How many calories does running burn? Factors to consider

People exercise on an unusually cold morning in Sanam Luang, Bangkok. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

The number of calories burned by running is an almost impossible number to calculate because there are so many variables that change the results.

But here are some key factors to consider.

– Weight and speed –

One of the main factors is the weight of the runner. According to the American Council on Exercise, a person weighing 54 kilograms will burn 11.4 calories per minute, and 684 per hour, while a person weighing 81kg will burn 17 calories per minute and 1,020 calories per hour.

The speed of the runner will also make a difference, with jogging burning fewer calories per minute than running.

– Interval vs steady state –

A 2015 study in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport found both resistance training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) “increased post-exercise oxygen consumption to a greater extent than steady-state exercise”.

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According to the study, this shows that “any mode can be more effective in increasing total daily caloric expenditure than stable aerobic exercise”.

But remember, you will be able to maintain a stable state for longer.

So, although interval training can burn more calories over the same period of time, it’s difficult to compare, say, a 30-minute interval session and an hour-long steady state session.

People exercise in Lumpini Park, Bangkok. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

– Trail vs road –

Do you burn more calories on the road or on the road? Again, this will come down to the intensity and weight of the runner.

Roads tend to be higher than roads. According to the Asics shoe brand, even a slight uphill gradient increases the number of calories burned.

Interestingly, the gradient percentage did not make any difference. Once you climb a hill, you tend to burn calories at the same rate, be it steep or gentle.

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“The study shows that a [81kg] a person walking uphill will burn about 1,250 calories per hour, compared to 1,000 calories on the flat. Together, a [68kg] a person will burn about 1,000 calories per hour running uphill and 800 on the flat,” says Asics on its official website.

– Down vs up –

While it’s true that running downhill burns fewer calories than running uphill, it’s not that easy.

A 2019 study by the ScienceDirect website on downhill running cadence says that the longer it goes, the more calories you burn going down the hill.

“Downhill energy costs increase throughout the ultra-marathon, suggesting the need to identify locomotor strategies that can overcome fatigue during the descent,” said the study.

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Factors studied include whether moving the legs quickly, with a quick descent – a high cadence – or taking long strides – a slow cadence – results in more calories being burned.

“Running with cadence -10% increase [heart rate] by 10 beats per minute compared to -6 degrees of inclination,” the study said. “Walking downhill at cadences that range +/- 5% simultaneously minimizes the cost of caloric units and impulse loading.”

In layman’s terms, taking big long strides are less efficient than sticking to something close to normal walking cadence on flat ground.

– Weather –

The hotter the temperature, the more calories you burn.

Running in the heat means your body burns more fat than carbohydrates, according to a 2010 article in the National Library of Medicine.

You can plan your meal preparation accordingly to optimize your session in different situations.


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