How to lose belly fat by running

Belly fat is notoriously difficult to lose. While other areas of the body become trim and toned with regular exercise, for many people, that excess tummy can prove to be extremely stubborn. However, the good news is that running is one of the best forms of exercise to lose belly fat, and there are even a few small tweaks you can make to your regular running schedule to deliver a sustained fat burning boost.

Can running make you lose belly fat?

Running is an incredibly effective fat burning exercise. In fact, when it comes to losing weight, it’s difficult to beat. According to data from the American Council on Exercise, a runner who weighs 180 pounds burns 170 calories when running for 10 minutes at a steady pace. Make that a 30-minute run and that same runner will burn over 500 calories. But long runs alone aren’t going to help you shed that belly fat. You also need to make dietary and lifestyle changes to shift those problem areas.  

Even if you’re a regular runner who is watchful of what you eat, it’s still possible to have belly fat that you just can’t shift. In many cases, this can be down to diet. Even experienced runners can make misguided dietary choices. For example, those who exercise regularly tend to eat more protein bars and sports drinks, both of which contain high levels of sugar. Unfortunately, that sugar loves to stay in your body, particularly around the tummy area. 

How often should you run to lose belly fat?

If you want to see results then you’re going to need to be disciplined and put in the hard yards. To shed that stubborn belly fat, you should work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity four to five times a week. That sounds like a lot, and if you have a busy schedule, it may be difficult to find the time. But that doesn’t have to be four to five sessions of running. Instead, fit in three 30 minute runs per week, then add a swim and a gym session or dance class. Diet permitting, you’ll soon be burning the sort of calories necessary to chip away at that tummy fat.  

How to lose belly fat while running

One of the traps many runners fall into is thinking that the further they run, the more belly fat they’ll burn, but that’s not always the case. While long-distance runs are excellent at building endurance and burning calories, they’re not necessarily the best for dealing with body fat. To lose the flab, you’ll have more success by mixing up your training routine.

  • Consider cross-training

Cross-training involves picking a primary exercise, which in this case is running, and supplementing it with secondary exercises such as swimming and cycling, which are both effective at burning belly fat, to improve the gains made by the primary exercise. These secondary exercises should be low impact, to reduce the risk of injury, and should only be done for a relatively short period of time, so no more than 30 to 60 minutes per session.  

  • Try trail running 

A simple way to tweak your running to lose belly fat is to head away from the roads and onto the trails. Although your pace is likely to be slower, trail running provides more of a total body workout to help you tighten up those problem areas. Jumping over logs and rocks, running up and down hills and navigating unpredictable terrain that changes with every step will work your calves, quads, glutes and belly far more than running on a flat road. If you find you’ve reached a weight loss plateau on the roads, working smarter, not harder, by incorporating some trails could be an effective solution for you. 

Here are some trail running tips and our guide to finding the right trail running shoes.

  • Incorporate interval running  

The question is not how often should you run to burn belly fat - more important is the type of running you do. Studies have shown that high-intensity workouts which involve a high level of exertion for a short period of time are more effective at burning fat, particularly in the belly. By running at different speeds, you’ll increase the flow of oxygen to your muscles which will help to boost your metabolism and shed more calories. If you’re new to interval running, there are lots of different training sessions available online to help you achieve your goal.