Does running burn belly fat?

Does running burn belly fat? And is it the most effective way to lose weight?

Does running burn belly fat? Women running up a hill
(Image credit: Getty)

Does running burn belly fat? We have all the answers. If you’re searching for an effective way to get a leaner stomach, then you’ve probably heard much hype over running for weight loss. After all, it is a free form of cardio training and cardio is something that plays a key role in burning calories.

Not only that, but the activity is also highly subscribed to. Large sportswear brand, Asics, who are behind the making of some of the best running shoes for men, revealed in a study (opens in new tab) that 40% of European runners run to lose weight.

While some might be wholly convinced and ready to take up running as their sole means of burning belly fat, others will want more information. What evidence is there to prove that running does burn belly fat, is running the best way to burn belly fat, and if it is, how long should you run for? Just keep reading to find out.

Does running burn belly fat? What you need to know

When you train the right way, running increases the flow of oxygen to your muscles, this helps increase your metabolism and burns more calories.  

Running coach Lily Canter told us that the trick to use running to burn fat effectively is by being smart about your running strategy.

“When you run your body initially burns carbohydrates from glycogen stores in your muscles,” she explains, “So you need to train your body to burn fat as well.”

“The key to this is varying your training and building up your distance. Running 5km at the same speed on the same route every week is unlikely to help you lose weight. You need to build in sessions of more intensive, faster running and also hit the hills, rather than avoid them.”

She adds, “A mixture of longer slower runs and shorter higher intensity runs will prevent your body from becoming too efficient and limiting calorie burn.”

Why not try out our eight-week running plan for beginners to help you step off the starting line with a bit more confidence? 

Does running burn belly fat? Woman runs with power in activewear

(Image credit: Getty)

Is running the best way to burn belly fat?

Running is definitely valued as one of the most efficient ways to burn belly fat. 

One reason behind this is revealed in a study published in the Journal of Biomechanics (opens in new tab), which summarizes that running is a more effective way to burn more calories than other sports because it requires the work of multiple muscles working hard together.

However, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has grown in popularity over the years and could be just as and perhaps more, in some cases, effective at burning fat.

A small study published in the International Journal of Obesity (opens in new tab) split a group of women into two groups, one completing a HIIT workout for twenty minutes and the other group completing 40 minutes of steady-state exercise (e.g. a run). After 15 weeks the HIIT group lost more weight than the steady-state group. 

This echoes what Canter mentioned above. Repeatedly running at a steady pace isn’t the most effective way to burn belly fat. But this is where interval runs come in handy, this style of running training combines fast uncomfortable hard running with low-intensity recovery breaks at a jogging pace. It has a similar format to HIIT and will improve your athletic performance.

Strength training plays another important role in losing weight. A recent study even found that you can even lose a favorable amount of body fat without dieting or running. Nonetheless, taking an all-rounded approach to burning belly fat is an ideal way to lose weight, tone up, and feel healthier.

This is why diet is also key. Canter explained, “Don’t overestimate the calories you are burning. If you run 5km that doesn’t mean you have earned a piece of cake.”

She says the key to burning fat whilst running is eating a healthy, balanced diet but not dieting. Trying to stick to a ‘crash diet’ and start running puts you at increased risk of injury and won’t give your body the energy to run fast or far and therefore burn fat.

Ensure that you are eating to satiety so that your body is appropriately fuelled. Also make sure you are eating plenty of protein to help your muscles rest, repair, and grow - use the best protein powder for weight loss if you think your diet lacks protein. 

How long should you run for?

This will vary depending on the person taking into account level of fitness, volume of body fat, and running ability. 

But Canter advises aiming to run up to three times a week, for thirty minutes to an hour. She explains that once are then able to run longer distances like a 10k or a distance where you are unable to speak and run, then you are most likely to see the most significant fat-burning benefits.

She finishes, “But variety is the key, otherwise your fat burning is likely to plateau.”

Looking for more? We answer the question does protein powder make you gain weight? Or you can check out the best exercise machines to lose weight.

Jessica is Staff Writer at Fit&Well. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 


When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.