Compared to other endurance activities such as cycling and swimming, you receive significantly more value for your effort when running in terms of the number of calories burned. This is primarily because running elevates your heart rate more than other sports, even when exerting the same level of effort. The higher your heart rate, the more energy (or calories) your body utilizes.
Here’s what you should know about the calorie expenditure during running and what you can do to increase it.
If you’ve ever pondered the amount of calories burned while running a mile, chances are you’ve come across the common answer of around one hundred calories. However, in reality, this number varies considerably from person to person.
To estimate the calorie burn, scientists utilize a unit called a metabolic equivalent for task (MET). “A MET is a conversion of the amount of oxygen your body consumes per minute,” explains Joel French, Ph.D., director of the Colorado University Sports Medicine and Performance Center. “Approximately one liter of oxygen equates to five calories of energy.” As the average person is unlikely to undergo sophisticated tests to measure oxygen consumption, scientists devised METs to offer a more general estimation of calorie burn.
Consider METs as a means to gauge the intensity of your physical exertion. “The number of METs essentially represents how many times more calories you burn while performing an activity compared to when you are at rest,” explains Heather Milton, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist and clinical specialist at the NYU Langone Health Sports Performance Center.
Running can range from 7 METs to 12.3 METs, depending on your running speed. If you’re utilizing a treadmill, it may display the corresponding METs for your current pace. If you’re running outdoors, you can consult the Compendium of Physical Activities (a comprehensive list of activities and their associated METs). With your weight, workout duration, and an online calculator, you are able to determine the number of calories burned while running. (Please note: This equation employs time as a metric for calculating calorie expenditure instead of distance. Therefore, it is more important to consider the number of calories burned per minute of running rather than per mile.)
For instance, here’s how the calorie burn translates for a 140-pound individual running for an hour:
- Jogging: 7 METs (446 calories per hour)
- Pace of a 10-minute mile: 9.8 METs (624 calories per hour)
- Pace of a 9-minute mile: 10.5 METs (668 calories per hour)
- Pace of an 8-minute mile: 11.8 METs (751 calories per hour)
- Pace of a 7-minute mile: 12.3 METs (783 calories per hour)
What Factors Contribute to the Number of Calories You Burn while Running?
Keep in mind, all those figures are simply an approximation. “Anything you do to enhance the level of work — or, force applied over distance — is going to amplify the amount of oxygen you utilize and the quantity of calories you expend,” says French. The factors below can influence the level of work you are exerting.
Your body mass. To begin, force = your body mass. “The more mass you are carrying, the more work you need to perform in order to move it,” says Milton. That is why a heavier individual is going to burn more calories than someone who weighs less, even if they are running at the same pace for the same duration. For instance, an individual weighing 140 pounds likely burns 13.2 calories per minute while running, whereas someone weighing 160 pounds burns 15.1 calories, and a person weighing 180 pounds burns 17 calories, according to estimates from the American Council on Exercise. If you specifically want to increase your calorie expenditure, you could run with a weighted vest.
Your velocity and vigor. Amplifying your velocity and vigor also necessitates more oxygen, which escalates your calorie expenditure. Compare a pace of 10 minutes per mile, which burns 624 calories per hour, to a pace of eight minutes per mile, which burns 751 calories per hour. It is not always effortless to reduce the time it takes to complete a mile, but incorporating intervals can assist you in reaping the calorie advantages of a quicker pace. (Try including these calorie-burning intervals in your running sessions.) However, you do not need to run at a high speed to burn a significant amount of calories. Alternatively, you can extend your running duration; jogging for 60 minutes will burn approximately the same number of calories as running for 30 minutes at a pace of six minutes per mile. (
Incorporate an inclined surface. An additional approach to amplify your calorie expenditure without altering your pace is by running hills or performing incline workouts on a treadmill, says Milton. “Your heart is going to have to work harder to handle those inclines at the same pace as it would on flat ground, and that results in more calories burned.”
The Additional Advantages of Running
Forget about the question of, “How many calories does running burn,” for a moment. Running has a plethora of added benefits, from minimizing your risk of perishing from cardiovascular disease and fortifying your joints to warding off depression and enhancing your memory. And you do not need to accumulate extensive mileage to attain those advantages: Running just six miles per week provides more health benefits and reduces the risks associated with longer sessions, according to a meta-analysis in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
When you’re jogging, it’s not only about incinerating calories — it’s about constructing strength, incinerating fat and carbs, and increasing the oxygen you can effectively consume and utilize. And you can’t accomplish all of these things by sprinting like a velocity monster. Too many runners simply attempt to sprint rapidly all the time, whether it’s because they’re in the zone, they’re limited on time, or simply because they want to scorch the most calories. But variability is crucial to obtain all the advantages of jogging. (That’s precisely why you see all different types of runs in, say, a half marathon training plan.)
“An effortless jog isn’t going to incinerate many calories, but it’s excellent for recovery and stress reduction,” says French. Jogging slowly and for an extended period “trains the muscle to extract more oxygen and the mitochondria in the muscle to be more efficient,” he adds. (Also, ahem, that runner’s high!)
Speedier runs, such as tempo and interval workouts — condition the heart and lungs to propel more oxygen to the muscles, so you can accelerate and sustain that pace for a longer duration, says French.
If you’re not integrating all these workouts into a training plan, you’re eventually going to reach a plateau, says Milton — in calorie incineration and performance. “The more efficient you become as a runner, the more efficient your metabolism becomes,” she explains. “To keep progressing, you need to alter the inclines, the intensities, and the speeds you’re running at.”
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