I’ve recently been looking at the question of how many calories you burn running. ”Common knowledge” tells us that it’s possible to burn the same number of calories walking as you burn running. But is that reality? While there are a variety of equations and calculators out there, I wanted to dig further to gain a better understanding of the math and science behind those calculators. You may be surprised.
How Many Calories Burn Running?
The question starts with oxygen, which also form the basis of HIIT workouts. If you’ve been running for a while, you’re at least familiar with the concept of VO2, which is the Volume of Oxygen consumed during aerobic exercise. During aerobic exercise, our muscles use oxygen to convert glucose to ATP, which is required to burn fat, build muscle, and achieve your weight loss goals. Direct measurements have shown that we burn, on average, about 5 Calories (that’s kilocalories for the science nerds) for every liter of oxygen consumed, and furthermore, that the average person’s resting oxygen consumption is 3.5 mL O2/kg-minute. Understanding this fact forms the basis for further calculations.
Researchers at the American College Of Sports Medicine have studied the ergonomics of running, and have determined that oxygen consumption during running can be readily broken down into three components. There is a horizontal component, a vertical component, and the resting component, as shown below:
VO2, running=Horizontal Component + Vertical Component + Resting Component
If you need to convert your weight and speed into metric units, use the following equations:
To Convert , to , Multiply By 26.82
Notice the lack of both weight and duration in these equations? This part of the calculation deals only with the amount of oxygen required to generate ATP. Close examination shows that the amount of oxygen required to propel yourself across flat terrain is substantially less than is required to propel over a grade (0.2 vs 0.9). It’s also worth noting that it doesn’t matter whether you’re running uphill or downhill.
Once you have the volume of oxygen consumed, it’s a simple matter to the total number of kilocalories (or Calories) burned during your run. Using your weight and the length of time spent exercising, apply the following equation:
Weight in kg
Duration in minutes
To Convert Pounds to Kilograms, Divide By 2.2
Similarly, to get your net Calories burned, use the following equation, in which you subtract your resting O2 requirements from the VO2 consumed.
Accurately determining the calories you expend while jogging or running is actually pretty simple and straightforward. With just a little math, you can accurately determine the number of calories you’ll consume while running or jogging. Not only that, you can also see how to alter your workouts to increase you number of calories you burn running.
Published September 2011. Reviewed November 2011.
- Recent Advances in Free-Living Physical Activity Monitoring: A Review. David Andre, Donna L. Wolf. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2007 September; 1(5): 760–767. Published online 2007 September. Accessed September 2011.
- American College Of Sports Medicine Metabolic Calculations. Accessed September 2011.
- Photo Credit