Does running slower or faster burn more calories?

When it comes to burning calories through running, a common question is whether you burn more calories by running slower or faster. The answer depends on a variety of factors related to your running intensity, duration, body weight and efficiency.

Quick Answer

In general, running faster burns more calories per minute than running slower. However, running slower may burn more calories overall if you can sustain the activity for a longer duration.

Calculating Calories Burned Running

The most accurate way to determine calories burned while running is to use a formula that takes into account your body weight, running speed and time spent running. Here is a commonly used formula:

Calories burned running = Body weight in pounds x Distance in miles x 0.75

Using this formula, a 150 pound person running 3 miles would burn approximately 337 calories (150 x 3 x 0.75).

Factors That Impact Calories Burned

When using this formula, the key factors that determine calories burned running include:

  • Body weight – Heavier people burn more calories for the same running duration and speed.
  • Running speed – Faster speeds burn more calories per minute.
  • Running duration – Longer durations burn more calories overall.

So in order to maximize calories burned running, you can either increase running intensity or duration. But which is more effective?

Faster Running Burns More Calories per Minute

When evaluating running intensity, studies show that running at faster speeds does burn more calories per minute compared to slower speeds. Here are some key research findings:

  • A 175 pound person burns around 140 calories per mile when running an 8 minute mile pace (7 mph), compared to around 105 calories per mile running a 10 minute mile pace (6 mph).
  • Increasing your running speed from 5 mph to 6 mph increases calories burned per mile by 30% for a typical adult.
  • High intensity interval training and sprint intervals can burn over 15 calories per minute compared to around 10 calories per minute for moderate intensity running.

The main reason that faster running burns more calories is that it requires more energy to move your body at greater speeds. Your muscles have to work harder and your cardiovascular system delivers more oxygen when running fast.

How Pace Impacts Calories Burned per Minute

Pace (min/mile) Speed (mph) Calories Burned (per min)
7:00 8.6 16
8:00 7.5 14
9:00 6.7 12
10:00 6.0 10
11:00 5.5 9
12:00 5.0 8

As this table shows, running at faster paces clearly results in burning more calories per minute. So in simple terms, running faster does maximize your calorie burn if you can sustain the pace.

Slower Running Can Burn More Calories Overall

However, running at slower speeds enables you to exercise for longer durations which can result in greater total calories burned. Here’s an example:

  • Running 1 mile at 7 min/mile pace burns ~140 calories in 7 minutes
  • Running 1 mile at 10 min/mile pace burns ~100 calories in 10 minutes

In this scenario, the faster running burns more calories per minute. But if you ran for 30 minutes rather than just 1 mile:

  • Running 4 miles at 7 min/mile pace burns ~560 calories in 28 minutes
  • Running 3 miles at 10 min/mile pace burns ~300 calories in 30 minutes

Now the slower running burns more calories in total due to the longer duration. This highlights the tradeoff between intensity and duration when running to burn calories.

Long Slow Distance Helps Burn Calories

This is why many endurance runners focus on high mileage “long slow distance” runs to maximize their calorie burn. While their pace may be slow, the cumulative effect of being able to run further distances results in high calorie expenditure.

This principle applies to running for general health and weight loss as well. While beginners may not be able to sustain fast running, they can still burn significant calories by running or jogging at a moderate pace for longer durations.

Additional Factors Impacting Calories Burned

Beyond just your running pace and distance, other factors impact the number of calories you burn while running. Here are some top considerations:

Body Composition

Your body size and composition has a major effect on calorie burn:

  • Heavier people burn more calories for the same running duration and pace.
  • Muscle mass increases your resting metabolism, meaning you burn more calories across the day.
  • Building lean muscle through strength training can boost your calorie burn while running.

Running Efficiency

Some people are simply more efficient runners than others. Differences that impact efficiency include:

  • Running experience – Better technique and economy of movement.
  • Genetics – Some runners are just more efficient than others.
  • Age – You tend to become less efficient as you get older.

If you become more efficient at running, you’ll burn slightly fewer calories for the same run duration and intensity. But improving technique is still beneficial for faster paces and injury avoidance.

Environmental Factors

Environmental conditions can alter calorie burn during running including:

  • Terrain – Burn more running up hills, on sand or trails.
  • Temperature – Burn more in hot/humid weather.
  • Elevation – Burn more running at altitude.
  • Wind – Burn more running into a headwind.

Age and Gender

Your age and gender also impact calorie burn:

  • Men tend to burn more calories than women for an equivalent run.
  • Calorie burn tends to decrease as you age beyond 30-35 years old.

So while you can’t change these factors, be aware they contribute to differences in calorie burn between individuals.

High Intensity Interval Training

One training method that offers benefits of both pace and duration is high intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves alternating short bursts of high intensity running with recovery segments:

  • Burn more calories per minute during intense intervals.
  • Increase total calorie burn by alternating intervals with easier recovery.

Studies show HIIT can burn 25-30% more calories than running continuously at a moderate pace. By allowing runners to complete more total hard running, HIIT enhances overall calorie expenditure.

Sample HIIT Running Workout

Here is an example beginner level HIIT running workout to maximize calorie burn:

Segment Intensity Duration
Warm-up Easy pace 5 minutes
Interval 1 Fast pace (8/10 effort) 1 minute
Recovery 1 Easy pace 2 minutes
Interval 2 Fast pace (8/10 effort) 1 minute
Recovery 2 Easy pace 2 minutes
Interval 3 Fast pace (8/10 effort) 1 minute
Recovery 3 Easy pace 2 minutes
Interval 4 Fast pace (8/10 effort) 1 minute
Recovery 4 Easy pace 2 minutes
Cooldown Easy pace 5 minutes

This workout alternates 1 minute fast intervals with 2 minutes of easier running, allowing you to complete 20 total minutes of quality running with intermittent recovery.


In conclusion, running at faster paces does burn more calories per minute compared to slower running. However, running for longer durations can result in greater total calorie burn. So the best approach is to incorporate both faster running and longer durations into your training.

Using techniques like high intensity interval training allows you to maximize calorie burn through both intensity and duration. But most importantly, the best running workout to burn calories is one you can sustain consistently.

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