You don’t need a fancy gym membership to lose weight. On the contrary, one of the most powerful ways to slim down is free: walk! Walking for weight loss may even be more effective than running, according to a 2015 study. British researchers found that people who regularly took brisk walks weighed less than those devoted to other types of physical activity, including running, swimming, and cycling.
- Why walking is so good for you
- What to do before you start walking for weight loss
- A walking workout for your upper body
- A walking workout for your glutes
- 5 best post-walk stretches
- How to Walk Off 10 Pounds
- Dial in your speed
- The amped-up plan
- Walk this way
- 4 ways to burn more fat
- Itching to run?
- Walking our way to Weight Loss
- A Guide to Running for Weight Loss: Secrets to Help You Shed Those Stubborn Pounds
- Does Running Help You Lose Weight? What Science has to Say
- How to Lose Weight Running
- Running Schedule for Weight Loss
- Running for Weight Loss: Final Tips
- 8-Week Running for Weight-Loss Program
- Weight-Loss Running Plan Overview
- The Best Type of Running for Weight Loss
- High-Intensity Running Workouts for Weight Loss
- Strength Training for Runners
- The 3 Most Effective Running Workouts for Losing Weight
- 1. Aerobic intervals
- 2. Intervals at your 5k race pace
- 3. Continuous run at your 10k race pace
Why walking is so good for you
Walking literally transforms your body and mind. In fact, research shows it can add almost two years to your life. Of course, there’s the major perk that sneaking in those steps helps you shed unwanted weight. But going for a walk can benefit your body in other significant ways too. Here’s how:
- It guards your brain. Two hours of walking per week cuts your risk of stroke by 30%. Hitting the road also protects brain regions associated with planning and memory, and doing it for 20 minutes a day has even been found to reduce symptoms of depression.
- It strengthens your bones. Research also shows that about some form of physical activity every day, such as walking or bicycling, can lower the rate of hip fractures and fractures overall. In other words, the more you move now, the more mobile you’ll be later in life.
- It improves your heart health. A study of more than 89,000 women found that those who walked briskly for 40 minutes two or three times per week had up to a 38% lower chance of heart failure after menopause than those who did it less often or more slowly. Researchers have also found that walking for just 20 minutes per day lowers your risk of heart disease by 30 percent, and it can also cut your risk of obesity (a major risk factor for heart disease) in half.
(Build strength and tone your whole body at home – try with Strong with Betina Gozo.)
What to do before you start walking for weight loss
Follow these tips from Scott Mullen, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Kansas Hospital Sports Medicine and Performance Center:
1. Check in with your doctor.
If you haven’t been exercising, running it by your primary care doctor is a good idea, just to make sure they don’t have any concerns or think you need any testing ahead of time, says Dr. Mullen. Other red flags include chest pain, pain that shoots down your arm or up your neck, or severe headaches, he adds. If you develop any of these issues, stop your workout and check with in with a professional.
2. Invest in a good pair of walking shoes.
Look for a shoe store that does gait analyses to help you select the right pair for your specific foot type, Dr. Mullen says. Go a half-size up from your regular work shoes, since feet tend to swell when you exercise. Check out our full list of the best walking shoes for women right now.
Satima Active Sneaker Vionic vionicshoes.com $139.95 Gel-Quickwalk 3 Walking Shoes ASICS amazon.com $49.99 Levitate 2 Sneakers Brooks zappos.com $121.84 411 Sneakers New Balance zappos.com $64.99
3. Buy moisture-wicking clothing.
Walking doesn’t require a closetful of expensive athletic wear, but investing in a few key pieces can make you much more comfortable. Look for tops and bottoms in moisture-wicking fabrics and choose styles with a bit of stretch, so they don’t pinch if you take a bigger step or stride uphill. In cold weather, layer up. Here are a few workout essentials to consider:
Live In High Waist Leggings ZELLA nordstrom.com $59.00 Breeze Crop Racerback Performance Tank Sweaty Betty nordstrom.com $38.98 Dri-FIT Windrunner Cross Back Sports Bra Nike nordstrom.com $40.00 Cyclone WindWall® Jacket The North Face nordstrom.com $45.49
A walking workout for your upper body
The calorie-burning power of walking combined with the metabolism boosting effect of strength-training moves makes this two-in-one workout efficient and effective. Do it in your neighborhood if there are sidewalks, or around a track. For optimal results, try it two to four times a week on nonconsecutive days.
Your pro: Jessica Smith, fitness instructor, trainer, and creator of the Walk On home workout series.
Focus on your posture! Keep shoulders pulled back, abs drawn in, and spine tall (imagine two balloons tied to your ears, giving you a lift!) during both the walking section and the strength section. Proper alignment can prevent imbalance and help muscles fire more effectively.
Be smart about dumbbells. This workout incorporates weights while you walk. Choose ones that will fatigue your muscles but that you can still maintain great form with—and that you can carry with you during the walking parts (around 5 pounds should be good). If you’re new to weights, try the circuit without them until you’re comfortable with the moves.
Walk carefully with weights. Swinging dumbbells while walking can lead to joint strain, so aim to hold them at your hips and keep your core muscles engaged during the walking intervals.
- Start walking at a slow pace, holding the weights, and progress in speed for 3 minutes. Then find a safe place for a break and set your weights down.
- For one minute, alternate lifting one knee up toward your hips as both arms reach overhead, drawing abs deeper into the spine, and lowering your arms with each step down.
- Next, take a wide step to the right and bring your left foot to meet your right; immediately repeat on the opposite side. Move back and forth at a brisk pace and let your arms move naturally, alternating for one minute.
Chest Squeeze: Stand tall with your feet at hip width, elbows bent at 90 degrees and arms open to sides of shoulders, holding weights with palms facing forward (your upper body should resemble a goal post). Draw abs in tighter to the spine as elbows come together in front of shoulders, maintaining the 90-degree angle. Return to start and repeat. Do 15 reps total.
