is a highly efficient calorie-burning exercise. By consistently running and gradually increasing your distance and intensity, you can create a calorie deficit, which is the key to shedding pounds. 

Running not only burns calories during the activity but also elevates your metabolism, helping you burn more calories throughout the day. 

While it’s possible to shed pounds by just running, complementing your running routine with a balanced diet and proper nutrition will enhance your results. 

Takeaways

Running is an effective weight loss method, but keep these things in mind before you start your fitness journey:

  • Aim for a 500-calorie deficit daily for healthy weight loss, and run at least 3–4 times a week.
  • Start with walking or walk-runs, and gradually increase distance and intensity.
  • Run every other day to allow for recovery, and incorporate strength training for better performance and injury prevention.
  • Avoid common mistakes like cutting too many calories or not adjusting food intake on rest days.
  • Motivation is key, and having a structured plan tailored to your goals can boost your success.

Looking for a comprehensive plan to guide you through your weight loss journey? The Joggo app is a great companion for any beginner:

  • Personalized running program according to your goals, needs, and lifestyle.
  • Custom meal plan built around the foods you love, with a selection of 10+ most popular diets.
  • Educational articles and smart tips to guide you on your journey.

Take the Joggo quiz, personalize your running experience, and meet your digital running buddy!

References:

Author image
Written by

Chris Zibutis

Chris Zibutis is the Head Running Coach and founder of Joggo – that one person on earth who loves interval runs.  He holds a degree from Copenhagen Business School and is an avid runner – having participated in numerous marathons and triathlons, Chris brings substantial fitness and running experience to the Joggo team.