How Many Calories Do You Burn While Running?

A man checks his smart watch

Runners are often numbers people. We log our miles, track our heart rates and list our PRs to anyone who will listen. Some even count their footsteps per mile and keep a detailed journal of these stats.

Many runners also keep track of our calories eaten and calories burned. So how many calories do we burn while running that will give us permission to eat the next brownie? It’s not straight forward math, that’s for sure.

A man wearing Karhu running shoes runs by himself

Calories Burned While Running

If you try to calculate your calories burned running per mile, you get a lot of different answers and a few questions along the way.

The Mayo Clinic reports that an hour of running at just 5 mph will burn 606 calories or 121 calories per mile. The American Council on Exercise takes the athlete’s weight into account; their calculator reports that a 150 pound person will burn 113 calories running at 6mph for one mile.

The American College of Sports Medicine further explains the number of calories burned while running: running at 6 mph burns approximately 10 calories per minute; running at 9 mph uses roughly 15 calories per minute; and running at 12 mph eats up about 20 calories per minute.

Those numbers, says the ACSM, make aerobic activities, like running, the most effective exercises to burn calories.

There are other factors to take into account, though, says Mary Ann Dobbins, a wellness manager at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Why Calories Burned While Running Varies

Why are there so many different opinions? And why would calories burned running vary from mile to mile?

Your weight, height and body composition can all affect the amount of calories you burn when you run. The terrain can also affect how much you burn—steep hills will cost more calories than your local high school track.

Dobbins says calories burned while running also depends on your conditioning. Those of us who have been running for years will burn fewer calories than someone who just started running.

“The body is really good at gaining efficiencies at what it does often,” she says. “That’s why it’s good to mix up your exercise routine.”

But even with so many variables, Dobbins, who earned her exercise science master's degree at Cleveland State University and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Exercise Physiologist, says you shouldn’t worry about the exact number of calories you’ll burn when you run.

“So many factors go into how your body burns calories during exercise that it is very difficult to accurately track,” she say. “However, numbers-oriented runners should not fret about not knowing the exact amount burned. Keep tracking distance, pace, annual mileage, etc. But instead of focusing on calories, I suggest focusing on the reason that you run. There are so many positive outcomes when you choose to be physically active.

“For example, you can better keep up with the kids in your life, you generally sleep better, it's exciting when you make a PR, you can walk all day on vacation and not get tired. So don’t worry about the burn, use a calculator for a general idea of your calorie count and focus on how good running makes you feel.”

By Maureen Wise. Maureen caught the running bug in high school when she was the only female to run the two-mile race on her high school track team. Not that she was a fast runner then—or now—but she's been at it for 20 years and has run more 5Ks than she cares to count.

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