3-Minute Walking Interval: Walk forward, lifting knees high in front of hips at a quick tempo, holding dumbbells at hips.
Single-Arm Reverse Fly: Standing with feet at hip width and maintaining a straight spine, hinge torso forward from hips 45 degrees, reaching dumbbells toward the ground. Keeping elbows slightly bent, raise left arm out to the side to about chest or shoulder height, squeezing left shoulder blade in toward your spine. Hold there for one count, then slowly lower down to start. Perform 15 total reps with the left arm and then repeat with the right. (Doing one arm at a time challenges the core more and makes you focus on form.)
3-Minute Walking Interval: Turn your body sideways and walk to the side, leading with your right foot, as quickly as you safely can for 90 seconds. Then switch and lead with the left foot for 90 seconds.
Bicep Curl to Front Chest Scoop: Stand with your feet at hip-width, arms extended down and holding weights by your sides. Curl forearms up toward your body until they form 90-degree angles, keeping elbows bent and close to rib cage, with palms facing up. Next, extend arms out in front of chest in a forward scooping motion, with elbows remaining slightly bent and palms facing up. Then bend elbows back in by your sides and lower arms to return to start. Repeat for a total of 15 reps.
3-Minute Walking Interval: Power up your pace and walk as quickly as you can.
Rear Row and Triceps Kickback: Stand with feet at hip width, knees slightly bent, and hinge forward about 45 degrees from hips, maintaining a straight spine. Extend arms toward the ground with palms facing in. Bend elbows and pull weights up to sides of rib cage, squeezing shoulder blades back and together. Keeping elbows pulled back and in place, extend arms behind your body, squeezing through backs of arms. Reverse the move to complete the movement Repeat for a total of 15 reps.
3-Minute Walking Interval: Keep up your brisk pace and walk in a zigzag formation as you travel forward. The quick change of direction keeps your brain sharp and helps build agility and coordination.
NOTE: When you’re on your third time through the circuit, replace the zigzag walking interval with a 3-minute cool down at an easy pace to bring your heart rate back down to normal and finish with the post-walk stretches below.
A walking workout for your glutes
If crummy weather is keeping you inside or you have no time to hit the gym, don’t worry. You can do this power-packed walking workout by Sansone at home—no treadmill required.
Your pro: Leslie Sansone, executive producer of Walk at Home Workouts
Warm-ups are essential! Smart workouts begin slowly and increase gradually. The goal is to raise body temperature, warm muscles, and prepare lungs, bones, joints, and the circulatory system for the challenge of the workout. It’s the “rehearsal” for the main event.
Train your abs while you walk. Draw your belly button back toward your spine. This engages the big, deep muscle that runs horizontally across your lower abdominal region. It’s like doing a standing crunch or holding a plank position while doing brisk exercise!
Don’t underestimate stairs! Gluteal muscles (your back end) are called on more with each step up stairs or on an incline. This means that even short bursts of quick climbing—just 15 seconds—can enhance your calorie burn in a big way.
These tempos are suggestions. To figure out your pace, march in place and count the number of steps you take in a minute. This is your starting line. If it’s fewer than 130 steps per minute, try picking up the pace.
Add music! Listening to music can increase your performance and make your workouts fly by faster. Powermusic.com and musclemixes.com offer playlists that are engineered for fitness.
Speed: 130 steps per minute
Time: 3 minutes
Instructions: Repeat this circuit for your warm-up:
- March in place for 16 counts.
- Sidestep for 16 counts.
- Alternate front kicks for 16 counts.
- Alternate knee lifts for 16 counts.
Speed: 140 steps
Time: 4 minutes
Instructions: Repeat these moves to begin your circuit:
- March in place, raising hands overhead with every other step, for 16 counts.
- Sidestep, opening arms with each step out and closing with each step in, for 16 counts.
- Alternate front kicks, reaching both hands toward your foot on each kick, for 16 counts.
- Alternate knee lifts, touching elbows on your knee in a “standing crunch” motion, for 16 counts.
Speed: It should feel brisk.
Time: 1 minute
Instructions: Climb up and down a flight of stairs. If you don’t have a full flight, use one step. Step up right, step up left, step down right, step down left for 30 seconds, then lead with your left foot for 30 seconds.
5 best post-walk stretches
After each walking workout, perform these stretches to help reduce tension and help your muscles recover.
Reach for the Sky: Raise hands up overhead, then (with knees slightly bent), slowly bend forward and touch toes. Repeat four more times.
Calf Stretch: Stand two feet away from a wall, with hands on wall. Bend arms and lean your upper body toward the wall, hold for 15 seconds, and repeat twice more.
Hip Opener: Sit on a chair or bench and put your right foot on top of your left knee for 30 seconds. Do the same thing on the other side, then repeat once more with each leg.
Hamstring Easer: Remain sitting and move forward toward the edge. Reach your right hand toward your right toe. Hold for 30 seconds, then release. Repeat with the left leg, then do once more with each leg.
Quadriceps Stretch: Stand up and hold on to back of chair. Try to touch your right heel to your butt, using your right hand to assist. Hold for 30 seconds. Do the same with your left leg. Repeat once more with each leg.
Additional reporting by Cindy Kuzma
. Strength Training for Women in Under 20 Minutes! Prevention amazon.com $29.95
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Kaitlyn Pirie Sr. Editor Kaitlyn started her career as a reporter in the research department at Real Simple and went on to become a health editor at Family Circle before joining the Hearst team.
How to Walk Off 10 Pounds
When you want to shed serious weight, walking might not even come to mind. But it should.
“Fast-paced walking, when combined with healthy eating, is hugely effective for weight loss,” says Art Weltman, PhD, director of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia. And those simple steps can have a big impact on your overall health, cutting your risk of everything from heart disease to depression. If your daily strolls haven’t made you skinny so far, your speed may be the problem. Many of us stride more like a window-shopper than a power walker. The goal—thankfully—isn’t crazy race-walker style; you just need to move at a challenging pace.
