How Many Calories Does Running Burn?

Man and woman running together
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People frequently embrace running as a means to reach or maintain a healthy weight—and for good reason. According to a report from the American Council on Exercise, running burns more calories than weight training, swimming, cycling, or even downhill skiing.

However, it can be easy to overestimate the number of calories burned on a typical run. There are many details about the workout that affect the number—including your body weight, the surface you run on, the incline, and several other factors. It's important to consider these things to determine the total caloric expenditure of a run.

Determining Calories Burned Running

There are different ways to determine the number of calories you burn when you run. Many runners use the 100 calories/mile rule. While this is the quickest and simplest way to estimate your caloric expenditure, it is not likely to be the most accurate as it does not take important variables into account.

As a very general and simplistic rule, an average-sized runner will burn about 100 calories per mile. So if your goal is to burn 500 calories, you need to run about five miles.

Calorie Calculator

To get a better estimate of how many calories you burn while running you can use a physical activity calculator. You'll need to know your current weight, your running pace, and the duration of your run. These numbers help to personalize the estimate for a more accurate number.

Tech Tools

There are also different tech tools that can help estimate the number of calories burned running.

Apps

Some smartphone apps track your calories. For example, running apps like Runkeeper and Strava provide calorie data for your workouts. However, the numbers provided are only estimates and you'll need to have the app in use for the duration of your workout to get an estimate—which means carrying your phone with you on your runs.

Trackers

Fitness trackers made by brands such as Fitbit, Polar, or Garmin, also monitor your calories. On most devices you can toggle the settings so that you can watch your caloric expenditure increase as you run. Getting these real time updates may help to motivate you to run a little further if you have a calorie goal in mind.

Treadmills

Lastly, treadmill calorie calculators generally provide a calorie number at the end of (or during) your workout. Again, the numbers are estimates and are not likely to be accurate unless you enter your weight and other relevant data before you begin your workout. Treadmills tend to overestimate the number of calories burned during a run.

Factors That Affect Caloric Expenditure

The amount of calories you burn during a run depends on numerous factors.

Body Weight

A 140-pound person running at a 10-minute mile (roughly six miles per hour) will burn 318 calories in 30 minutes. Running at the same pace for the same amount of time, a 180-pound person will burn roughly 408 calories.

The reason for the increased expenditure is simple, your body has to work harder and burn more fuel to carry more weight.

Gender

This is a tricky factor to account for. Many researchers have studied the effects of gender on caloric expenditure with different findings and opinions.

In general, it is assumed that men burn more calories than women when participating in similar activities. However, it can be hard to determine if it is specifically gender or body composition that causes for the difference (men generally carry more muscle mass than women).

One recent study found that when both men and women participated in a workout that involved walking with a backpack, women burned fewer calories compared with their male counterparts.

Speed

A 160-pound person running at a 12-minute pace (five miles per hour) for 30 minutes would burn 290 calories. The same person running at a 10-minute-per-mile pace (six miles per hour) would burn 363 calories in the span of time.

The reason that speed increases caloric expenditure is that increased speed is generally the result of increased effort (which requires you to burn more fuel—or calories).

However, while speed is a helpful factor for comparing calories burned for one person, it can be misleading to use speed when comparing calories burned between runners. For example, a highly-trained runner will burn fewer calories running an 8-minute mile than a person who has never run before.

Incline

Adding hills to your run will increase the number of calories you burn while running. Again, the reason is that you (generally) increase your effort when running uphill. But determining how many more calories you burn can be tricky.

If you use a treadmill that calculates energy expenditure, the calorie count provided will take incline into account. You might note the difference in running at a zero percent grade and at a steep incline (10-12 percent incline) to use as a guide for the percent increase in calories that might happen when you run outside.

There are a few online calculators that can calculate the number of calories burned running uphill. They may give you a better number, but you still need to take them with a grain of salt. The calculators require you to input the exact grade of the hill where you train; a number most runners aren't likely to know. 

Lastly, keep in mind that when you run uphill outside you may burn more calories on the way up the hill because you are working harder, but you'll burn fewer calories on the way down because you don't have to work as hard.

Running Surface

Whether you run on a road, on a treadmill, on a trail, or in the sand may factor into your caloric expenditure. In general, running on a treadmill burns the fewest calories. There is no wind resistance or road obstacle on a treadmill.

Running in the sand or on a muddy or rocky trail will require slightly more energy. In general, you have to use more of your muscles (and more energy) to maintain balance and stay upright while running on uneven surfaces.

Weather Conditions

Running in very windy conditions is likely to increase your intensity so that you burn more calories if you maintain your speed. There is also some discussion in the running community about whether or not exercising in extreme cold or extreme heat burns more calories.

There is some evidence that exercising in extreme cold burns more calories, perhaps due to shivering or the activation of brown fat.

However, there is also some evidence that exercising in extreme heat burns more calories because your body has to work harder to produce sweat to maintain a healthy core temperature.

So what's the bottom line? Most experts agree that exercising in moderate temperatures is most effective if burning more calories is your goal. There may be some effects of extreme heat or cold on caloric expenditure, but not enough to make a big difference in your overall total.

Running vs. Other Workouts

If your goal is to burn more calories, you might wonder how running compares to other activities.

