How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running?

Our run coach weighs in on how much training it takes to see improvements.

Running offers many wonderful physical and mental health benefits, which is why it is a popular type of physical activity and draws a diverse group of recreational and competitive athletes.

If you ask five different distance runners why they started running, you will likely hear five distinct answers: weight loss (or preventing undesired weight gain), reducing blood pressure, getting better sleep, decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, building muscle, or changing body composition.

This variety points to the fact that following a running program can bring about quite a range of physical health benefits, mental health benefits, social opportunities, and self-growth through running races and accomplishing goals you never thought possible.

But beginners often wonder, “How long does it take to see results from running?” whether it be weight loss, muscle gain, or anything in between.

In this guide, “How long does it take to see the benefits from running?” we will discuss running’s incredible health benefits and when you should start to notice positive changes from your new running routine.

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running

What Can Running Do for Your Body?

If you are a new runner, you have probably read or heard about some of the many physical and mental health benefits of following a running routine or consistently exercising regularly.

However, before we dive into how long it takes to see and feel the benefits of running after you commit and start running consistently, let’s highlight some of the primary physical and mental health benefits of running and jogging:

The Top Benefits Of Running

  1. Increasing your life expectancy.1Lee, D.-C., Brellenthin, A. G., Thompson, P. D., Sui, X., Lee, I-Min., & Lavie, C. J. (2017). Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases60(1), 45–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2017.03.005
  2. Decreasing the risk of all-cause mortality2Pedisic, Z., Shrestha, N., Kovalchik, S., Stamatakis, E., Liangruenrom, N., Grgic, J., Titze, S., Biddle, S. J., Bauman, A. E., & Oja, P. (2019). Is running associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine54(15), bjsports-2018-100493. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-100493 and the risk of cardiovascular disease
  3. Improving the health of the spine3Mitchell, U. H., Bowden, J. A., Larson, R. E., Belavy, D. L., & Owen, P. J. (2020). Long-term running in middle-aged men and intervertebral disc health, a cross-sectional pilot study. PLOS ONE15(2), e0229457. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0229457 and your knees4Ponzio, D. Y., Syed, U. A. M., Purcell, K., Cooper, A. M., Maltenfort, M., Shaner, J., & Chen, A. F. (2018). Low Prevalence of Hip and Knee Arthritis in Active Marathon Runners. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery100(2), 131–137. https://doi.org/10.2106/jbjs.16.01071
  4. ‌Helping burn calories to support weight loss5WILLIAMS, P. T. (2013). Greater Weight Loss from Running than Walking during a 6.2-yr Prospective Follow-up. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise45(4), 706–713. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31827b0d0a or healthy weight management. 
  5. Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.W6ang, Y., Lee, D., Brellenthin, A. G., Eijsvogels, T. M. H., Sui, X., Church, T. S., Lavie, C. J., & Blair, S. N. (2019). Leisure-Time Running Reduces the Risk of Incident Type 2 Diabetes. The American Journal of Medicine132(10), 1225–1232. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2019.04.035
  6. Helping manage hypertension (high blood pressure).7Naci, H., Salcher-Konrad, M., Dias, S., Blum, M. R., Sahoo, S. A., Nunan, D., & Ioannidis, J. P. A. (2018). How does exercise treatment compare with antihypertensive medications? A network meta-analysis of 391 randomised controlled trials assessing exercise and medication effects on systolic blood pressure. British Journal of Sports Medicine53(14), 859–869. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099921
  7. Lowering LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels.8Williams, P. T., & Thompson, P. D. (2013). Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology33(5), 1085–1091. https://doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.300878
  8. Reducing symptoms of depression,9Kvam, S., Kleppe, C. L., Nordhus, I. H., & Hovland, A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders202(202), 67–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2016.03.063 boosting your mood, decreasing stress, and improving self-esteem and mental well-being.
  9. Reducing the risk of cancer.10Moore, S. C., Lee, I-Min., Weiderpass, E., Campbell, P. T., Sampson, J. N., Kitahara, C. M., Keadle, S. K., Arem, H., Berrington de Gonzalez, A., Hartge, P., Adami, H.-O., Blair, C. K., Borch, K. B., Boyd, E., Check, D. P., Fournier, A., Freedman, N. D., Gunter, M., Johannson, M., & Khaw, K.-T. (2016). Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity With Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine176(6), 816–825. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1548
  10. Helping support better sleep.11Kalak, N., Gerber, M., Kirov, R., Mikoteit, T., Yordanova, J., Pühse, U., Holsboer-Trachsler, E., & Brand, S. (2012). Daily Morning Running for 3 Weeks Improved Sleep and Psychological Functioning in Healthy Adolescents Compared With Controls. Journal of Adolescent Health51(6), 615–622. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.02.020
  11. Studies show12Nieman, D. C., & Wentz, L. M. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science8(3), 201–217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2018.09.009 that getting moderate-intensity aerobic exercise can support the immune system and decrease inflammation.
  12. Aerobic exercise such as running can improve cognitive performance13Dinoff, A., Herrmann, N., Swardfager, W., & Lanctôt, K. L. (2017). The effect of acute exercise on blood concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy adults: a meta-analysis. European Journal of Neuroscience46(1), 1635–1646. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.13603 and brain health.
How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running 2

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running?

