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How Fast Can You Lose Weight by Walking or Running 4 Miles a Day?

author image Martin Booe
Martin Booe writes about health, wellness and the blues. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Bon Appetit. He lives in Los Angeles.

Excess weight has a way of creeping up on you gradually until one day you reach a literal tipping point on the scales. Holy frozen pizza! Did you really gain that much weight?

If you're thinking that walking or running 4 miles daily -- a somewhat challenging but not unreasonable goal -- will help you achieve your weight-loss goals, then you're on the right track.

However, if you're planning to lose any significant amount of weight through exercise alone, you might want to reconsider your strategy. You'll get a lot farther a lot faster if you incorporate calorie restriction into your plan than if you rely on exercise alone.

The speed at which you lose weight depends a lot on whether you rely on jogging alone or add dietary modifications to your strategy. The rate of loss is also dictated by your size and intensity during the exercise session. Running or walking can help you achieve the National Institutes of Health recommendations for rates of safe weight loss, which is 1 to 2 pounds a week.

Read More: Tips on Losing Weight Fast

Calories, Exertion and Weight Loss

For most intents and purposes, a calorie is a calorie. And to lose a pound of weight, you've got to burn 3,500 of them.

You can do that by cutting down on how many calories you consume, or you can do it by increasing your physical activity. The number of calories you can expect to burn by hauling your keister at one speed or another for 4 miles, or 21,120 feet depends on how you go at it.

Fast and Furious or Slow and Deliberate?

The general consensus is that you'll burn more calories running than walking a given distance, though there is some debate on the matter. According to healthstatus.com, a 5-foot-10-inch, 185-pound male would burn 432 calories by briskly walking for 4 miles. Double the pace to an 8 mph run -- which is quite rapid, especially if you're carrying excess weight -- and the same man would burn 566 calories.

However, there's another general consensus, which is that consistency is more important than anything. You can do yourself a lot of good with a little bit of exercise. Overweight people are encouraged to start with a moderate pace and build up.

You may find it motivating to determine your target heart rate zone and stay within it. That zone is between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. For the aforementioned 40-year-old man, that would be between 90 and 153 beats per minute. And, the proverbial "fat burning zone" is a myth. Ramping up your intensity to the higher end of your maximum heart rate will do the job faster and better.

At any rate, let's say you come out at somewhere around 400 to 500 calories per run. That's about a pound of weight loss a week, 5 pounds per month -- give or take a pinch around the middle. Losing weight at a healthy rate means dropping 1 to 2 pounds a week, according to the National Institutes of Health.

You may also speed up your weight loss by incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your workout. HIIT is a method of cardiovascular training in which you engage in short bursts of pushing close to your max, interspersed with equal or longer periods of rest or lower intensity. HIIT has been shown to increase fat burning and improve cholesterol and blood sugar profiles.

Diet and Exercise: Better Together

It's very difficult to lose weight by exercise alone. It's also especially important to be alert to certain "compensatory behaviors" that could actually cause you to gain weight from your 4 mile excursions instead of lose it.

Be careful not to over reward yourself with extra helpings, thus offsetting your progress. It's also not unusual for people to downshift their energy level after a run to such an extent that they actually burn fewer calories than on the days they don't run.

The most success is met with a combination of calorie restriction and exercise. Running or walking 4 miles a day will speed up your metabolism, causing you to gradually burn more calories as you naturally enjoy a higher energy level.

Read More: Do You Burn More Fat Running Fast or Slow?

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