People exercise on an unusually cool morning in Sanam Luang, Bangkok. (File Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
The amount of calories you burn while running is an almost impossible number to calculate because so many variables affect the outcome.
But here are some of the main factors to consider.
– Weight and speed –
One of the main factors is the rider’s weight. According to the American Council on Exercise, a person weighing 54 kilograms will burn 11.4 calories per minute and 684 per hour, while a person weighing 81 kilograms will burn 17 calories per minute and 1,020 per hour.
A runner’s speed will also make a difference, with jogging burning fewer calories per minute than running.
– Interval vs steady state –
A 2015 study in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport found that resistance training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) “increased excess post-exercise oxygen consumption to a greater degree than steady state work.
According to the study, this indicated that “either mode may be more effective in increasing total daily calorie expenditure than steady-state aerobic exercise.”
But keep in mind that you will be able to maintain a stable state for longer.
So while interval training may burn more calories over the same time period, it’s difficult to compare, say, a 30-minute interval session and a one-hour steady-state session.
People exercise at Lumpini Park, Bangkok. (File Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
– Trail vs road –
Are you burning more calories on the road or on the trail? Again, this will depend on the intensity and weight of a runner.
Trails tend to be hillier than roads. According to shoe brand Asics, even a slight upward incline increases the amount of calories burned.
Interestingly, the gradient percentage doesn’t make much of a difference. Once you go uphill, you tend to burn calories at a similar rate whether it’s steep or light.
“Studies show that a [81kg] a person running uphill would burn about 1,250 calories per hour, compared to 1,000 calories on the flat. Likewise, a [68kg] person would burn around 1,000 calories per hour uphill and 800 on the flat,” Asics said on its official website.
– Descent versus climb –
While it’s true that running downhill burns fewer calories than running uphill, it’s not that simple.
A 2019 study by the ScienceDirect website on downhill running cadence said the longer you run, the more calories you burn going downhill.
“Downhill energy cost increases throughout ultramarathons, indicating the need to determine locomotor strategies that can counter fatigue during the descent,” the study said.
Factors studied included whether moving your feet downhill short and fast – a high cadence – or taking long strides – a slow cadence – resulted in more calories burned.
“Running at -10% cadence increased [heart rate] of 10 beats per minute relative to a -6 degree incline,” the study states. “Running downhill at cadences of +/- 5% simultaneously minimizes calorie unit cost and impulse load.”
Simply put, taking big, long strides was less effective than sticking to something close to your normal running cadence on flat ground.
– Time –
The higher the temperature, the more calories you burn.
Running in the heat means your body burns more fat than carbs, according to a 2010 article from the National Library for Medicine.
You can plan your meal prep accordingly to maximize a session in different conditions.
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