How Many Miles Should You Be Running to Lose Weight?

Most people that use running to lose weight just aim to run more and more miles. This makes sense because the more miles you run the more calories you burn.

That’s why some people even ask the question "How many miles should I be running each week to lose weight?"

All the thinking here is in terms of miles and how far they can run, mainly because that’s the most obvious thing to do and they don’t know any different…

But the thing is, there’s much, much more you can do with running to help you lose weight.

There isn’t a certain number of miles you should run each week or specific distances that you need to run that results in the best weight loss.

In fact the amount of success you have when using running to lose weight DOES NOT come down to how many miles you run!


Because the number of miles you run is only part of the running and weight loss picture. Other factors are more important.

Let me suggest that you can run less than 10 miles a week and still be much fitter and slimmer than someone who runs 40 miles a week.

Just take a look at sprinters. Their training is well under 10 miles per week yet they still have a toned and athletic physique and a very low body fat percentage. This shows that the number of miles you run does not determine how successful you are with your weight loss.

So what are these other factors are more important than the number of miles you run?

1. Your effort levels

When your aim is to run more and more miles you are putting all your focus on the quantity of your running rather than quality. You have to run slow and easy in order to keep running for longer which isn’t the best way to improve your fitness.

Shorter and harder runs on the other hand are more about quality which means that your fitness and running ability improves much quicker. This gives you a huge benefit because…

The fitter you become, and the better runner you become, the more calories you can burn in the runs you do now and in all of your future runs. This makes it much easier to lose weight.

2. Your running speed

When you run faster over shorter distances you challenge your body more compared to doing lots of slow miles.

This trains your body to run faster which again improves your running ability and increases your ability to burn more calories now and in future runs.

Running at quicker speeds also works your muscles harder which helps you maintain more muscle while losing weight from fat. By maintaining more muscle your body will burn more calories throughout the day, every single day, which is crucial for long term weight loss success.

3. The number of calories burned after the run

When you complete a shorter and harder run you burn calories for many hours after the run. Your body needs to burn these extra calories in order to recover and repair itself. With a long, slow run your body recovers much quicker.

So although a one hour long run may burn more calories during the run itself, a shorter and harder run can help you burn more calories for the other 23 hours of the day. Scientific studies have measured this and shown it to be true.

What should you do?

Having said all this, when you’re a beginner runner, I recommend that you do aim to increase the distance you can run. This develops your fitness and strengthens your body which means that you’ll be capable of completing higher quality running later on.

However, rather than always trying to increase the number of miles you run, it’s better to include some shorter and harder runs into your training plan.

Do this and you’ll improve your fitness and running ability quicker which means you’ll find it easier to lose weight.

You’ll also maintain more muscle as you lose the weight which means that your body will burn more calories every day. Therefore, you’ll find it easier to keep the weight off.


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14 Responses to How Many Miles Should You Be Running to Lose Weight?

  1. dana says:

    That makes a lot of sense as usual, James.
    I am STILL getting back in my running routine which I stopped for a number of weeks, and aiming to do shorter (40 min) runs, in other words, increase the effort as opposed to increasing the distance. I did put 4lbs on, which is not much, but I ‘ll be happier when they go away.
    Thanks again

    • James says:

      It’s nice to hear from you again Dana.

      I’m sure that you can lose those 4lbs after everything you’ve achieved before. Keep at it!

      • dana says:

        Thank you James, your encouragement is worth GOLD for me. I was “away” from the correspondence , as my lap top crashed AGAIN!!
        Back to normal now, and back to my running routine.
        The pain I had a while ago in my left hip keeps coming back, and it’s annoying since my 10K run is aproaching.
        Wish me luck!
        Thanks, Dana

  2. Marie says:

    Hi James, I’ve switched my running time from mid morning (after breakfast) to very early morning (before breakdfast). I’m finding that the new early morning running time is causing me to “hit a wall” much much sooner than I ever experienced in my mid morning exercise times. I have completely lost the “endorphin high” and it’s been just drudgery. I suspect that it’s due to not eating but I sincerely don’t want to get up any earlier than I already do, especially to eat, digest, and then finally get the run in. I’ve tried eating a banana before the run with no significant improvement. My husband has suggested a protein shake but I’m afraid that will cause cramping.

    Any advice is much appreciated,

    • James says:

      It looks like you need more energy before your runs Marie. You could try a sports drink rather than a protein shake because this will digest quicker and is better for providing quick energy.

      It’s best to run when you are properly fuelled and have plenty of energy. So if your runs don’t feel better after a while then you may be better going back to running after breakfast if you can.

  3. michelle says:

    hi james ive been runnig on treadmill and just reading about harder runs omg that makes so much sense so on a treadmill could you roughly give me a time and speed i should be aiming for i just go on random so its up and down hope you get back to me and thankyou

    • James says:

      It may not sound that helpful Michelle but I can’t really provide an answer without knowing all about your fitness and running ability.

      Everybody is at a different stage. So a run that’s an easy and steady pace for one person may be a hard and fast run for someone else.

      The aim should be to improve your fitness and running ability by running further or faster. So you need to assess where you are now and keep trying to improve.

  4. Nicoleta says:

    another great point…. as usual. I was putting too much effort ino running longer and longer and viewing my shorter faster runs as “what a pain” . I think now i have a better perspective on the situation. thanks for enlightening me

  5. Ines says:

    I’m great runner. I run about 10 miles early in the morning twice per week. I do other kind of exercises 4 days per week. About a month ago I run a half marathon, but I’m not losing weight. I even gained about 3 pounds. I’m gonna try doing what you recommend running harder and shorter. I hope it works. Thanks for the advice James. In some weeks I’ll get back to you to tell you how I’m doing.

  6. Brenda says:

    Hi James I’m new to the site and to running but love all of the informatipn that you provide. My question is how often should you run short hard runs verses long runs during the course of the week since I enjoy a long run but want to try your idea of the short ones.

    • James says:

      That will depend on your current running ability and experience Brenda. If you are a complete beginner then it’s a case of building up the intensity level and number of harder runs as you progress.

      If you are more experienced and are used to doing tough runs then I would go up to 3 hard runs per week with any other runs being easier.

  7. Natalie says:

    Great article. I started running again the beginning of March and was up to 5kms under 30 mins by the end of the first month. A couple of days ago I completed my first 10km!! I am so proud and have never done that distance before. Now I’ve hit that goal I’m taking your advice on board and making sure my running goals are now about improving my time for 10kms and then doing some faster, interval 5kms. I don’t want to run further than 10km, I want to become stronger, leaner and faster so your tips here are food for thought to get me down to my target weight. Thanks

  8. Kimberly says:

    Hi James,
    I’ve been trying to build my legs and glutes so I’ve been doing heavy weight training which has helped in building muscle. What I want to know is if I do fast sprints will this help burn my belly fat and other unwanted fat but still keep the muscle I’ve built on my legs and glutes?

  9. Laalaai says:

    Hi my name is laalaai I’m 13 I’m a bit over weight my question is what will most definitely help me loose weight more quickly and should I eat more healthier and should i eat less of what I eat for dinner last question for a young teenager who’s a bit over weight how many miles should I run I mean 10 to 15 miles a week sounds a little tough oh one more thing should I do a exercise routine I mean like would it help ??????????