If you run 3.1 miles daily and accumulate 21.7 miles of distance over the course of a week, this effort should help you lose weight — shouldn't it?
The answer isn't so clear-cut. Whether a 5K a day will take the pounds away depends on a number of factors. If you're going from sedentary to your running program, it may very well help you hit lower numbers on the scale.
However, weight loss doesn't happen in an exercise vacuum. What you eat and what you do the rest of the day matters.
Calories In vs. Calories Out
Weight loss is often boiled down to the equation calories in versus calories out. Eat fewer calories than you burn, and you lose pounds. While this is true, weight loss isn't quite this simple. A number of hormonal and environmental factors contribute to weight loss, too.
Running can help you with the calories in/calories out portion of the weight-loss equation, but can't necessarily change the way your body uses hormones, such as insulin, or environmental factors, such as how you sleep. Plus, if running daily makes you extra hungry or gives you the feeling that you deserve an extra cookie or fancy coffee drink, you'll replace many of the calories you burned and not lose much weight.
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Consider the Calorie Equation
The complicating hormone and environmental factors aside, a 5K a day might help you burn enough calories to lose a little weight. To lose 1 pound, you must eat about 3,500 calories fewer than you burn. You can exercise these calories off, lower your food intake or combine the two strategies.
Exactly how many calories you burn depends your starting size. Larger people tend to burn more calories. For example, a 155-pound person who completes the 5K in about 30 minutes at approximately a 10-minute-per-mile pace burns 372 calories; however, a 180-pound person burns 444 calories in the same time.
For these people, it'll take eight to 10 days to lose 1 pound — provided the only changes they make to their lifestyle is the daily 5K run.
Note that running faster does burn more calories, but if you're going a set 3.1 miles, you cover the same ground — just faster. You'll exercise for a shorter period of time, so your net calorie burn will be roughly equivalent.
Solid Weight-Loss Strategy
If you want to lose weight a little more quickly, you'll have to up your exercise game. The American College of Sports Medicine notes that it takes about 250 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week, such as a slow-paced 5K, to lose significant weight. This means you'll need to run farther or longer on most days of the week.
Now, if you're running at a very modest pace, it might take you 45 minutes or more to cover 3.1 miles. Therefore, a 5K could be a good initial cardio strategy for weight loss. But, over just a few weeks or a month, you'll likely become more efficient and take less time to go the distance.
Using running as your only exercise can also backfire. You may experience burn out and injury, especially if you jump into a daily 5K from couch potato status. Plus, you use the same muscles over and over again. This can lead to overuse injuries and, over time, will lead you to become more efficient. And, when you're efficient, you burn fewer calories during the run.
You're better off aiming for a 5K, two to three times per week and on the other days, cross train with other cardio and strength training. For example, you might swim, cycle or take a cardio dance class on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and leave the running for Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
On at least two of these days, you'll also benefit from strength training all the major muscle groups. Rows, push-ups, crunches, shoulder presses, squats, lunges and biceps curls performed with heavy weights encourage muscle development more than running will. When you build muscle, you become leaner and burn more fat at rest and during exercise.
Trim your calorie intake by 250 to 500 calories per day as well. This will help you create the 3,500-calorie deficit sooner and see weight loss results.
Read More: Tips on Losing Weight Fast