So here goes. I want to weigh in on a controversial topic and blow away a few myths. Run 5 miles a day. Is it good for you? Is it advisable? Or will it leave you chronically injured doing nothing for your weight loss or fitness?
Like all good controversial running topics the answer to this one is it depends. A cop out? Well maybe, but read on to find out more. Is it okay to run 5 miles everyday and what will it do to your body?
Will I Lose Weight Running 5 Miles A Day?
Now I’m the first to put my hand up and say there’s so much more to running than just losing weight. Yet let’s face the facts. A lot of people start running to lose weight. Especially at the start of a New Year!
So will running 5 miles a day help?
You bet it will! At least to begin with…
How does running help you lose weight?
Running is a terrific way to burn calories. In basic terms, losing weight is just about doing the math. 3,500 calories is equivalent to 1 pound of fat, so you need a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound in weight.
There are only two ways to build up a deficit, diet and exercise. Running has one of the highest burn rates of any type of exercise. So running 5 miles a day will have a real impact.
How many calories will you burn running 5 miles?
A rule of thumb is most people burn 100 calories a mile. There are a few variables such as your weight, running efficiency and speed.
For example a trained athlete will burn less calories on an easy 5 mile run than someone who’s overweight, new to running and trying to run as fast as possible.
But in general, running 5 miles will burn 500 calories. Run 5 miles a day and you can lose 1 pound a week.
This is based on one HUGE assumption!
Everything else must stay constant!
The big trap most runners fall into is eating more. Running makes you hungry!
Plus it’s easy to think; “I’ve just been for a run. I deserve a little reward”. If that reward is more than you would normally eat, it will take a big chunk out of your calorie deficit.
To lose weight running 5 miles a day you still need to watch what you eat. Running isn’t a green light for bingeing on chocolate cake! (I’ve tested this one).
Your calorie intake needs to be restricted to the recommended daily calorie intake – that’s generally 2000 calories a day for women and 2500 calories a day for men. (Reference NHS guidelines).
It’s not just consuming extra calories you need to watch out for:
- As you lose weight, your body needs less calories for it’s day-to-day functions. This means sigh you need to eat less to maintain the status quo.
- Running builds muscle and muscles are heavier than fat. You could end up swapping fat for muscles and not losing weight. It’s a good thing but if you want to check you’re losing weight in those troublesome body parts – whip out a tape measure!
- Your body will adapt to running 5 miles a day. As it becomes an efficient running machine, it starts to burn less calories.
Finding this disheartening? Let’s get some perspective. The average runner weighs a lot less than non-runners who spend their spare time on the couch. So don’t be put off lacing up those running shoes.
Is It Safe To Run 5 Miles A Day?
Read some comments about running 5 miles a day and you’re left with the impression you’ll self destruct, elevate your hormone cortisol levels to crisis state or be a sufferer of anorexia-related mental illness!
Let’s keep a sense of perspective.
If you’re a seasoned runner, 5 miles a day isn’t excessive. Especially if you’re relatively young. For most it’s a low weekly mileage. Think about those elite marathon runners clocking up over 100 miles every week!
Mo Farah reportedly runs twice a day, seven days a week. Compared with his typical 135 mile weeks, running 5 miles a day is a walk in the park.
When It’s OK To Run 5 Miles A Day…
It depends on what your body can cope with. If you wake up one morning and think; “I haven’t run or exercised for years but I’m going to start running 5 miles a day”, you’re in for a shock.
Suddenly launching into any exercise or running program without a build up period is asking for trouble. You won’t have the leg strength to withstand the daily impact on your body of running 5 miles a day.
Just remember, getting injured sucks, so when you first start running take it SLOW. Yet this doesn’t mean you can’t build up to 5 miles a day…or mix up running and walking.
Our bodies are designed to move. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers running down prey, gathering berries and constantly moving camps. Some people, in what’s left of the Amazon Rain Forest, still live this way!
Most people should be able to walk 5 miles a day. It’s not a big deal. Just about all of us benefit from a dose of daily exercise.
When It’s Not Okay To Run 5 Miles A Day…
If you’re injury prone, new to running, a heavier or older runner, running everyday may be excessive.