RELATED: This 30-Day Bodyweight Challenge Will Tone and Tighten Your Entire Body
In studies, Weltman has found that women who do three short (about 30-minute) high-intensity walks plus two moderately paced recovery walks a week lose up to six times more abdominal fat than participants who simply stroll five days a week. (This despite the fact that both groups burn the exact same number of calories.)
The power walkers also drop about four times as much total body fat. “There is a strong relationship between intensity of exercise and fat-burning hormones,” says Weltman. “So if you’re exercising at a pace considered to be hard, you’re likely to release more of these hormones.” The best part: When women walk, deep abdominal fat is the first to go. That’s a scientific fact we can get excited about.
RELATED: The Best Sneakers For Walking
Another happy truth: Although you’re moving at a fast clip, power walking is still easier on the joints than running. “During walking one of your feet is always in contact with the ground,” says Weltman, “but during running there’s a float stage where your whole body is lifted in the air. Then you come back down and subject your body to the impact.”
That’s why walking is a smart long-term fitness plan. To get you off on the right foot, here’s a complete primer, from how to tweak your speed for maximum burn to what gear you need (hint: almost none). Follow the workouts and wisdom— along with healthy eating— and not only can you lose those extra 10 pounds in three weeks, but you will have a no-fuss plan that you can do anywhere, anytime.
RELATED: This 30-Day Squat Challenge Will Transform Your Butt in 4 Weeks
Dial in your speed
To make sure your pace is on point, use these guidelines from exercise physiologist Tom Holland, author of Beat the Gym. For maximum fat burn, aim for 30 minutes at power-walk intensity three days a week (see the walking plan on the next page). That time can be completed all at once, or you can break it up into spurts with recovery strides (stroll or brisk walk) in between.
- Stroll. Think window-shopping pace, or an intensity of 4 on a scale of 10. It burns about 238 calories an hour.
- Brisk walk. This means an effort of 5 or 6 on a scale of 10. It burns up to 340 calories an hour (at a 3.5 to 4 mph pace). While you can gossip about Mad Men, you need to catch your breath every few sentences.
- Power walk. You’re torching off approximately 564 calories an hour (at a 4 to 5 mph pace). Moving at this clip, using your arms to help propel you forward and taking longer strides, your effort should be a 7 or 8 on a scale of 10. Talking is possible only in spurts of three or four words, but…you’d…rather…focus…on…breathing.
The amped-up plan
This program from Holland mixes a regular walking workout with interval routines to help you reach your power-walking quota of 30 minutes, three times a week. Aim to walk on three nonconsecutive days and either rest or cross-train on the other ones. If you cross-train (think power yoga or swimming), you’ll help your body recover; and with our diet, you’ll progress more quickly to dropping up to 10 pounds in three weeks.
RELATED: 5 No-Equipment Back Exercises You Need in Your Life
Burns about 220 calories:
- Warm-up: Stroll for 5 minutes.
- Workout: Maintain a power-walk intensity for 30 minutes.
- Cooldown: Stroll for 3 to 5 minutes.
Burns about 355 calories:
- Warm-up: Stroll for 5 minutes.
- Interval Workout: Maintain a hard power-walk intensity (8 on a scale of 10) for 5 minutes. Recover at a brisk pace for 1 minute. Repeat for a total of 6 intervals.
- Cooldown: Stroll for 3 to 5 minutes.
Burns about 405 calories:
- Warm-up: Stroll for 5 minutes.
- Interval Workout: Maintain a hard power-walk intensity (8 on a scale of 10) for 2 minutes. Recover at a brisk pace for 1 minute. Repeat for a total of 15 intervals.
- Cooldown: Stroll for 3 to 5 minutes.
RELATED: 7 Functional Movement Patterns Trainers Want You to Master
Walk this way
When it comes to walking, your body and brain know what to do. Makes sense—you’ve been doing it since you took those first wobbly baby steps. But with these three form fixes, you’ll maximize your burn, big time.
- Chin up. Your gaze shouldn’t be aimed at your feet, no matter how snazzy your sneakers are. Instead, focus on a point about 10 feet ahead of you. This will keep your stride longer and your neck comfortably in line with your spine.
- Activate your abs. When you brace your core—pulling your belly button toward your spine—you automatically trigger good posture.
- Squeeze your glutes. Your backside literally propels you through your walk. To get the most oomph—so you can go longer and faster—keep your glutes tight. Bad visual, good strategy: Imagine squeezing a winning lottery ticket between your cheeks.
RELATED: 7 Easy Pilates Moves for a Quick Core Workout
4 ways to burn more fat
So you’re the impatient type? Use these tricks to up the challenge and calorie burn.
- Add hills. When you hit the hills on a treadmill or in your neighborhood, you increase your calorie burn by nearly 20 percent—and that’s just on a 1 to 5 percent incline.
- Go off-road. Head out for a light but brisk hike and you’ll torch about 430 calories in just an hour. Credit the uneven terrain—which forces you to work harder. Sub this in for one of your weekly power walks.
- Swing your arms. With elbows bent at 90 degrees and hands in loose fists, move your arms in an arc, keeping elbows tight to your body. This helps drive you forward, says Weltman, builds upper-body strength and can increase your burn by up to 10 percent.
- Make longer strides. Instead of taking more steps, “work on increasing your stride length,” Weltman says. “You’ll cover more ground,” and that means more fat fried.
RELATED: 7 Easy Ways to Kick Your Sluggish Metabolism Up a Notch
Itching to run?
Let’s face it: Some of us would rather just run. But if you go from zero to Usain Bolt on your first outing, you might end up sidelined. Use this guide from Holland to transition from walking to running safely.
