Jogging for weight loss is a numbers game. The more hours you put in, the more calories you burn and the more pounds you lose.
Although, theoretically, your body starts burning calories as soon as you hit the pavement, it will take a little while before you see the fruits of your labor. Your diet and the number of calories you consume will also make a difference.
How fast you'll lose weight by jogging depends on a number of factors, including your pace, how long you run and your diet.
Jogging for Weight Loss
Jogging might just be the perfect way to burn calories. It requires no equipment, no gym membership and no crazy athletic ability. It's not as high impact as running, but it still burns a fair amount of calories, which is key when you want to want to make weight loss progress pronto.
So just how many calories can you burn while jogging for weight loss? That depends on several factors, the most important of which are:
- Your body weight
- Your speed
- How long you jog
Those are the most predictable factors that researchers can use to estimate how many calories a person can burn while doing a particular activity. Other factors that can influence calorie burn include:
- Climate. You burn more calories when it's hot outside.
- Terrain. Running over varied terrain and uphill is harder and burns more calories.
- Genetics. Some people just burn more calories than others.
- Body composition. People who have more muscle mass burn more calories.
- Fitness level. Fitter people will burn fewer calories jogging than less conditioned people, mile for mile.
Wearing a heart rate monitor is the best way to get an accurate idea of just how many calories you'll burn jogging. Otherwise, you can use these estimates from Harvard Health Publishing for the number of calories burned by people of three different weights, jogging at different speeds.
In 30 minutes, a person weighing 125 pounds will burn:
- 135 calories at a pace of 4 mph
- 150 calories at a pace of 4.5 mph
- 240 calories at a pace of 5 mph
A person weighing 155 pounds will burn:
- 167 calories at a pace of 4 mph
- 186 calories at a pace of 4.5 mph
- 298 calories at a pace of 5 mph
And a 185-pound person will burn:
- 200 calories at a pace of 4 mph
- 222 calories at a pace of 4.5 mph
- 355 calories at a pace of 5 mph
Keep in mind that a jogging pace is somewhat subjective. You can walk or jog at a pace of 4 mph. A seasoned runner might feel that running at a pace of 6.5 miles per hour is more of a jog than a run. Typically, a jog is somewhere between 4 and 6 mph.
Setting a Goal
How many calories do you need to burn for weight loss? Although fat loss is a complex topic that can't be put into a neat little equation, the basic idea is that you need to burn more calories than you consume each day to lose weight. That's called creating a calorie deficit. The greater the gap between calorie intake and expenditure, the bigger the calorie deficit, and the more weight you'll lose.
Take, for example, the theory that 1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. If that's true, then creating a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories would lead to a pound of fat loss, according to the University of Michigan University Health Service. This would mean that burning 500 calories per day by jogging for weight loss would involve a lot of jogging_._
For instance, if you weigh 155 pounds, you'd need to jog at a 4.5 mph pace for almost 9.5 hours a week to burn 3,500 calories, or 1 pound. Got time for that? Most people don't.
So, you could aim for a half-pound weight loss per week by halving that and jogging for a little more than four hours per week. That's pretty doable.
The 3,500-calorie rule is controversial and a bit outdated. While a pound of fat may, indeed, contain 3,500 calories, you won't necessarily lose a pound of fat by burning 3,500 calories. Calories can come from other sources besides fat.
In fact, according to an article published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in March 2014, especially in the beginning of a weight loss program, the body burns primarily stored carbohydrate and protein for energy, as well as a little fat.
Increasing Your Pace
If you're 155 pounds and opt for jogging four hours per week at 4 mph, that's a weight loss of around 2 pounds a month. Is that fast enough for you? If not, you'll have to find a way to increase your calorie deficit. As far as jogging goes, you can do that in a few ways, which include:
- Increasing your pace
- Jogging on more challenging terrain
- Using interval training to increase your speed and intensity
All of the above are going to require more effort. But the more effort you put in, the more calorie burn you get out.
Weighing 155 pounds, you could increase your weekly calorie burn to about 2,700 calories by jogging at a pace of 5.2 mph for a little over four hours per week. Or you could pick up the pace to 6 mph and burn a bit over 3,000 calories in the same time. That brings you closer to losing 1 pound of fat per week.
Running uphill will also increase your calorie burn, but it's hard to say by how much. Another method for expediting calorie burn is high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. In this type of workout, you would alternate periods of intense effort with less intense periods of recovery.
For example, you could jog for two minutes, then sprint for 45 seconds and alternate between the two for 30 minutes. This might take some working up to, but it will result in a higher gross calorie burn.
And, there's scientific support for the efficacy of HIIT for weight loss. A meta-analysis published in Sports Medicine in February 2018 examined the results of 39 studies on HIIT involving 617 subjects. The findings showed that HIIT training was more time-efficient and effective at reducing total-body and abdominal fat. In addition, HIIT running proved to be even more effective than HIIT cycling.
Raising the Stakes
But it's time to get real. If you really want to lose weight fast, jogging alone isn't going to get you there. Even HIIT running isn't going to get you there if your diet isn't healthy and conducive to weight loss. You can significantly increase your weight loss rate from jogging if you combine it with a nutritious, calorie-reduced diet.
Think about it — if you can burn 385 calories with a daily jog and you can cut 385 calories from your daily diet, you've just doubled your calorie deficit and halved the amount of time it will take you to get to your goal weight.
Cutting that amount of calories isn't that hard. You can cut pretty close to that amount just by nixing the sugary flavored coffee you drink on the way to work every morning. It's quite possible that you could cut even more calories than that by eating less fast food and sweets and by cooking your meals at home more often.
But it's not just about what you cut out; It's also about adding in healthy foods that will keep you feeling full and satisfied on fewer calories. Those foods include lean protein from chicken, fish and beans, fiber and complex carbohydrates from fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains and healthy fats from nuts, seeds and vegetable oils.
If you add more of these foods to your diet, you'll naturally "crowd out" other unhealthy foods. And, you'll have abundant energy to tackle your daily jogs, and even work your way up to running and sprinting.
- MD Anderson Cancer Center: "How to Determine Calorie Burn"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- CDC: "Finding a Balance"
- University of Michigan University Health Service: "Weight Reduction"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Time to Correctly Predict the Amount of Weight Loss With Dieting"
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"