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The Average Jogging Speed: Finding The Perfect Pace

What Is The Average Jogging Speed?

For those of us who cannot run or choose not to run, jogging is a great way to burn calories. Slow jogging has even been seen to increase women's life expectancy by 5.6 years and men's by 6.2 years on average. But getting the pace right is key for optimal results. Avoid the temptation to break into a near run at 6 mph. Instead, aim to hit health highs by sticking to a comfortable 4–5 mph pace. Light jogging may actually be better for health than moderate or strenuous jogging.

Jogging is a good form of aerobic exercise that can burn calories, prevent obesity, improve cardiac function and bone density, increase insulin sensitivity, improve oxygen uptake by your body, lower blood pressure, and even improve lipid profiles. Plus, it helps reduce inflammation markers in the body and improves immune function. There is also the added benefit to your psychological well being that could come from the feel-good hormones released during exercise or the social experience and interactions that come with jogging outdoors or with others at the gym.1

If you have just begun jogging for any of these reasons or if you have been jogging for a while now but haven’t been drawing any closer to your health goal, you may need to check your jogging speed. Are you running at the appropriate speed? Are you burning enough calories? Surprisingly, jogging faster may not necessarily make you healthier or lower your mortality risk. So what’s that sweet spot?

The Average Ideal Jogging Speed Is Between 4 And 5 Mph

Brisk walking or jogging tends to happen at between 4 mph and 5 mph on an average. A more challenging pace may be needed as you build your stamina and you could reach speeds of over 5 mph. Speeds of over 6 mph according to some experts, count as a run. What makes these average speeds so important – more perhaps than top speeds – is the fact that fast-paced jogging may leave you with the same mortality risk as those who live a sedentary life. In other words all that effort may be counterproductive! Research has found that mild-intensity joggers may actually have the lowest mortality risk of all – better than moderate and strenuous joggers.

Slow Jogging Uses Up 6 Times More Oxygen Than When You’re At Rest

Running helps lose calories faster, but if you unable or unwilling to run, slow jogging can also help you. The oxygen consumed for various activities is measured in METs or metabolic equivalents, with 1 MET being the oxygen you use when at rest. You burn 5 calories for every liter of oxygen you use up, and the more oxygen you use, the more calories you burn. Jogging or running at a pace of 4 mph is equal to a 6 MET value. Upping your pace to 6 mph, which is a run, takes that value to 9.8 METs. The average jogging speed for most people lies somewhere in between.2

You Can Burn 240–355 Calories In 30 Minutes Of Jogging

The number of calories burnt depends on your weight and your jogging speed. So a 125-pound individual burns 135 calories with 30 minutes of 4 mph jogging and 240 calories with 5 mph jogging. A 185-pound individual, however, burns 200 calories at 4 mph and 355 calories at 5 mph.3 Though you would burn more calories at a higher pace – between 580 and 730 calories in an hour at a pace of about 9 minutes per mile or 6.67 mph4 – slow jogging has its benefits.

Slow Jogging Increases Life Expectancy By 5.6–6.2 Years

According to research drawn from the mammoth Copenhagen City Heart Study of 20,000 men and women, jogging at a “slow” or “average” speed is optimal if you want to improve longevity. Get this right and you could increase your life expectancy by 5.6 years on an average if you’re female, and 6.2 years if you’re male. And all it will take is a total of 1 to 2.5 hours of jogging spread over the week. Researchers found that this level of activity, undertaken as 2–3 sessions of jogging, produced best results.5

Jogging or running at a pace of under 6 mph for as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day can significantly reduce overall risk of health-linked mortality in addition to lowering cardiovascular disease risk.6

Jog At A Pace That Makes You Slightly Breathless While Talking

While averages and optimal speeds are available as benchmarks, they are not set in stone. You will need to work out the magic number for your body for yourself. To figure this out all you need to do is be aware of how you feel when you’re jogging. Pick up the pace until you’re at a speed where you feel a little breathless and may find it a little difficult to have a conversation but can keep up the banter. But take care not to speed up so much that you’re too breathless and can barely talk.

Or Jog At 50–80% Of Your Heart Rate

Alternatively, you could also consider heart rate when fixing on the ideal jogging speed. Regular runners suggest that you work out at between 50 and 80% of maximum heart rate. When you’re hitting these target heart rates, you’ve found your ideal average running speed. The thumb-rule to estimate your maximum heart rate is to deduct your age from 226 if you’re female or from 220 if you’re male.

If you’re starting out as a new jogger, aim at the lower end of the scale and build up to closer to your maximum as you get fitter. Do remember that it is also important to combine this aerobic exercise with strength-building exercises that work your muscles.

Do also keep in mind that for those with medical conditions impacting the bones and joints, as well as those with cardiac issues or for anyone who is very overweight, a high-impact exercise like jogging isn’t a good idea. Always check with your doctor before you begin jogging.

References   [ + ]

1, 5. Schnohr, Peter, Jacob L. Marott, Peter Lange, and Gorm B. Jensen. “Longevity in male and female joggers: the Copenhagen City Heart Study.” American journal of epidemiology 177, no. 7 (2013): 683-689.
2. Do You Really Need to Run? American Council on Exercise.
3. Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Harvard Medical School.
4. Exercise and activity for weight loss. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
6. Lee, Duck-chul, Russell R. Pate, Carl J. Lavie, Xuemei Sui, Timothy S. Church, and Steven N. Blair. “Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 64, no. 5 (2014): 472-481.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.