For the running newbie: Do this modified version of the Short-Interval Day (see “The Amped-Up Plan,” left) three times a week: Run for one minute (work up to two minutes over the course of a couple of weeks), walk for one minute and repeat for a total of 15 intervals. Do this for a few weeks, then transition to the Long-Interval Day, running for five minutes and walking for one, repeating for a total of six intervals. The goal is to eventually tackle Tempo Day—running for 30 minutes nonstop.
For the on-and-off runner: Assuming you have some running experience under your belt, you can dive right into the Long-Interval Day plan, subbing in running for the power walks. The intervals should be challenging, and the Tempo Day run should be done at a hard but comfortable pace.
For the gym-goer: You can also use this plan to cross-train, doing the exact same routines while on the elliptical machine, rowing machine or stationary bike.
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Walking our way to Weight Loss
As well as wearing comfortable shoes and clothes, it is almost always a good idea to wear a hat, sunglasses, a factor 30+ sunscreen and some Aerogard or similar insect repellent if we plan to walk between 11am and 3pm, especially in the warmer months of the year.
While not absolutely necessary to begin a walking program, a heart rate monitor may provide valuable exercise feedback, a walkman or iPod can certainly help make our walks much more enjoyable and a mobile phone can be great in an emergency.
A must for anyone walking for more than 15 minutes is a water bottle full of clean, refreshing water.
Once we have the right footwear, appropriate clothes and other necessities, we’re ready to go.
Always warm up before a walk
Every walking workout should begin with a brief warm-up and a few simple stretches.
For relatively short works (under 5kms / 3miles), walking around the house or in place for a few minutes to get the blood flowing to the muscles before we attempt to stretch them should suffice.
As an absolute minimum, it is a good idea to stretch our calves, hamstrings (back of our upper leg) and quadriceps (thighs) before we start our proper walk.
Although walking primarily works the major muscles of the legs, it’s always a good idea to stretch our back, shoulders and arms as well. This will help to loosen up any tension we may be carrying in our muscles and make our walk more enjoyable as well as more effective.
For a range of perfect pre-walk stretches, visit our stretching workout section.
Where to walk and how far
Often the hardest part of any walking program is deciding where to walk and how far to walk.
For some of us, the thing that often makes this decision an easier one is the amount of time we have / or are prepared to devote to walking on any given day.
If we only have a little bit of time, there isn’t too much point in wasting most of it traveling to scenic walking tracks to walk.
This time would be better spent actually walking.
If our time is limited, walking around our own neighbourhood for as long and as far as possible is often best.
If we have the time to travel to the beach or a local lake for added motivation and still have enough time for a considerable walk, then great, by all means let’s do that. Otherwise, let’s put what valuable time we have into actually walking.
In addition to the amount of time we have or make available, our current fitness level, injuries, and the number of kilojoules or calories we want to burn should also come into consideration when determining how far or for how long we should walk.
If our current fitness level or injuries limit the amount of walking we can do, we can start with very short walks – like a five-minute stroll for example – and gradually but consistently build on the distance and time as our fitness and health improves.
Beginning walkers can make their workouts less strenuous by limiting how fast and far they walk.
In addition, beginner walkers should forget about walking speed and concentrate on walking at a comfortable pace for the maximum amount of time.
As a general guide to walking speed, if you can’t talk comfortably while walking, you are probably walking too fast.
How many kilojoules or calories we want to burn should also help determine how long we walk for each day.
To work out how many kilojoules or calories you’ll burn while walking at different speeds, visit our Exercise Energy Charts. According to those charts, a 100kg (220 pound) person burns an average of around 550 kilojoules or 130 calories per half-hour of walking at 3kph (2mph).
As our fitness improves, we should all try to walk a little faster and a little further so we can burn even more kilojoules or calories.
Other great walking tips
OK, once we’ve gotten started on our walking program (which is by far the hardest part), we should try to make our walks as effective and safe as possible. Here’s a few of our very best tips to help us all do just that:
- When walking try to focus on good posture, keeping our head lifted and shoulders relaxed.
- Always try to swing our arms naturally and breathe deeply. If we can’t catch our breath, we should slow down and avoid hills.
- Once we have reached a point where we can walk a few kilometres, we should start to vary the intensity and increase the length of our walks.
- Walking hills, in addition to increasing our fitness and burning extra calories, is a great way to tone our legs and butt.
- Don’t forget to reward yourself after each workout with a few minutes of relaxing stretches to help prevent sore muscles.
- Listening to music while walking is a great way to energize our workout. But if you wear headphones, keep the volume down and watch out for traffic that you may not hear.
- It can be very motivating and rewarding to keep track of our improved fitness by recording each of our walking times and distances covered in an exercise diary.
- It can also be very motivating and rewarding to sign up for, and participate in a walking event, particularly if your entry fee goes to a good cause like the local children’s hospital or some other equally worthy charity.
- Many experts recommend that we walk a minimum of 20 minutes a day. But there are no hard and fast rules, just try to walk as long as you can, as often as you can.
- Fit walking into your schedule whenever you can. That may mean two 10-minute walks each day or even hour-long walks two to three times a week. The best schedule is one that keeps you walking and keeps you fit!
- If you’d eventually like to add jogging to your exercise program, incorporate some very short jogs into your walks and over time increase the number of those jogs and their duration (for example, walk 5 minutes, jog 1 minute, walk 5 minutes, jog 1 minute, etc).
- For maximum enjoyment, motivation and safety, find a walking partner to share your walks with. Choose from family (including your dog(s), friends, colleagues and neighbours with similar weight loss and fitness goals to you.
- Be very careful walking at night or early in the morning when it is dark. Where reflective clothes so you are more visible to cars and be careful where you step, potholes and overhanging branches can be particularly dangerous when unseen.
If you want to lose weight and improve your fitness this year but don’t know where to start, walking can be your best option.
This article explained why starting a walking routine is often the best weight loss option, how to get started on a walking program of your own and provided other useful tips and information to allow you to get the most benefit out of a walking program for weight loss and fitness.