Some people take longer to recover from a run and need rest days. It doesn’t mean you can’t still be active on those days, (walking, swimming, cycling), it can just be a good idea to give your body a rest from running.
There’s no hard and fast rule. Ron Hill, the former Boston Marathon champion, famously ran every day for 52 years, stopping only at the age of 78.
It’s normal to find more serious runners who run 5 or 6 days a week without getting injured. While most runners will take one or two rest days, that doesn’t make it essential.
Running one of your 5 mile runs each week at a very easy pace won’t make much difference if you’re used to running a high mileage.
You do need to make sure you invest in a good pair of running shoes and change your running shoes regularly. (500 miles is the recommended life span). Training on soft trails and avoiding the hard impact of tarmac also helps.
Is It Beneficial Running 5 Miles A Day?
This is where my “it depends” comes into play.
The main question is what are your running goals?
If you’re running purely for the enjoyment of running, the chance to take a break from work and benefit from exercise, running the same 5 mile distance everyday could be just what you need.
Your body knows what to expect. You don’t need to think about how far you’re running, what type of session you’re going to run – just head out the door.
Sometimes simplicity is best. If the familiarity of running 5 miles a day helps you exercise regularly, it has to be good. Provided your body copes well without rest days, ignore the naysayers.
If you’re training to run faster and compete in races, running the same 5 miles a day isn’t the best approach.
To run faster you need to keep challenging your body. Vary the distance, add intervals, hill runs, fartlek and mix up your training. It’s difficult to improve as a runner if you keep running the same distance everyday.
If you’re running to lose weight, you may hit a plateau running the same distance every day. Your body gets used to the distance, your running style becomes more efficient and your lighter frame doesn’t burn as many calories.
Just like the runner who wants to get faster, setting new challenges for your body will help with weight loss. Try running further a few times a week, add in intervals or attack some hills. Find a running group to help with motivation.
The Benefits Of Running
Whether you decide to run 5 miles a day, one mile a day or adopt a varied training program, running is hugely beneficial. You can read about the effects on your body in my post:
My life has been defined by running. It’s been my passion, got me out of bed in the morning on a cold winter’s day, led me to explore remote places and have unique adventures – things you’d never do on a tourist package holiday.
For me the fact that it keeps me fit and reduces my risk of chronic disease – heart disease, stroke, cancer and neurological diseases, is just a huge plus. I would happily run anyway.
I didn’t feel that way when I first started running. In the first few weeks running was tough but when you stick at it you soon start to enjoy the benefits of feeling fitter, stronger and sleeping better.
My post 7 Tips To Make Running Feel Easier will help get you through those first few weeks.
I’ve never been a fan of running everyday but it’s not because I have any strong views against it – I just find I run better when I add rest days to my training schedule. Yet even on rest days I normally go for a walk or do some yoga. I’d love to hear your views. Have you tried to run 5 miles a day and do you recommend it?
If you’re new to running it’s best to build your mileage gradually and take one or two rest days of light exercise such as walking. For a seasoned runner it’s OK to run 5 miles a day, but if you’re injury prone, new to running, a heavier or older runner, running everyday may be excessive.
Weight loss depends on calorie deficit. Running 5 miles a day will burn 3500 calories a week which is equivalent to 1 pound of fat. Provided you keep to the recommended daily calorie intake – that’s generally 2000 calories a day for women and 2500 calories a day for men, you should lose weight. If you’re running 5 miles a day and not losing weight the culprit is probably your diet. Cut back on high calorie foods and fill up on fruit and vegetables.
This really depends on your age, gender and ability. Running times are personal and it’s better to aim for continuous improvement. For some people running 5 miles in 60 minutes is a massive achievement. For other runners anything more than 30 minutes is slow. As a rough guide, most regular runners will manage 5 miles in less than 45 minutes.
If you’re injury prone, new to running, a heavier or older runner, running everyday may be excessive. It’s always important to build your mileage slowly. When you first start running take walking breaks when your running form starts to suffer. It’s always okay to take rest days. Use your rests days for light low impact exercise such as walking, swimming or yoga.