Love it or hate it, there's no doubt that running is one of the best activities for calorie-burning cardio. Although it's not for everyone, those who love it tend to stick with it for the long haul, often acquiring that coveted "runner's build" along the way. Combined with a healthy, sensible diet, regular running can be a great way to manage a healthy weight—but how many calories does it really torch? The actual amount may be more—or less—than you think.|
How Many Calories Should You Expect to Burn While Running?
Running coach Kyle Kranz estimates that the typical runner will burn around 100 calories per mile. However, Kranz points out that if you weigh more, that will increase your burn rate per mile. Just like a car, it takes more fuel (calories) to move more mass forward.
Your total calorie burn is different from your net calorie burn. The latter is calculated by subtracting your resting metabolic rate—or whatever you'd burn just while sitting on the couch—from the extra amount burned during exercise. Adapted from "Energy Expenditure of Walking and Running" published by Stanford University in 2004, Runner's World shared the following formulas to calculate your total and net calorie burn for each mile of running:
If you're running on a treadmill or using a run-tracking app, fitness coach Alex Haschen with Verto Fitness recommends viewing the "calories burned" readout as a rough estimate—more of a suggestion than a scientific calculation. "These numbers are often much higher than the actual calorie burn," he warns. "If you're counting calories using this run data, I would suggest subtracting 25 percent of the total calorie burn to gain a more accurate picture of true caloric expenditure."
Matt Fitzgerald, running coach and author of "The Endurance Diet," says the biggest myth he encounters is that people believe they burn more per mile when they run faster. "This is not true," he says. "People burn more calories per minute when they run faster, but not per mile." Fitzgerald also points out that longer, slower runs have the potential to torch more calories than shorter, faster stints. That being said, for the person who doesn't want to put a lot of time into running, a HIIT-based approach could be most effective.
Ironically enough, those who are new to running may burn more calories than seasoned pavement pounders. "People who are in better physical shape will adapt to an activity quicker and burn less calories, or calories closer to the baseline expenditure of that activity," says strength and conditioning coach Brandon Mentore. "A person who is not as physically conditioned will have a longer adaptation before they drop down to baseline calorie expenditure for the same activity.
Does Higher Intensity Mean More Calories Burned?
Yes and no. "If you run a seven-minute mile, you'll burn around 100 calories," says Kranz. "If you run a 10-minute mile at an easier effort, you still burn roughly 100 calories. The 10-minute mile is easier, but more time running, so it equals out."
Although the calorie burn is roughly the same regardless of how quickly you finish a mile, Kranz says that higher-intensity running can result in burning more calories after the exercise. "Your EPOC, or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, is higher after a higher-intensity effort, such as HIIT," he says. "But remember, you can't run as far or as long during a higher-intensity bout of exercise." This means that while a HIIT session burns more calories afterward, you may burn fewer calories during the actual workout.
For maximum calorie burn and overall health benefits, Kranz recommends incorporating a mix of long, slow distances and high-intensity intervals. "Variety is the spice of life and the main ingredient when it comes to improving your health and well-being," he says. "Using running as a method of weight loss is effective, but so is utilizing diet to consume fewer calories, and using weight lifting to increase muscle mass and burn more calories at rest."
4 Ways to Torch More Calories on Your Next Run
Just because the average calorie burn is 100 per mile doesn't mean you can't find ways to boost that expenditure. Haschen offers a few expert tips for leveling up your run.