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Running For Weight Loss

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Editor’s Note: The average American will consume between 3,000-4,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day.  Though running the local 5K Turkey Trot can give you a 300 calorie deficit before you even get to grandma’s house,  that’s just enough to cover a slice of pumpkin pie. But remember, one slice is always going to have less calories than two.  So to manage your weight during the holidays, skip seconds, keep your running shoes in motion and as Dr. Daniels suggests, stay consistent with your program. 

With the holidays upon us, it’s not unusual for a person to take up some regular exercise in hopes of managing or losing weight, and running is probably one of the easiest, if not most available, type of exercise that is well designed for such a thing.  Question is how much weight do you lose by running?

The answer is that a person of average weight will burn about 100 calories per mile (more if you are heavy and fewer if a light weight), so you burn off about 1 pound of fat for every 35-40 miles of running. This is true if you don’t start eating more because you start running more.  In other words, maintaining a good diet, associated with a stable body weight, and you will lose about one pound of unneeded body fat for each 35 to 40 miles that you run (if you have some to lose). However, you may not always lose weight when losing fat because of an increase in muscle mass that comes with work.

One fact is well worth keeping in mind, however, and that is that attempting to lose weight when you don’t have any unnecessary body tissue to lose, is not healthy and can lead to loss of useful body tissue, including muscle that is used for exercise.  Therefore, it is recommended that you don’t go on any specific weight-loss routine without the support of your doctor.

Let’s say that it is recommended for you to lose some weight and you are taking on some regular running in an attempt to accomplish this goal.  It’s not going to happen quickly just by running, but it is a great approach over time. 35 to 40 miles of running for each lost pound may not encourage many beginners to start running.  However, look at it as a long-term project rather than a short-term one.  Just think, if you run only 1 mile every day of the year (or 7 miles each week) you would run 365 miles and that comes out to 36,500 calories (10 pounds of fat lost or prevented from being added on).

For those who want to speed up the weight-loss process, without running mega miles, the way to best accomplish this is to cut back on excess calories by a few hundred each day.  Four hundred fewer calories eaten each day, along with 3 to 4 miles of running, averaged each day, will result in a negative caloric value of 7000-8000 in about 10 days, and that is equal to 2 pounds of fat.

It is also possible to calculate the speed of running that is associated with a change in body mass.  It turns out that losing 1 pound of unnecessary body fat will reduce the time associated with running a marathon by 40 to 90 seconds, depending on how fast you are.

And don’t feel you have to only run when you go out to exercise. We once divided 32 sedentary females, between the ages of 20 and 40, into 3 training groups – (1) walk-only group, (2) run/walk group, and (3) run-only group.  All exercised 3 days each week, and time spent exercising was increased every 3rd week for the 12-week program. Pre- and post-training data were collected and the group that improved fitness the most was run/walk, not steady runners.  We realized that when a beginner is faced with continuous running, it is at a very slow pace, but when there are alternate bouts of running and walking, the participant finds faster running to be more acceptable because of the regular bouts of walking recovery.

Give it a try; eat well and be consistent with a training program. You may find the health benefits to be of considerable value, in the long run.

How do you use running or walking to keep weight off?

Jack Daniels, PhD
Guest Contributor

Jack Daniels, PhD

Jack Daniels, Ph.D. is a two-time Olympian who’s been called “the world’s greatest coach” by Runner’s World magazine. Dr. Daniels is arguably the world's leading authority on the application of exercise physiology to training distance runners. While a professor and coach at the State University of New York in Cortland, Dr. Daniels spent thirty years testing elite runners and applying his findings to training champions. Dr. Daniels was several times named the National Coach of the Year by the NCAA, which also honored him as the Div. III Women’s Coach of the Century. During his coaching career, he has coached 30 NCAA National Champions; 130 All-Americans; and 5 Olympians. Dr. Daniels is an accomplished author, having written four books on running, including his most recent title, Daniels’ Running Formula, 2nd ed.

Jack's Website

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