Good luck with your walking and weight loss and thanks for visiting weightloss.com.au.
© Copyright Ultimate Weightloss.
This article was written by Scott Haywood.
Scott is the editor of weightloss.com.au. Scott has developed an expertise in fitness and nutrition, and their roles in weight loss, which led him to launch weightloss.com.au in 2005. Today, weightloss.com.au provides weight loss and fitness information, including hundreds of healthy recipes, weight loss tools and tips, articles, and more, to millions of people around the world, helping them to lead happier, healthier, lives.
You can follow Scott on Google+ for more interesting articles.
A Guide to Running for Weight Loss: Secrets to Help You Shed Those Stubborn Pounds
Searching for a weight loss plan that actually works? Our guide will show you how to run into a healthier you—and you might even enjoy yourself along the way.
Hey, you. Feeling a bit dejected on your weight loss journey—or perhaps journeys? Maybe you started putting the effort in but stopped, discouraged by the lack of results, only to pick it back up and repeat the same cycle over.
Maybe the time and commitment got the better of you (understandable), or maybe this is the first time you’ve decided you’re ready for a life change.
However you got here, we’re about to drop some knowledge and give you the lowdown on the best way to lean down: running.
Before you start rolling your eyes in exasperation, take a deep breath and relax. We know what a daunting challenge running for weight loss may seem, but this guide is tailor-made for beginners.
It’s not as scary or impossible as you might think. Our running plan for weight loss is approachable, easy to follow, and guaranteed to give you the results you’re after—if you’re willing to commit. We’re going to teach you the science of running and weight loss, the overall benefits it has for your health, and how you can reap those juicy benefits—all while shedding pounds along the way.
So, let’s check that self-depreciation at the door and get started. Use our full guide to get started on your weight loss journey, or jump to a specific section by clicking below:
- Does Running Help You Lose Weight? What Science has to Say
- How to Lose Weight Running
- Running Schedule for Weight Loss
- Running Weight Loss Tips
Does Running Help You Lose Weight? What Science has to Say
You want to lose fat? Let’s ditch the fad diets, empty claims, and bogus weight loss products. The breakdown is simple: to lose weight, you need to sustain a calorie deficit diet.
You might be squirming at the “D” word, and it’s understandable—healthy dieting is where most people struggle in their quest to lose weight. We’ll return to that subject later because, no doubt, which foods you’re consuming will definitely impact your results.
For now, let’s focus on how running for weight loss can also help you sustain a calorie deficit—and could potentially allow you to eat more food, so you can lose pounds without feeling like you’re starving yourself. Now that’s an idea that should make your stomach smile.
You need to burn more than you consume, so you’ll need to calculate a few numbers when running for weight loss.
Researchers say that in order to lose a pound per week, you need to maintain a 3,500 calorie deficit.
That means your running plan for weight loss needs to clock you in at about negative 500 calories per day.
Does math give you a headache? Fear not—we’ll break it down:
- Your resting metabolic rate, sometimes called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), is the number of calories necessary to fuel your body for its life-sustaining, automatic functioning. Believe it or not, breathing and blood circulation require energy (A.K.A. calories), and that required amount is dependent on your age, weight, and height.
- Couple your BMR with the calories burned from your daily activities. This not only includes exercise or the amount you run for weight loss, but also the type of lifestyle you lead and the mindless tasks therein, such as taking the elevator versus stairs, and sitting or standing at work.
Combine those two numbers and stack the result up against the number of calories you consume per day. Ultimately, we’re creating a running program to lose weight that makes you burn more calories than you’re consuming.
That said, a number of factors will determine your weight loss endeavors.
Throughout your weight loss journey, you’ll need to consider the role the above factors play in your success—and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Can You Lose Belly Fat by Running?
In short, yes.
Out with the, “I’m too out of shape to run, too fatigued, too (insert your own excuse here) … I’ll just target my abs instead”. Sorry, that’s not how it works. You won’t lose fat from your abdomen by just lying on the ground and doing crunches all day.
To tone your tummy, you need to reduce your overall BMI (or body mass index, a measurement of your body fat based on your height and weight), and running for weight loss is the best way to do so.
Not sold? Trust the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory instead, whose 2012 study reports that runners are leaner and lighter than individuals who did equivalent amounts of any other type of exercise.
Do Morning Runs Help You Lose Weight?
You might have heard people preach about getting up early, rolling out of bed, sliding into their running shoes and heading out the door for a morning jog. If you value you your sleep as much as most do, you might think these people are crazy.
There is a method to their madness, though.
Not only does greeting the day with active energy get your blood pumping and body moving, but it’s also the best time if you’re running for fat loss. Exercising early in the day boosts your metabolism and creates an “afterburn effect”. This means it increases your BMR, making your body burn more fat even while you’re sitting or sleeping. Cut more calories while doing nothing at all? Yes, please.
The moral here: get up and move—the earlier the better. The more you run, the more potential you’ll reveal in yourself, the better you’ll feel (and the thinner you’ll look!).
How to Lose Weight Running
It’s clear that running and weight loss go hand in hand. However, if you’re just dipping your toe into the world of cardio, we’ll need to start slow and thoughtfully pace your running for beginners weight loss program. Let’s start with the basics, like what equipment you’ll need. (Pro tip: what you’ll need more than anything are determination and drive).
What Equipment is Needed to Run?
Above all else, you’ll need a solid pair of running shoes with cushion. You’re going to be doing a lot of work in these bad boys, so you need to make them your new best friend. Pulling those old Chuck Taylors out of your closest to pound pavement will set you up for a world of trouble—shin splints and knee pains galore.
If you’re serious about running for weight loss, you need to invest in a dependable pair of shoes that can take you where you need to go and help you achieve the results you’re after—without burning out on stress or discomfort before you can get there.
