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Does running burn belly fat? 10 effective tips + 3 workouts


Belly fat is notoriously stubborn and difficult to lose. For many belly fat is a nuisance, but in some cases it can become harmful.

One type of belly fat called visceral fat is a major risk to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other conditions. 

Whether you want to shed a few pounds or have trim and toned abs, there are various ways to eliminate belly fat. 

You may be wondering: “Does running burn belly fat?”

The good news is running is one of the best forms of exercise to burn belly fat. However, long distance runs alone won’t help you reach your weight loss goals. 

By doing the running workouts like the ones in this guide and combining them with the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes, you will start to see results.

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • Does running burn belly fat?
  • How often should you run to lose belly fat?
  • How to lose belly fat while running
  • Does running give you abs?
  • 3 running workouts that help lose belly fat
  • 10 effective tips to lose belly fat


Let’s go!

does running burn belly fat

Does running burn belly fat?

You may be wondering: “Does running help to lose belly fat?” The answer is yes!

As mentioned earlier, running is one of the best exercises to burn calories and belly fat. 

According to Harvard Medical School, a runner who weighs 155 pounds burns 450 calories when running for 30 minutes at a pace of 8 minutes per mile. Make that a pace of 6 minutes per mile and the same runner will burn 562 calories. 

Here are the top 5 30 minute sports activities by calories burned taken from Harvard Medical School’s research:

Sports activity125-pound person155-pound person185-pound person
Running: 10mph (6 min/mile)453562 671
Bicycling: >20mph495 594693
Running: 7.5mph (8 min/mile)375450525
Handball: General360432504
Bicycling: 16-19mph360432504

Whilst running is seen as a great exercise to help burn belly fat, if you don’t make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes, you will still find it hard to shed stubborn belly fat.

Even the most experienced runners make misinformed dietary and lifestyle choices. 

For example, those who consume lots of sugary foods and foods high in refined carbs unintentionally cause spikes in their blood sugar levels. 

This not only makes you more prone to hunger pangs, but causes stubborn areas of fat to form and hang around.

Related: Running for weight loss: The most effective workouts to help you lose weight

How often should you run to lose belly fat?

In order to lose belly fat, you need to be running at least 4 times a week. Each run needs to be between 30 to 60 minutes and at a moderate to intense intensity level. 

If you feel like 4 to 5 runs per week is not achievable for you right now, then consider switching up your training routine so it can easily fit into your schedule.

For example, combine your runs with cross training activities like swimming, cycling or yoga. 

Throughout all of this, remember that your diet plays an important role in your weight loss goals.

If you run regularly but don’t change anything about your diet, then it will be harder to lose stubborn belly fat.

Related: How many days a week should I work out? 4 game-changing workout routines for runners 

does running burn belly fat

How to lose belly fat while running

Many runners believe that the longer they run, the more belly fat they will burn, but this is not always the case. 

Long distance running has many benefits for your endurance and stamina levels, not to mention it burns a lot of calories.

However, the best way to lose belly fat is high intensity exercise such as interval training and hill running.

This is because high intensity exercise has been shown to stimulate your muscles in a greater way, therefore achieving a greater effect in the same amount of time as an easy to moderate run. 

In addition, after a high intensity session, your muscles continue to burn energy in order to recover and repair which creates an ‘after burn’ effect, meaning you burn calories even after the exercise has ended.

Related: HIIT workouts for runners: A complete guide

Does running give you abs?

There are a range of ways running can help you achieve trimmed and toned abs. 

Whilst reducing body fat by running won’t translate into rock hard abs, having less body fat can help you achieve better definition in your torso. 

By eliminating all the levels of body fat, your ab muscles will have a more defined appearance. 

It’s worth noting that having some belly fat is normal and healthy. It’s when you start to develop layers of visceral fat that it becomes unhealthy. 

does running burn belly fat

The best way to lose belly fat: 3 running workouts that help burn belly fat

#1 Interval training

Many studies have shown that high intensity exercise like interval training are more effective at burning fat, especially in the belly.

Interval training consists of alternating periods of high and low intensity running. You can choose to perform walking or running intervals.

Intense intervals not only burn calories, but they improve aerobic and anaerobic endurance, increase your VO2 Max and improve your running performance. 

#2 Hill repeats

Hill repeats involve you running fast up a hill then jogging or walking back down the hill. 

Doing hill repeats burns calories and strengthens all the key muscles in your body including your calves, hamstrings, glutes and quads. 

Running up hills also improves your running economy, improves your VO2 Max, increases your speed and boosts your confidence. 

#3 Trail running

Trail running provides a total body workout as it gets you running across multiple terrains and up and down hills. 

Compared to running on a flat surface, trail running works your muscles, including those in your core, far more. 

does running burn belly fat

10 effective tips to lose belly fat

#1 Avoid foods that contain trans fats

Trans fats are linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance and abdominal fat gain. They can be found in margarines and spreads and can often be found in packaged and processed foods.

A 2007 study on monkeys showed that a trans fat diet induces abdominal obesity and insulin sensitivity. 

#2 Don’t drink too much alcohol

Research suggests that consuming too much alcohol can make you gain belly fat. Heavy alcohol consumption is linked to obesity and excessive fat storage around the waist.

Whilst small amounts of alcohol can have health benefits, aim to limit your consumption of alcohol or abstain completely.

#3 Eat a high protein diet

Protein is a key nutrient when it comes to weight loss and weight management. 

Studies have shown that high protein intake increases the release of the ‘fullness’ hormone PYY which decreases appetite and promotes fullness.

Other studies have shown that people who eat more protein tend to have less abdominal fat.

Good protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, dairy, whey protein and beans.

#4 Reduce your stress levels

Excessive levels of stress triggers the production of cortisol – the body’s stress hormone.

Research shows that high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage. 

Aim to reduce your levels of stress by doing activities like yoga and practising meditation. Even going for a run can do wonders for your stress levels and mental health. 

#5 Limit your intake of sugary foods

Sugar consumption has been linked to several chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, obesity and liver disease.

Excessive sugar intake is a major cause of weight gain and increased abdominal fat. 

#6 Cut back on refined carbs

A high intake of refined carbs (also known as processed carbs) is linked to excessive belly fat. 

By replacing refined carbs with unprocessed, starchy carbs you will see improvements in your metabolic health and reduced belly fat. 

Healthy carb sources are whole grains, vegetables and legumes. 

#7 Strength train

Strength training (also known as resistance training) has a whole host of benefits for runners when performed regularly as part of a well-rounded training plan.

Aerobic exercise like running when combined with strength training can do wonders to reduce visceral fat. 

If you decide to start lifting weights, I suggest you start with the basics. You can find more information in my 30 day strength training plan for runners

#8 Avoid sugary drinks

Sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea and alcoholic mixers containing high levels of sugar are associated with significant abdominal fat gain.

To lose belly fat, it’s best to avoid sugary drinks all together and simply drink water instead. 

#9 Get plenty of sleep

We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep for our physical and mental health. 

Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to gain more weight, which may include belly fat.

Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep each night and practise a good sleep routine. 

#10 Eat fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and anchovies are incredibly good for your health as they contain high quality protein and omega-3 fats that protect you from disease.

Aim to get 2-3 servings of fatty fish per week. If you think you’d struggle to eat this many portions, consider taking omega-3 supplements. 

Caroline Geoghegan