Does Running Up an Incline Make You Lose Weight?

Running up hills is harder, but it can boost your weight loss.

Running up hills is harder, but it can boost your weight loss.

Running is a great way to burn the extra calories you need to shed those excess pounds. Just how much weight you lose will depend on a number of factors including the incline of your run. If you want to lose more pounds with fewer miles, try running up inclines to burn more calories.

Energy Use

Anyone who's done hill training knows that running up an incline takes more effort than running on a flat surface. When you run up an incline you're fighting against the force of gravity; the steeper the incline, the more you will have to fight against this force. Because it takes more effort to run up an incline, your body will use more energy to run up a hill than on a flat surface -- meaning you will burn more calories running up an incline.

Calorie Comparison

The exact number of calories you burn will depend on your fitness level, weight and age, as well as the surface you're running on. Running on a flat surface for a mile, a 150-pound 25-year-old with a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute will burn about 113 calories; be aware that her speed will not impact the number of calories burned over the same distance in any significant way. With just a 1 percent incline this calorie burn will increase to 119. With a 10 percent incline the same runner would burn 171 calories, and with a 15 percent incline the runner will burn 212 calories.

Relation to Weight Loss

To lose weight you need to burn more calories, both from exercise and basic biological functions, than you take in from food. So the more calories you burn, the more fat you will lose. Burning 3,500 excess calories will result in a 1-pound loss of fat. So the runner in the previous example would need to run approximately 31 miles on a flat surface to burn 1 pound of fat, but just 16.5 miles on a 15 percent incline.

Declines

Not surprisingly, running down a decline also affects the number of calories you burn. The same runner used in the previous example, who burns 113 calories running a mile on a level surface, would only burn 89 calories running down a 5 percent decline for a mile and 66 calories on a 10 percent decline. Beyond a 10 percent decline the number of calories will actually begin to increase. For example, this runner would burn 83 calories running a mile at a 20 percent decline.

 

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