How Running to Lose Weight Works

Running is not only a healthy way to lose weight, it’s also one of the most popular. Combined with a healthy diet, it can be really effective at helping you shed pounds, especially if you’re not usually one for physical activity.

The great thing about running is that it’s easy. You don’t need any special equipment, training or gadgets, and you can do it just about anywhere and at any time. If you can put one foot in front of the other, then running is probably an option.

In its most basic form, losing weight is about using up more calories than you consume. Calories are a unit of heat, and they are your body’s source of energy. When you eat, in addition to taking in essential vitamins and nutrients, you’re also taking in calories and providing your body with energy.

Your body uses most of the calories you take in every day in order to function — you know, breathing, circulating blood, blinking, walking, talking and so on. Any extra calories get stored in your body as fat (your body’s way to save that energy for another day). It takes about 3,500 extra calories to add 1 pound of fat to your body. Likewise, to lose 1 pound (.45 kg) of fat, you’ll have to burn 3,500 calories more than you typically use. What this means for you is that the more calories you take in, the more energy you need to expend to get rid of them (to keep them from turning into fat).

So where does running fit into all of this, and can it really help you lose weight? To put it simply, running helps you burn more calories, and burning more calories leads to weight loss. But just how many calories does running burn, and how do you get started running to lose weight?

We know that in order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. And if your goal is weight loss, then you need to find ways to either reduce your caloric intake or increase your calorie burn. Luckily, running can give you the calorie-burning boost that you need.

The amount of calories you can burn from running depends on several factors, but the biggest is your weight. In general, you can calculate calories burned per mile of running by multiplying your weight (in pounds) by .63. So, if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), you’ll burn approximately 94.5 calories for each mile you run. If you weigh 200 pounds (91 kg), you’ll burn 126 calories [source: Runner’s World].

Running a mile isn’t easy, and running enough miles to burn the calories to lose 1 pound may seem like a lot. But remember, weight loss takes time and, added up over a few weeks and months, you’ll notice some real differences. And if you combine running with a healthy diet with less saturated fat and fewer calories, you’ll notice results even faster. As you build muscle from exercise, your body will naturally burn more calories than it did before, because a body with more muscle burns more calories all the time, not just when you’re running [source: Mayo Clinic].

The unfortunate thing about running — and all exercise in general — is that if you continue to do the same exercise every day, your body adapts and actually becomes more efficient at using calories to do the work. So, for example, if you jog the same distance at the same speed every day, eventually you will burn fewer and fewer calories each time you run than you did in the beginning. To keep your body from adapting to your workout, you can change it up by increasing the intensity, speed and length of your workout.

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