When it comes to burning fat, running is one of the best kinds of cardio you can choose; you're torching calories and getting your heart rate up, and if you mix in high-intensity intervals, it gets even more effective. But if you're trying to maximize your time throughout the week, you might be wondering exactly how often you should run to get the best fat-burning results.
How Much Should I Run Per Week to Burn Fat?
You should ideally be getting some exercise every day of the week, according to Michael Fredericson, MD, professor and director of physical medicine and sports medicine at Stanford, especially if your goal is to burn fat. "If you're a runner, you could probably get away with running five or even six days a week," he said. Your body is accustomed to running, so it's able to handle the strain and impact of those runs more effectively without getting injured.
Of course, that might seem like a lot even if you do run — both for your body and for your brain, because long runs can unfortunately turn into boring ones. Fredericson said running every other day and doing cross-training workouts in between is also effective for fat burn. "For your recovery day, you could just go for a long walk," he said. "That will still burn fat if you do it for long enough." You can really mix up your workouts as long as you're getting some exercise in every day, he told POPSUGAR.
Running three nonconsecutive days a week is a real sweet spot, said Tom Holland, MS, NSCA-CSCS, an exercise physiologist and author of The Marathon Method. That's enough to burn calories and fat without injuring your body and gives you plenty of time for other workouts, like biking, swimming, and walking, to recover and work your body in other ways.
If you're a beginner, both Holland and Fredericson said it's important to work up to running, especially if you want to do it multiple times a week. "If you're just beginning a fitness program, it's a good idea to start with low-intensity workouts," Holland told POPSUGAR. That might mean starting with a couple of walks every week, gradually increasing the length and speed until you can work up to a jog.
And even once you get up to speed, Holland said, you should still take it easy from time to time. Interval running is very effective for burning fat, but you shouldn't be doing HIIT running workouts all the time, regardless of your fitness level. He recommended mixing up the intensities of your runs and workouts, doing some slower or shorter runs mixed in with other low-impact and -intensity exercises like walking, yoga, and swimming, to keep your body healthy.
For even more efficient fat burn, Holland said to "slowly build up your cardiovascular endurance while strengthening your muscles as well." That means mixing in some resistance workouts to build strength, because building muscle actually increases your fat burn. Try this six-move beginner's dumbbell workout for a start.
Ready to get running? Start with this walk-run workout that's perfect for beginners, and work your way up to this simple 30-minute running interval circuit, mixed in with a couple of strength-training sessions per week (and some recovery days too!). And don't forget to eat healthy, whole foods so you can be sure to see results.