In general, running is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories. For example, if you are a 140-pound person and you run a 5K (3.1 miles) at a 10-minute/mile pace you will burn approximately 328 calories

Here's how your run compares to other workouts lasting about 31 minutes:

  • Low-impact aerobic dancing: 172 calories
  • Walking at a brisk pace: 131 calories
  • Cycling at a moderate pace: 276 calories
  • Stair climber machine: 310 calories
  • Playing tennis: 241 calories
  • Swimming (freestyle moderate pace): 276 calories

Running and Weight Loss

If you are trying to lose weight by running, keep in mind that you need to burn about 3500 calories to burn one pound of fat.

If you intend to lose one pound per week, you would need to create a 3,500-calorie deficit by either cutting 3,500 calories from your diet or burning 3,500 calories with exercise each week.

A safe and healthy weight loss rate is between a half pound to two pounds per week. If you lose faster than that, you will likely be losing muscle as well as fat.

How to Lose Weight Running

To reach a weight loss goal of a pound lost per week, you would need to create a 500-calorie deficit per day (500 calories x seven days = 3,500 calories).

Start by figuring out how many calories you need per day to maintain your current weight. If your weight is stable, you can get this number by spending a week journaling everything you eat and then adding up the calories. You can then use an online calorie calculator to get an estimate.

After you know how many calories you need to maintain your weight, then subtract 500 calories per day to create your deficit. Or use a combination method: subtract 250 calories from your caloric intake and commit to burning an extra 250 calories by running.

The more accurate you are at the beginning, the more successful your weight loss plan will likely be.

If you don't want to change your diet at all, you can use a total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) calculator to help you figure out how much you would need to run each day to burn 500 calories.

Example:

To create a 500-calorie deficit by running, a 150-pound person would have to run at a 10-minute-per-mile pace for 45 minutes. That translates to a running target of around 4.5 miles per day or 30.5 miles per week.

Weight Loss Tips

The best weight loss plans tend to include both reducing the calories you eat and increasing your calories burned. By doing so, you'll be less likely to feel deprived and less likely to give up on a training plan that may require you to run 30 to 40 miles per week.

Also, don't make the mistake of overindulging in food after your run. Sometimes runners burn fewer calories than they think. Using these different methods to estimate your calories burned running will help you get the best personalized number.

Then find non-food rewards for your efforts. If you meet your daily or weekly running goal, don't celebrate with a croissant or order of fries. Instead, maintain your diet and gift yourself with a manicure, massage, or spa visit.

Lastly, keep in mind that the most important feature of any successful weight loss plan is consistency. If you don't run every day, try to do something most days of the week to burn extra calories. Not only do you burn more calories but you also build healthy habits.

A Word From Verywell

While running is an effective strategy to burn calories, remember that your calorie numbers may change as you become more fit and your body becomes more efficient.

If weight loss is your goal, you may reach a weight loss plateau. This is when you would need to take your running to the next level by adding speedwork, doing hill workouts, or running long distances to increase your calorie burn.

Adding variety to your workouts will not only help you to reach your calorie targets but will also reduce boredom and burnout so that running becomes your long-term strategy for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and a fit, strong body.

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Article Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Calorie Burners: Activities that turn up the heat. American Council on Exercise

  2. Li SSW, Chan OHT, Ng TY, et al. Gender Differences in Energy Expenditure During Walking With Backpack and Double-Pack Loads. Hum Factors. 2018;:18720818799190. doi:10.1177/0018720818799190

  3. Chang CH, Lin KC, Ho CS, Huang CC. Accuracy of the energy expenditure during uphill exercise measured by the Waist-worn ActiGraph. J Exerc Sci Fit. 2019;17(2):62-66. doi:10.1016/j.jesf.2019.01.003

  4. Champagne CM, Broyles ST, Moran LD, et al. Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the Weight Loss Maintenance trial. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111(12):1826-35. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2011.09.014

Additional Reading

  • LAYDEN, J. D., PATTERSON, M. J., & NIMMO, M. A. (2002). Effects of reduced ambient temperature on fat utilization during submaximal exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(5), 774–779. doi:10.1097/00005768-200205000-00008

  • Li, S. S. W., Chan, O. H. T., Ng, T. Y., Kam, L. H., Ng, C. Y., Chung, W. C., & Chow, D. H. K. (2018). Gender Differences in Energy Expenditure During Walking With Backpack and Double-Pack Loads. Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 61(2), 203–213. doi:10.1177/0018720818799190

  • Michael N. Sawka,1 C. Bruce Wenger, Andrew J. Young, and Kent B. Pandolf. Physiological Responses to Exercise in the Heat. Copyright 1993 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

  • Morio, B., Beaufrere, B., Montaurier, C., Verdier, E., Ritz, P., Fellmann, N., … Vermorel, M. (1997). Gender differences in energy expended during activities and in daily energy expenditure of elderly people. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 273(2), E321–E327. doi:10.1152/ajpendo.1997.273.2.e321

  • Yue, A. S. Y., Woo, J., Ip, K. W. M., Sum, C. M. W., Kwok, T., & Hui, S. S. C. (2007). Effect of age and gender on energy expenditure in common activities of daily living in a Chinese population. Disability and Rehabilitation, 29(2), 91–96. doi:10.1080/09638280600662232

  • Ainsworth, B.; Haskell, W.; Herrmann, S. et al. Compendium of Physical Activities: A Second Update of Codes and MET Values. Med Sci Sports Exercise. 2011;43:1575. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821ece12.
  • American Council on Exercise. (2009) Fit Facts - Calories Burners: Activities That Turn Up the Heat. San Diego, California: American Council on Exercise.