How Your Running Pace Impacts Your Weight-Loss Goals

Running is a great way to burn calories and stay fit. And, if weight-loss is your goal, running can help get you there. The activity is so effective, in fact, that a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study found that runners were lighter, leaner and had a lower BMI than people who performed an equivalent amount of other types of exercise. That’s because people typically burn more calories per minute while running than they do from cycling, swimming, walking and many other types of exercise.

Of course, calorie burn can vary widely on your runs depending on your pace, even if your distance remains the same. Your pace plays an important role in how many calories your body uses for fuel. If you run a 5K at 6 miles per hour, your calorie expenditure will be significantly less than if you run that same distance at a pace of 8 miles per hour. As intensity increases, so does calorie burn. And that burn continues to occur after you’re finished — a phenomenon known as the afterburn effect. So, if your goal is to lose weight (and you’ve already got your diet handled), running at a faster pace over a set distance can help you meet that goal.

Below we’re looking at how pace impacts calorie burn, and then extrapolating that to annual weight loss, using the standard estimate of 3,500 calories burned equaling 1 pound of fat. To keep things consistent, we’re calculating calories based on a 150-pound person performing a 30-minute run, and we’re estimating annual weight loss based on exercising three times per week. You can use an app such as MyFitnessPal to enter your own numbers into the calculator for more tailored stats.


Run faster than the numbers depicted in table below and the calories burned trend continues. It is important to note that running faster is often associated with exercising for a shorter total duration since you get tired more quickly. So, if you keep your runs to 30-minutes, running faster always burns more calories. But longer, slower runs are also a great option for losing weight.

In fact, a one-hour run at 6 miles per hour burns more calories (680) than a 30-minute run at 8 miles per hour (459). Keep that in mind as you progress in your running, you should mix up your runs to accommodate your goals because the best thing you can do for weight loss is to exercise consistently, regardless of your pace.

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