Exercising is an important part of lowering your body fat percentage. Running is appealing as a form of fat-loss training, as it's easy to fit into your schedule, costs less than your average gym membership and can be social if you run with friends or as part of a club. But while running can help you shed body fat, it won't automatically lead to fat loss.
Calorie Burn from Running
Calorie balance is the key to your fat-loss success. To lose body fat you need to burn more calories than you consume, and running can help you burn those extra calories. The number of calories you burn running depends on your body weight and on how fast you run. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 30 minutes of running burns between 240 and 435 calories for a 125-pound person running between 5 and 8.6 miles per hour. This increases to between 355 and 644 calories for a 185-pound person.
Exercise vs. Diet
It takes a calorie deficit of 3,500 to burn 1 pound of fat. If you're currently maintaining your weight, that means it will take a lot of running just to lose a single pound if you don't make any dietary changes. You can't out-train a bad diet, warns personal trainer and nutritionist Jill Coleman. If anything, dietary changes are more important than exercising if you want to lose fat and change your body composition, adds Coleman.
Types of Running
Not all running is created equal -- some types have a bigger impact on your body fat than others. High-intensity cardio, such as sprint intervals or hill running, are much more effective for burning body fat, according to Marc Perry of Built Lean. These forms of running raise your metabolic rate much more than going for a steady jog and have a much bigger impact on calorie burn, fitness level and heart rate.
If you're looking to drop some body fat, there's no doubt that running can help you do this, but don't put all your hopes on a few gentle jogs each week. To really see changes in your fat levels you'll need to change your diet so you're eating fewer calories than you burn. Interval running combined with resistance training may also be a better option than long, steady runs, as they are more effective for burning fat and building and maintaining muscle mass.
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