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How Many Calories Does Running Burn?

Updated on June 30, 2012
The number of calories running burns is a focus for many runners
The number of calories running burns is a focus for many runners | Source

Whether running for fitness or to train for competition, one important issue that runners focus on is how many calories running actually burns. If running for fitness the issue is obvious, losing weight means burning more calories than you eat. Therefore, having an firm grasp of how many calories you actually burn during running can help you structure an adequate diet plan. Similarly when training for competition, especially for high mileage runners, it is good to know how many calories you need to ingest during the day, and structure specific diet plants to accommodate the correct ratios of proteins fat and carbohydrates into your diet.

Running vs Walking

The basic idea of calories burned focuses on moving a certain mass (your body) over a specific distance. Now, walking instead of running requires that you move the same mass (again yourself) over the same distance. Thus, many people assumed that walking burned just as many calories as running. Recently we know that this is simply not true. Several studies, some published (Hall C, Figueroa A, Fernhall B, Kanaley JA. (2004)Energy expenditure of walking and running: comparison with prediction equations Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Dec;36(12):2128-34.) and others done by graduate students have been key in discovering this. There are many complex systems in our bodies that function differently when running as compared to walking, the running motion itself is different than walking, which leads to your body burning more calories running opposed to walking. From these studies we know that it is not only the distance of the run, but the intensity that determines how many calories we burn.

Body Weight and General Calculations

The biggest factor in determining how many calories you burn is your body weight. The larger you are the more work you have to do in order to move yourself over a certain distance. However, an exact calculation of calories burned during running is very difficult. One must understand that when you are determining the calories you have burned over a run, it is just and estimate, and often a a very rough one.

Using online calculators is one way that many people calculate their calories burned. However, I used several of these (seven in fact) to obtain estimates for my self; a 150lb runner doing a five mile run. The calorie burned estimates came out as follows; 490, 545, 556, 564, 568, 593, and 599. There is quite a discrepancy there, and I find that many of the calculators use very few variables to calculate the amount of calories burned during running. My personal preference is to recommend using the Shapesense.com calculator or the everdayhealth.com calculator as they are relatively easy to use, and take into account several variables.

Many runners also use a simple calculation to estimate calorie burn. This is, (your body weight) X 0.75 X (miles you run). This calculation is simple and easy to use and is useful for regular paced daily running. This formula results in a total 562 calories burned for my 5 mile run.

  1. (your body weight) X 0.75 X (miles you run)
  2. (150) X .75 X 5
  3. 112.5 X 5 = 562.5

Since these number are just an estimate of what you burn, I don't recommend using them as a strict rule but as a guideline to structure a healthy diet around.

Take care in calorie counting! Focusing on weight loss can remove the enjoyment from your running.
Take care in calorie counting! Focusing on weight loss can remove the enjoyment from your running. | Source

Calories and Weight Loss

A very general rule is that losing pound is equal to burning 3500 calories. However, becoming entirely focused on calories as a means to reduce weight through running can be a dangerous plan. You can see how by using calculations to determine calorie burn one can obsess over achieving certain numbers to reach a weight loss goal. This can undermine the actual purpose of running for fitness and remove enjoyment from the sport. Likewise, simply burning a number of calories doesn't make that bacon cheeseburger any better for you.

The goal of anyone looking to get into shape should be healthy weight loss, and not a focus on simply cutting weight. Calculating your calories from running is just one step in structuring a healthy lifestyle and diet for the future. Everyone's body is different and healthy weight, metabolism and appearance is is different for us all. Like aspect of fitness, running should be fun, and enjoyable. Hopefully using the calculators and formulas above should enable you to enjoy your sport and not increase your stress levels.

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    • Sethughes profile image

      Sethughes 5 years ago

      Very helpful! Thank you for adding the calculation. I usually just guess around 100 calories a mile but that seems much more accurate.

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