Shop men’s running shoes that can withstand massive amounts of impact without losing their cloud-like comfort. Trust us, when you’re just starting out on your running plan for weight loss, cozy cushioning will be priority number one. Ladies who are looking for a running program to lose weight should check out running shoes for women which are anatomically designed for narrower female feet.
You don’t need much else than a good pair of shoes and a positive attitude when you’re running for weight loss, but there are a number of handy accessories that can help track and promote your progress, such as:
Pedometer—unless you’re pre-mapping your routes, a pedometer will measure the amount of miles you log while you do laps and run for fat loss.
Heart rate monitor—these are critical for running and weight loss because your elevated heart rate will let you know how many calories you’re burning. Keeping track of this is paramount for staying in a calorie deficit, so we recommend keeping an activity log to record your data.
Running apps—instead of taking it upon yourself and measure your distance and tracking your calories, take advantage of a bevy of apps that can do it for you. After installing an app for running and weight loss, such as Couch to 5K, you’ll be asked to enter some data regarding your height, weight, and age.
Once your profile is complete, just open up the app to log each run’s performance and record stats such as distance, speed, and calories burned. Plus, you’ll probably get hit with a motivational push or two during the day that’ll inspire you to get out and get going—and let’s be real, we can all use a little kick in the butt sometimes.
Best Type of Running for Weight Loss
If you’re learning how to run to lose weight, you’re probably not aware of the many different types of running workouts out there and which ones you should be doing. Let’s take a look.
- Base run: These are short to moderate-length runs done at a natural pace and not meant to be overly challenging. Example: 5 miles at your natural pace.
- Progression run: This workout is designed to start at your natural pace and end a bit faster. Example: 5 miles at your natural pace, 1 mile at a faster pace.
- Long run: As you push your running plan for weight loss, you’ll eventually increase your distance as you improve your endurance. It might be difficult at first to press farther and farther, but remember, change starts at the end of your comfort zone. Example: 10 miles at your natural pace.
- Intervals: These workouts contain bursts of high-intensity sprints separated by segments of lower jogging or walking. Example: 5 sets of 100-meter sprints followed by 20-minute jogs.
- Tempo run: This isn’t an ideal workout with respect to running for beginners’ weight loss, as it encourages the fastest pace you can sustain for the longest time possible. Example: 3 miles of running at the fastest sustainable pace. However, there’s much to be said about working on increasing your speed. The faster you run, the more calories you burn. The proof is in the pudding: While a 155-pound person burns 298 calories during a 30-minute run at 5 mph, the same person could burn 372 calories during a 30-minute run at 6 mph.
- Hill run: As the name implies, this workout involves running uphill for various intervals. Example: 10 sets of 45-second hill runs, with a 1-2 minute rest interval in between.
- Recovery run: Also called easy runs, your running plan for weight loss will doubtlessly involve many of these cruisers. Take these as nice and slow as you like—you’ll still be lapping your former self on the couch. Example: 3 miles at an easy pace after a day of interval training.
Interval Running for Weight Loss
So, which style is the best if you’re running for weight loss? Interval training is definitely the most effective running program to lose weight. The periods of high intensity increase the stimulus in your muscles, thus achieving a much greater effect in the same amount of time as a moderate base run.
It’s math. Incorporating interval training into your running plan for weight loss will help you cut tons of calories in a relatively short time. As an added bonus, your muscles require a lot of energy after a high-intensity push in order to recover and regenerate, creating that after-burn effect while your metabolism stays elevated and your body continues to burn calories.
If your natural pace is 5 miles per hour, try to up your ante for a few segments. If it sounds challenging, keep in mind that you’re not running to win a race—you’re running to test the limits of your heart and drive. You’re here to take control of your health, and you’re capable of so much more than you think possible.
Here are some interval training tips to help you reach new running heights:
- Don’t forget to warm up: When you’re interval running for fat loss, it’s imperative that you warm up with a 10-15 minute base run to prevent injuries. Base runs should be performed at a pace that’s comfortable enough to carry on a conversation, not gasping for air (psst… now’s a good time to encourage a friend to join in on your running plan for weight loss!).
- Work periods: Once you’re nice and warm, your work periods should last about 15 seconds—shoot for a submaximal sprint, or in other words, not quite full speed. Follow this aerobic interval with a 45-second recovery period with slow walking. Work up to 15 intervals, which should amount to a 15 minute running for weight loss session. Cooldown is imperative, though; after your last push, be sure to walk it off for 10 minutes to naturally lower your heart rate.
- Start slow: As you first get into running for beginners’ weight loss, make sure you don’t overdo it—starting at once a week should be fine. Once you get into the swing of things, you can start increasing the frequency of this running method, and can up your intervals to 20-second runs and 40-second rests.
Get some technological help: You don’t need a fancy timer to get good at these runs. Apps like Runtastic have an Interval Trainer feature with a Voice Coach that tells you when to start and stop each period. Prefer to run free and unencumbered? Try going by landmarks instead, sprinting and walking between each lamp post, for example.
Running Schedule for Weight Loss
We’ve covered the basics and you now have a solid understanding of running and weight loss—but taking those first few steps can be the hardest. How do you go from that couch you’re sitting on, to a run so epic Morgan Freeman should be narrating it?