Given the wide range of physical and mental health benefits of running, there is no single answer for how long it takes to see the “benefits from running.“

Rather, you will start to notice certain changes at different points after you start running, some as quick as your first run (such as a boost of endorphins and potentially better sleep quality!) while other running benefits take several months or longer.

Essentially, the expected amount of time depends on your starting fitness level, how much you are running, your overall diet and exercise routine, and the specific changes in your body from running you are interested in.

Given these factors, there isn’t a concrete answer that will necessarily apply to questions like: How long does it take to lose weight from running? How long does it take to improve my cardiovascular fitness level from running? How long does it take to see muscle growth from running?

But, we can provide some parameters to give you a ballpark idea.

Let’s look at some examples of common running goals and how long it takes to experience these changes after you start running:

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running 4

How long does it take to lose weight running?

As a certified personal trainer and running coach, I would say that weight loss is one of the most common fitness goals, and many people start running for weight loss.

Running burns calories efficiently because it is a high-intensity activity that increases your heart rate and works most of the muscle groups in your body.

Depending on your body weight, body composition, and running pace, most people burn between 100-150 calories per mile running.

It takes a 3500 calorie deficit to lose 1 pound of body fat.14Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, September 19). Losing Weight . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html

‌Therefore, if you want to lose 1 pound per week from running without changing your diet, you would need to burn 500 calories per day running.

This may be as little as running 3 to 4 miles per day for most people.

However, keep in mind that you should take rest days and when you first start running, you will not be able to jump into running this far every day nor should you.

That said, if you haven’t been getting regular exercise and you start following a running training program, you may notice more rapid weight loss, muscle growth, and overall changes in your body composition.

This is because you are not only burning calories, but also shifting your hormonal profile, balancing blood sugar and insulin, and potentially burning more calories in your workouts if you are carrying a lot of excess body weight.

Many new runners who are interested in running for weight loss that couple their new running routine with healthy diet changes see upwards of 15 to 20 pounds of fat loss in the first three months after they start running.

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running 5

How long does it take to build muscle from running?

Although running for weight loss is a top fitness goal, running to build muscle, improve your body composition, get stronger, or even experience weight gain due to new muscle growth is also one of the common running goals.

Although long-distance running isn’t as effective at building muscle as following a high-intensity strength training program with heavy weights, running does have the ability to strengthen all of the muscles in your legs while shifting body composition by promoting fat loss and supporting muscle growth.

Certain types of running workouts such as hill sprints and interval training can also support building muscle more effectively than long runs at a steady pace.

Adding strength training to your running plan is the most effective and efficient way to see muscle growth.

Depending on your starting body composition and your overall training plan, you should start to see muscle growth from running and strength training after 6-12 weeks.

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running 6

How long does it take to get in shape with running?

The amount of time it takes to improve your overall fitness level from running will depend on your starting cardiovascular fitness level, your muscular strength and muscular endurance, how often and how much you are running, and whether you are supplementing with other forms of aerobic cross-training and resistance training workouts.

Overall fitness15The Basics of Exercise Science (Part 2). (2019, March 4). Www.acefitness.org. https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/ace-answers/exam-preparation-blog/5115/the-basics-of-exercise-science-part-2/ encompasses not only cardio or aerobic fitness level, but also muscular endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, and body composition.

Beginners typically start to notice that they are having an easier time breathing while running and have a lower resting heart rate and running heart rate at the same paces after 3 to 4 weeks of consistent training.

But, for running to feel easier may take two to three months of training.

You may notice less muscle soreness after your workouts once you have been running 2 to 3 weeks as you start building muscle and conditioning your connective tissues for the high impact stresses of running.

Running alone doesn’t tend to improve flexibility, but if you incorporate dynamic stretches in your warm-up routine, you can aid mobility and improve range of motion.

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running 3 1

How long does it take to train for a marathon?

The amount of time it takes to train for a race will again depend on your cardio fitness level when you first start running.

New runners who have been getting regular exercise with a different type of cardio workouts such a cycling, swimming, or rowing may be able to follow a beginner 5K training plan and be ready for their first race in 4 to 6 weeks.

People who have not been getting consistent aerobic physical activity and are starting from square one generally need to follow a couch to 5K training plan that might take upwards of 12 weeks.

Then, as your endurance and cardiovascular fitness level improve, you might set your sights on longer distances such as a 10K training program, half-marathon training plan, or marathon training plan.

