How Much Running To Lose Weight? Calculate Your Optimal Mileage

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If you decide to take up running to lose weight, you may wonder, “How much should I run to lose weight?”

After all, if you are primarily motivated to stick with your running plan to lose weight, you will need to know how many miles to run to lose weight successfully.

If you are not running enough to lose weight, you may find yourself wanting to give up running altogether. 

In this article, we will discuss factors that affect how much running to lose weight may be required for different individuals and will provide some general guidelines for how many miles to run to lose weight based on the factors we discuss.

We will cover the following: 

  • How Much Running to Lose Weight?
  • How Many Miles Should I Run to Lose Weight?
  • How Do I Lose Weight Running?

Let’s dive in! 

A person on a scale.

How Much Running to Lose Weight?

Running is one of the go-to forms of exercise that people turn to when they are looking to lose weight.

We all intuitively know that running can be good for weight loss because, like all forms of exercise, running burns calories.

Moreover, unlike low-intensity exercise such as walking, running is an efficient way to burn calories because it is a high-intensity exercise that activates almost all of the major muscles in your body.

But though even non-runners understand that running can theoretically help you lose weight, exactly how much running to lose weight is unclear for most people. 

This leads to the common question, “How much should I run to lose weight?“

While we would all love for this to be a simple question to answer, the truth is that not only does the number of calories you burn per mile running depend on several factors, but also weight loss does not occur in a vacuum.

This means that there are other factors that will affect how many miles you need to run to lose weight. Therefore, how much one person needs to run to lose weight will differ from how much another person needs to lose weight.

That said, let’s try to establish how many miles you need to run to lose weight in your own situation.

A couple running.

How Many Miles Should I Run to Lose Weight?

As is likely evident from the discussion above, weight loss, in general, is complicated because there are numerous things that contribute to your overall caloric balance.

Therefore, how many miles you need to lose weight becomes quite difficult to answer with individual specificity when covering the topic for a wide audience.

Furthermore, the other key consideration for how many miles you need to run to lose weight is how many calories you burn per mile of running.

The number of calories you burn in any workout depends not only on the type of exercise you’re doing (running in this case) but also on your body weight and composition and the duration and intensity of your workout. 

Although running pace will somewhat affect how many calories you burn while running a mile, intensity is less important when trying to compare the number of calories any two different people will burn running one mile than their body weight.

Therefore, for the purposes of this discussion, the most significant factor affecting how many calories you burn running a mile is your body weight.

Three women running.

Unless you’re in an exercise physiology lab hooked up to metabolic testing equipment, the number of calories you burn running a mile will be an estimate.

Harvard Health Publishing reports that running for 30 minutes at 5 mph (12 min/mile pace or 8 kph) burns 240 calories for a 125-pound person, 288 calories for a 155-pound person, and 336 calories for a 185-pound person.

Running for 30 minutes at 6 mph (10 min/mile pace) burns 295 calories for a 125-pound person, 360 calories for a 155-pound person, and 420 calories for a 185-pound person. 

Finally, running at a vigorous 10 mph (6 min/mile pace) burns 453 calories for a 125-pound person, 562 calories for a 155-pound person, and 671 calories for a 185-pound person.

Here, it may seem that your running speed significantly impacts the calories you burn, but we can simply do the math to determine the calories burned running a mile at different speeds based on the fact that all of these installations are for 30 minutes of running and the running speeds are given.

As a general ballpark, most runners burn about 100 to 130 calories per mile, but this really depends on body size and, as mentioned, running pace to a lesser degree.

A person running in the woods.

One final important note here is that the body can get accustomed to running at the same pace every day. As you get more efficient at your same workout, you will start to burn fewer calories per mile you drive. 

Adding intervals, hill sprints, tempo runs, and other variations to your pace, like fartlek runs or surges, will help keep your body metabolically flexible and unable to adapt to your run. This will help you continue to burn more calories in your running workouts.

How Do I Lose Weight Running?

We have established that running can help you lose weight because running burns calories.

To lose weight, you have to generate a caloric deficit, which means that you need to burn more calories than you are consuming on a consistent basis.

To lose one pound of body fat, you have to create a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories. 

To put this into perspective, this means that if you want to lose one pound of fat per week, you need to burn an average of 500 calories more per day than you eat.

A person running in a park.

Here is where how much you should run to lose weight starts to get individualized.

The total number of calories you burn per day (known as your total daily energy expenditure, depends on your basal metabolic rate, the calories you burn from exercise, the calories you burn through non-structured physical activity in your everyday life, and the calories needed to metabolize the food you eat.

Running factors into the calories you burn from exercise.

Of course, the more you run, the more calories you will burn, which will bump up the total daily energy expenditure.

However, the other factors, especially your BMR and the calories you burn from daily physical life activities outside of structured exercise like running (termed NEAT calories), actually constitute a larger percentage of the calories you burn in a day for most people.

For example, the American Council on Exercise reports that your BMR represents about 60-75% of the total calories you burn in a day.

People on treadmills.

Therefore, in terms of even just the energy expenditure side of the weight loss equation, how much you need to run to lose weight is only part of the total picture. 

You need to think about how active you are outside of running (do you work on your feet, do you take a lot of walks, do you run around with your children, do you have a sedentary job, etc.) and your overall metabolic rate.

Running can help you lose weight if you run enough to create a caloric deficit when combined with the other factors just discussed for your total daily energy expenditure.

The other half of the equation for weight loss and the necessary caloric deficit is your diet, or how many calories you are consuming in a day.

How much you need to run to lose weight will depend on whether you are simultaneously restricting your caloric intake through your diet or if you are only trying to burn more calories by running or exercising in general.

For example, if you need to eat 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight, and you start running enough miles per day to burn 500 calories per day running, you will start to lose about one pound per week with your running workouts if you don’t change your diet at all.

A person running on a dirt road.

On the other hand, if you decide to generate your 500-calorie deficit each day by cutting the calories that you eat by 250 and running enough to burn 250 calories, you will still lose one pound of fat per week, but you will only need to run half as much.

Basically, how many miles you need to run to lose weight will increase if you are eating as many calories as your body needs, and then you are just trying to add running on top of that to burn enough calories to lose weight. 

On the other hand, if you are manipulating your diet and restricting your caloric intake as well as running for weight loss, you will not need to run as many miles to lose weight.

For some healthy diets for runners, click here.

A heart plate around health food such as salmon and avocado.
Photo of author
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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