Baby steps. Clichés aside, you really do need to walk before you can run—especially if your lifestyle is particularly sedentary. Here’s an introductory running plan for weight loss that can take you from walking to running in four weeks’ time:
- Monday—start with an easy 20-minute walk
- Tuesday—rest or perform non-impact cardio (swimming, biking, etc.) for 20 minutes
- Wednesday—walk for 25 minutes
- Thursday—rest or non-impact cardio for 20 minutes
- Friday—walk/run 4x (walk 4:00 minutes/run 1:00)
- Saturday— rest or non-impact cardio for 20 minutes
- Monday—walk/run 5x (walk 4:00 minutes/run 1:00)
- Tuesday—rest or non-impact cardio for 25 minutes
- Wednesday—walk/run 6x (walk 3:00 minutes/run 1:00)
- Thursday—rest or non-impact cardio for 25 minutes
- Friday—walk/run 7x (walk 3:00 minutes/run 1:00)
- Saturday—rest or non-impact cardio for 25 minutes
- Monday—walk/run 7x (walk 3:00 minutes/run 1:00)
- Tuesday—rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
- Wednesday—walk/run 9x (walk 1:00 minutes/run 2:00)
- Thursday—rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
- Friday—walk/run 7x (walk 3:00 minutes/run 1:00)
- Saturday—rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
- Monday—walk/run 6x (walk 1:00 minutes/run 4:00)
- Tuesday—rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
- Wednesday—walk/run (walk 5:00/run 20:00/walk 5:00)
- Thursday—rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
- Friday—run for 28 minutes
- Saturday—rest or non-impact cardio for 30 minutes
By the end of your first month of running for weight loss, you should be able to sustain a base run for nearly 30 minutes. It might not sound like much now, but it’s leaps and bounds better than where you started—and you’ll probably be asking yourself why you didn’t start sooner.
Going into month two of your running plan for weight loss, you can start hitting those aforementioned interval runs—this is when you’ll really start to see those pounds falling off. Remember, you’re not just running for fat loss, you’re training to become a badass.
You’re shedding your old skin as you shed that weight, turning into someone resilient, someone motivated to take care of their body, and someone who’s going to drag their butt out of bed to run and work out—no matter how tired or unmotivated you might be feeling.
How Much Weight Can You Lose if You Run Two Miles per Day?
We said it before and we’ll say it again: there’s no concrete answer to this question; running and weight loss depends on a bunch of different factors.
If you improve your diet with loads of leafy greens and lean meats, you’ll get significantly better results. If you run at a faster pace than a light jog, you’ll burn more calories in your two-mile trek, which again complicates this answer.
If you make no change to your diet, it could take you around 18 days or so to drop a single pound. Cut out 300 calories from your diet and perform the daily two-mile jog—you could lose a pound per week.
Health Benefits of Running
You’ll probably shake your head at this, but—dare we say—you might actually develop a love for running, and it could turn into a passion rather than a chore. Running releases so much more than just energy and sweat.
Run to explore, run to escape. Take your running for weight loss to the trails, get into nature, away from the congestion and clear your head a bit. The massive flood of endorphins released when running can make you feel like you’re on cloud nine.
Your running plan for weight loss will do a lot more than help you thin down. You’ll feel better mentally thanks to a confidence boost, greater self-esteem, and pride in your relentless dedication. You’ll also feel (and look!) better physically on account of your running program to lose weight. Some additional health benefits you stand to enjoy include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Stronger immune system
- Increased joint and bone strength
- Greater lung capacity
- Improved sleep
The list goes on and on. When you want to take control of your health, you need a paradigm shift. The goal here isn’t to run for a few weeks, lose your desired weight, and then fall back into bad habits. This is a lifestyle change that includes healthy eating and exercising—even after you’ve hit that magic number on the scale. Hopefully, by understanding the awesome mental and physical health benefits of running daily, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Running for Weight Loss: Final Tips
There are a million and one reasons you could lose motivation while you’re running for weight loss, but impatience and a lack of visible results probably take the cake (please, stay away from cake while in your weight loss running program).
Here are a few tips to keep you on your grind:
- Record your progress—keep track of your mileage to ensure you’re gradually pushing your distance.
- Strength train—leg muscles are a kinetic chain, and strength training can ease your running program to lose weight by correcting weaknesses and imbalances.
- Stretch—minimize common injuries by making sure you stretch before and after each run.
- Running shoes—make sure you wear shoes designed for running, contoured to your specific foot shape.
Road Runner Sports has you covered on all things running, from shoes to apparel to expert advice. Stop by one of our locations and let one of our Fit Pros analyze your run to help you find the perfect shoe, or browse our online catalog to explore the ways we can help you on your running and weight loss journey.
8-Week Running for Weight-Loss Program
Running can be an effective weight-loss tool if you take the right approach to it. Our 8-Week Running for Weight-Loss Program combines three key elements that are proven to yield the best results: high-intensity aerobic exercise, strength training, and a healthy, portion-controlled diet.
It’s important to keep in mind that your goal shouldn’t be just to lose weight… but more specifically, to lose fat. Running can help you burn body fat, in combo with diet (as mentioned earlier), because it’s one of the highest calorie burners when it comes to working out. Running requires a ton of muscle power and energy to continually move and propel your body forward, mile after mile.
But it’s important to remember that losing weight really boils down to calories in and calories out. You may still lose weight with running alone but honing in on your diet can help excel your efforts. A recent study following more than 500 novice runners for one year found that runners clocking in more than three miles per week lost about four pounds, just from running alone. But the running group who also covered more than three miles per week, but also made tweaks to their diet, lost 12.3 pounds on average over the course of a year.
Weight-Loss Running Plan Overview
Our program employs a simple, two-zone intensity system:
- Low intensity (Li): This is a pace at which you can talk comfortably, but beyond which speaking in full sentences will become difficult. If you train by heart rate, Li translates to 70 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate. Note that, if your current fitness level is low, you may need to walk initially to stay at low intensity.
- High intensity (Hi): This is defined by the specific structure of each workout. Whether you’re doing short intervals, long intervals, or hill repetitions, aim to complete the full session at the highest speed you can sustain for every interval or repetition without slowing down.
This means you will run shorter intervals a little faster than longer intervals. It may take a little practice to master your pacing in each workout type; that’s OK. Just keep in mind it’s better to start out a little too conservatively and finish with something left in the tank than to start out too aggressively and hit the wall.
The schedule includes both beginner and intermediate options. Here are some tips on how to adapt it for you and your fitness level:
- If you haven’t exercised much lately, select the shorter options for warm-ups and cooldowns (e.g., go with 5 minutes where you see “5:00–10:00″). Do the same for steady walks/runs, and do your low-intensity efforts at a walk if necessary.