As a running coach, I don’t think the process should be rushed building up your running routine super aggressively and taking on these longer races.

Plan to take one year to build up to the half-marathon distance and another six months after that before you start following a marathon training program.

How Long Does It Take To See Results From Running 7

How long does it take for running to improve your overall health?

The physical health benefits from running begin with your first running workout, though you have to get a certain amount of cardio or aerobic physical activity per week to experience some of the research backed benefits of regular exercise.

Per the physical activity guidelines for Americans set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should accumulate either 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio exercise per week to improve overall health and reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases.

Overall, once you start running, your body and mind are opened up to a world of positive changes. 

Some benefits of running like fat loss and muscle growth will take longer to notice while others such as a lower blood pressure and lower resting heart rate can be seen in a matter of days or a couple of weeks at most.

No matter what your running goals are, you can achieve them. Just be patient, listen to your body, and don’t rush the process.

To get started today, check out our Couch to 5K training plan!

References

  • 1
    Lee, D.-C., Brellenthin, A. G., Thompson, P. D., Sui, X., Lee, I-Min., & Lavie, C. J. (2017). Running as a Key Lifestyle Medicine for Longevity. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases60(1), 45–55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2017.03.005
  • 2
    Pedisic, Z., Shrestha, N., Kovalchik, S., Stamatakis, E., Liangruenrom, N., Grgic, J., Titze, S., Biddle, S. J., Bauman, A. E., & Oja, P. (2019). Is running associated with a lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality, and is the more the better? A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine54(15), bjsports-2018-100493. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-100493
  • 3
    Mitchell, U. H., Bowden, J. A., Larson, R. E., Belavy, D. L., & Owen, P. J. (2020). Long-term running in middle-aged men and intervertebral disc health, a cross-sectional pilot study. PLOS ONE15(2), e0229457. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0229457
  • 4
    Ponzio, D. Y., Syed, U. A. M., Purcell, K., Cooper, A. M., Maltenfort, M., Shaner, J., & Chen, A. F. (2018). Low Prevalence of Hip and Knee Arthritis in Active Marathon Runners. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery100(2), 131–137. https://doi.org/10.2106/jbjs.16.01071
  • 5
    WILLIAMS, P. T. (2013). Greater Weight Loss from Running than Walking during a 6.2-yr Prospective Follow-up. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise45(4), 706–713. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e31827b0d0a
  • 6
    ang, Y., Lee, D., Brellenthin, A. G., Eijsvogels, T. M. H., Sui, X., Church, T. S., Lavie, C. J., & Blair, S. N. (2019). Leisure-Time Running Reduces the Risk of Incident Type 2 Diabetes. The American Journal of Medicine132(10), 1225–1232. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2019.04.035
  • 7
    Naci, H., Salcher-Konrad, M., Dias, S., Blum, M. R., Sahoo, S. A., Nunan, D., & Ioannidis, J. P. A. (2018). How does exercise treatment compare with antihypertensive medications? A network meta-analysis of 391 randomised controlled trials assessing exercise and medication effects on systolic blood pressure. British Journal of Sports Medicine53(14), 859–869. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099921
  • 8
    Williams, P. T., & Thompson, P. D. (2013). Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology33(5), 1085–1091. https://doi.org/10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.300878
  • 9
    Kvam, S., Kleppe, C. L., Nordhus, I. H., & Hovland, A. (2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders202(202), 67–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2016.03.063
  • 10
    Moore, S. C., Lee, I-Min., Weiderpass, E., Campbell, P. T., Sampson, J. N., Kitahara, C. M., Keadle, S. K., Arem, H., Berrington de Gonzalez, A., Hartge, P., Adami, H.-O., Blair, C. K., Borch, K. B., Boyd, E., Check, D. P., Fournier, A., Freedman, N. D., Gunter, M., Johannson, M., & Khaw, K.-T. (2016). Association of Leisure-Time Physical Activity With Risk of 26 Types of Cancer in 1.44 Million Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine176(6), 816–825. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.1548
  • 11
    Kalak, N., Gerber, M., Kirov, R., Mikoteit, T., Yordanova, J., Pühse, U., Holsboer-Trachsler, E., & Brand, S. (2012). Daily Morning Running for 3 Weeks Improved Sleep and Psychological Functioning in Healthy Adolescents Compared With Controls. Journal of Adolescent Health51(6), 615–622. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.02.020
  • 12
    Nieman, D. C., & Wentz, L. M. (2019). The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Journal of Sport and Health Science8(3), 201–217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2018.09.009
  • 13
    Dinoff, A., Herrmann, N., Swardfager, W., & Lanctôt, K. L. (2017). The effect of acute exercise on blood concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy adults: a meta-analysis. European Journal of Neuroscience46(1), 1635–1646. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejn.13603
  • 14
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, September 19). Losing Weight . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html
  • 15
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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