Running is one of the best types of exercise for weight loss because it burns a significant amount of calories. How many miles you should run each day to lose weight depends on how much you want to lose and what other activities you're doing in addition to running.
Your diet also plays an equally important -- if not more important -- role in your weight loss success.
Weight Loss Basics
First things first: When most people talk about "weight" loss, what they actually mean is "fat" loss. Losing fat requires a calorie deficit -- burning more calories each day than you consume in your diet. How much of a deficit you create determines how much -- and how quickly -- you'll lose fat.
A pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories. Creating a daily calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories can help you lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat, which is considered to be a safe rate of weight loss. Losing more than that in a week could have unhealthy consequences -- nutritional deficiencies and fatigue among them.
Gradual weight loss is also associated with better long-term weight loss success; those who lose weight slowly tend to keep it off, while those who lose a lot of weight quickly tend to gain it back quickly.
Calories Burned Running
How many calories you'll burn running depends on several factors, including your weight and how fast you run. In 30 minutes, a 155-pound person burns 298 calories running at an easy pace of 5 miles per hour, and a 185-pound person will burn 355 at that same pace.
At a faster pace of 6 miles per hour, a person weighing 155 pounds will burn 372 calories in 30 minutes, while a person weighing 185 pounds will burn 444. At 7.5 miles per hour, a 155-person will burn 465 calories per half hour, while a 185-pound person will burn 555.
Read more: Recommended Caloric Intake for Weight Loss
Balancing Running and Diet
You shouldn't rely solely on running to lose fat. You'd need to run a lot of miles each day to burn 500 to 1,000 calories. Not only do most people not have that kind of time, but it also isn't good for your body. Running puts a lot of stress on your muscles, ligaments and bones, and running too much can lead to injury.
Your safest bet is to combine running with a healthy, calorie-controlled diet. If your goal is to lose a pound of fat per week, plan on burning 250 calories a day running and cut another 250 calories from your diet. This might mean running 2 to 3 miles per day, depending on your weight and pace.
Skipping dessert, drinking water instead of sugary beverages and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables are a few quick ways to easily curb calorie intake.
Up Your Calorie Burn
Running more than about 2 to 3 miles every day isn't recommended. This is especially true for beginners. Even seasoned runners training for competition know the importance of not running too much. In that sense, there's a limit to how many calories you can burn running.
Still, you have options:
Cut more calories from your diet: Make fresh vegetables the focus of your meals, supported by smaller amounts of whole grains and lean meats and fish. Pass on processed foods and eat dairy, nuts and seeds and healthy oils in moderation.
Do high-intensity interval training: Also called HIIT, this type of training involves alternating periods of intense effort with periods of recovery. For example, sprinting for one minute, followed by jogging for one minute, repeated for eight rounds. Studies show that interval training is better at burning fat than steady-state cardio. However, because it's intense, you shouldn't do this type of workout more than once or twice a week.
Cross-train: Burn more calories on your non-running days by biking, swimming or doing some other form of non-weight-bearing exercise. You'll burn a similar amount of calories as running without putting a lot of strain on your body.
Build muscle: Running builds muscle, but you should still be doing some form of total-body strength training. Not only will this help you run better, but it will also help you burn more calories. The more lean muscle mass you have the more calories your body burns -- even when you're not doing anything. Choose compound exercises like squats, push-ups, rows, lunges, step ups and shoulder presses, as well as exercises for your core such as planks, crunches and Supermans.
Read more: The Best Way to Lose Weight in One Month