- If you’re in pretty good shape but new to running, select the longer options for warm-ups, cooldowns, and steady walks/runs, and jog your low-intensity efforts if you can do so while catching your breath and recovering enough before your next interval (if you can’t, walk these).
- The interval blocks are structurally the same for everyone. If you see this, “6x(0:30Hi/1:30Li),” it means you sprint for 30 seconds at high intensity, with a minute and a half of jogging or walking after each sprint, and complete this sequence six times total.
- Naturally, the fitter you are, the faster your sprints will be, and that’s what makes the interval blocks one-size-fits-all. Try to run all your intervals on flat, smooth terrain. The optimal slope for hill repetitions is a moderate six to eight percent.
- Finally, note that Week 4 and Week 8 are lower-volume weeks. Your training load is slightly reduced (rather than increased) from the previous week to give your body a chance to recover. That will help prevent overtraining and help optimize performance and goal progress. Enjoy!
The Best Type of Running for Weight Loss
Calculating calorie burn for an activity like running is more complex than it might seem. Although the American Council of Exercise offers recommendations of the approximate caloric cost of running per minute based on speed, keep in mind that your calorie burn may differ depending on your age, body weight, and general activity level.
Also, the more weight you lose, the fewer calories your body burns at rest, so your initial estimate of how much you need to run for weight loss may change over time. A better strategy is to set a weight-loss goal and combine running and strength training completed by diet changes. What’s the best type of running for weight loss? The program that makes you want to keep going. So, lace up and get started.
High-Intensity Running Workouts for Weight Loss
Studies show that shorter workouts at a moderate to high intensity are just as effective for weight loss as those longer, slower runs. Adding in these high-intensity interval training (HIIT) runs offers variety to your running program, and they save you time on those days when your schedule might be a little more hectic.
Our program (schedule above) features an eight-day workout cycle that includes three different types of high-intensity runs and one low-intensity run/walk.
Strength Training for Runners
Adding in a couple days of strength training can pay off in spades for runners. While it likely won’t lead to more weight loss, strength training while following a running program can help you maintain or increase your lean body mass — which helps maintain your metabolism — even as you are losing weight.
There are two strength-training sessions scheduled during each eight-day cycle in our 8-Week Running for Weight-Loss Program.
By focusing on compound (multi-joint) exercises that collectively target your entire body (read: not just your legs), a heavy strength-training workout can help increase running speed, running economy, power output, and time to exhaustion, according to a review in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.
And by doing resistance training regularly, you can cut your overall risk of injury. A recent review looked at more than 25 different studies to determine which interventions or actions we can take to help prevent sports injuries; strength training reduced sports injuries to less than ⅓ and overuse injuries were almost cut in half.
The 3 Most Effective Running Workouts for Losing Weight
The most important thing when looking to lose weight is achieving a negative energy balance. If you burn more calories than you consume, you lose weight. Therefore, it’s ideal when your training consists of workouts that torch a lot of calories without spending hours working out. Slow runs at a comfortable pace are good for boosting your metabolism, but they are not very effective at blasting fat. Intense workouts that produce a high training stimulus are better at burning calories. Plus, your muscles require a lot of energy post-workout for the recovery process. Through this “afterburn effect” your body continues to burn calories after your workout.
In today’s blog post, we will show you three effective running workouts to optimize your weight loss:
1. Aerobic intervals
In this type of interval training, the ratio between work and recovery is 1 to 2. The intense phase should last a maximum of 30 seconds. The work phase consists of a submaximal sprint and the recovery phase, a slow walk.
How to do it:
The work phase lasts 20 seconds. You should run at a submaximal sprint (about 85-90% of your maximum sprint). Fast, but not full gas. This is followed by a recovery phase consisting of 40 seconds of slow walking. Repeat this cycle for 20 minutes, or in other words, a total of 20 intervals. It is important that you hold back a little during the first intervals. You will know that you have chosen the right pace when you can run the last sprint as fast as the first one.
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2. Intervals at your 5k race pace
In these intervals, the work and recovery periods are equal. You should run at the average pace of your 5k personal best. If you don’t know this, you can adjust the intensity according to your heart rate. Calculate the maximum heart rate for your age group (220 minus your age) and take 90-95% of that value.
Note: Running intervals based on your maximum heart rate is not very precise. At the beginning of the work phase, your heart rate will continue to climb and won’t level off until 1 ½ – 2 minutes into your run. Or in other words, it will take 1 ½ – 2 minutes for you to reach your calculated heart rate. That is also why it is better to run your intervals based on your race pace.
How to do it:
The work phase lasts 4 minutes. You should run at the average pace of your 5k personal best. This is followed by a recovery phase consisting of 4 minutes of slow jogging. Repeat the cycle 4 times, or in other words, run for a total of 32 minutes, 16 minutes of it at a fast pace.
3. Continuous run at your 10k race pace
In contrast to the intervals, you run at a constant pace throughout this training exercise. You should run at the average pace of your 10k personal best. If you don’t know your 10k personal best, you can adjust the intensity according to your heart rate. Calculate the maximum heart rate for your age group (220 minus your age) and take 85-90% of that value.
The work phase lasts 30 minutes. You should run at the average pace of your 10k personal best.
Note: Make sure to give your body plenty of recovery time. Wait at least 48 hours before doing your next intense training session.
Don’t forget to warm up well before your running workouts by running at a moderate pace for 10-15 minutes. Follow this with 2-3 short accelerations (gradually increase your pace over a short distance of about 100 m until you almost reach a maximum sprint) to get your muscles ready for the intense workout coming up. After your workout, jog at a slow pace for at least 10 minutes to cool down.
Are you interested in learning more about improving your running performance? Check out our best bodyweight trainings to improve your strength as a runner.