Running is a big calorie burner that can help you reach your weight-loss goals. A 155-pound person running a 10-minute-mile pace burns more than 370 calories in just 30 minutes. When you burn those calories is up to you. The best time to run to lose weight is the time you will actually get it done.
Exercise and Weight Loss
To lose a pound of weight, you must burn off 3,500 calories more than you consume. Exercise is an effective way to create this burn – and running is one of the biggest calorie burners possible. The American College of Sports Medicine says that you must exercise aerobically at a moderate-intensity – think slow jog – at least 250 minutes per week to achieve significant weight loss. This comes out to about 50 minutes of jogging, five days per week. A study in the “Journal of Applied Physiology” published in 2005 found that participants who jogged about 20 miles per week for eight months successfully lost weight, especially around their middles.
A morning run makes it more likely you will fit a workout into a busy day. If you plan an afternoon workout, work or family obligations may interfere. You may also lose your enthusiasm as you tire from the day. A big lunch or heavy dinner can also make a late-day run uncomfortable.
If you are not a morning person and consistently hit the snooze button – vowing to get up early the next day -- an evening run may be a better choice for you. Your body is slightly warmer in the evening, which means you may be able to hit a faster pace with a shorter warm-up. You may face less time constraints in the evening, so you can go longer. The New York Times reported in December 2009 that your performance is better later in the day, with elite athletes usually setting records at races in late afternoon or early evening. Your muscles are more flexible and stronger later in the day and your heart and lungs are more efficient, Michael H. Smolensky, an expert in the body clock, told the paper.
If you are exercising for weight loss, calorie burn is your primary goal. Regular exercisers may find that the evening workout helps them hone performance, but you are going to burn calories at any time of day when running. If you are new to running, an early morning workout may actually be more challenging to your system because you are not warm. If you skimp on sleep to fit your run in, you may be doing your weight-loss efforts a disservice. Sacrificing a few hours of sleep to get in an early run may sabotage you. The National Sleep Foundation notes that lack of sleep can inhibit weight loss even if you are exercising and eating right. Exercising too late may also negatively affect sleep because it elevates your body temperature for up to six hours, and cooler body temperatures are associated with better sleep.
- National Sleep Foundation: Diet, Exercise and Sleep
- New York Times: Ready to Exercise? Check Your Watch
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- Los Angeles Times: For Best Exercise, Don't Be Lonely or Late
- "Journal of Applied Physiology:" Inactivity, Exercise and Visceral Fat
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.