The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Same Burn for Everyone?

Posted in
Live well

Monday, Nov 29, 2010

Thanksgiving has passed us by and with it marks the finish of a 1k, 5k, half marathon, marathon or other distance associated with a local Turkey Trot race. And up next here in Dallas is the White Rock Marathon and Half-Marathon. Over 22,000 runners and walkers will embark on the 26.2 mile marathon or 13.1 mile half marathon courses through the Dallas area.

Looking at the number of calories burned at marathons, we calculated that an astonishing number of calories were burned in the Denver Marathon. But does everyone burn the same number of calories? No, that depends on things like distance, speed, running efficiency and body weight. We also all know that not everyone will run a marathon distance, or even run at all.

How many calories would be burned in just one mile? A new formula released in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research calculates the number of calories burned in a mile.1 This formula takes into account differences in body weight. The article found that weight accounts for about 60% of the difference in the number of calories burned between individuals traveling the same distance. Gender also accounts for a small difference in the number of calories burned. Formulas developed by other researchers are normally based only on time. They do not account for differences as a result of bodyweight.2

As you can imagine, individuals who are heavier probably cannot run or walk as fast as someone who is leaner . Also it is not always appropriate or safe for heavier or obese individual to run due to the increased prevalence of health concerns which may make higher intensity exercise unsafe or problems with osteoarthritis that may mean the benefits of running outweigh the risks and make walking is a better alternative. 3

A heavier individual running, or walking, the same distance as a leaner person would burn more calories. This is due to the extra energy required to move the increased body weight. The heavier person will take longer to complete the distance, although. Hence, the heavier individual would likely lose weight faster than the leaner individual doing the same thing. As the overweight individual loses more weight, they are burning less calories and weight loss becomes more challenging. 

For example, in an hour, a 176 pound female might only be able to walk 3 miles, but a 145 pound female might be able to run 6.5 miles. The results would be:  
  •  176 pound female = 98 calories burned per mile x 3 miles = 294 calories
  •  145 pound female = 87 calories burned per mile x 6.5 = 595 calories
Using the speeds from the example above for the half-marathon, it would mean that the 176 pound walker would take about 4.5 hours to finish the 13.1 mile race. She would burn about 1,285 calories. The 145 pound runner would be able to finish using the pace listed above in just over 2 hours. She would burn around 1,140 calories.
To find out exactly how many calories you would burn in a mile based on your weight, the formula is:
Calories = Wt in pounds/2.2 X 0.789 – [gender (men = 1, women = 2) X 7.634] + 51.109  
It is well documented that most individuals can benefit from almost any type of physical activity. So get out there and do what you can, whether that is walking a mile, jogging a bit, or even running an entire marathon. But remember not everyone will get the exact same results from doing the exact same workout. So be sure to tailor your workout to your goals. Also, work at a high enough intensity that you are able to achieve them.

Comment on our Facebook page how your marathon preparation went? Also, be sure to mention if the number of calories you burned per mile changed during your preparations from losing weight. And if your goal was to lose weight, what you did to keep burning the calories.

Next week, we will take a look at as weight drops, why it is harder and harder to lose those final pounds than when the weight loss journey began. Plus what you can do to keep burning more calories.

1 Loftin, M., Waddell, D.E., Robinson, J.H., Owens, S.G.; (2010) Comparison of energy expenditure to walk or run a mile in adult normal weight and overweight men and women. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 24(10): 2794-2798. 2 Heden, T.D. (2009). Comparison Of Resting, Walking, And Jogging Energy Expenditure Prediction Equations In Normal And Overweight Females. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 41:5, 268. 3 Pi-Sunyey, F.X. (1999). Comorbidities of overweight and obesity; current evidence and research issues. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 31:11, S602-S608.