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November 15, 2022

With the obesity epidemic ever present in society, it is more important than ever to watch our weight. This is especially true for runners, as excess weight can strain our bodies unnecessarily and lead to injuries. But is there any ideal weight that we should be aiming for?

Or can it impact the speed or endurance of our runs? This blog post will explore the ideal body mass index (BMI) for runners and how we can use it to our advantage. Let’s get started.

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Body Mass Index

Body mass index is a calculation of our weight about our height. It is often used as an indicator of whether we are a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. To calculate your BMI, you can use this BMI calculator.

For runners, it is important to be in the healthy weight range, as this will help reduce the risk of injuries and improve our running performance.

The Ideal BMI for Runners

Running is most efficient when the runner has a healthy body mass and body-fat percentage. It is just a form of jumping, and you can’t move forward without moving up, and the more you have to lift against gravity, the more energy it requires.

Certain body mass and composition ranges like any sport will produce the best results. And while this research is interesting, generalizations about BMI shouldn’t be used prescriptively. Instead, most professionals now view BMI as an antiquated marker of health.

Still, a lower body-mass index seems increasingly important as race distances get longer: A 2014 study found that the optimal BMI for male 800-meter runners was between 20 and 21, while it dropped between 19 and 20 for male 10,000-meter and marathon runners.

Efficiency In Delivering Oxygen

To sustain running, the human body must be able to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Larger people are less efficient at delivering oxygen throughout the body. Because they have a higher surface-area-to-body-weight ratio, leaner athletes can dissipate heat better. They also burn carbohydrates more efficiently.

The BMI research suggests that a lower body-mass index becomes increasingly important as race distance increases. This is because the extra weight requires more energy to move, and runners need to conserve as much energy as possible to run long distances.

Dissipate Heat Better

With high-intensity running, the body must be able to dissipate heat to maintain a normal core temperature. Because they have a higher surface-area-to-body-weight ratio, leaner athletes can dissipate heat better. They also burn carbohydrates more efficiently.

Also, leaner runners tend to have more fast-twitch muscle fibers, better suited for short, explosive bursts of speed. These muscles fatigue more quickly than slow-twitch muscle fibers, so they are not as well suited for long-distance running.

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Body Fat Percentile Recommendations For Runners

Maintaining good health is important to keep your body fat percentage within a certain range. The following are age-adjusted body fat percentile recommendations from Human Kinetics:


  • Essential Fat: < 5 percent
  • Athletes: 5 to 10 percent
  • General Fitness: 11 to 14 percent
  • Good Health: 15 to 20 percent
  • Overweight: 21 t0 24 percent
  • Too High: > 24


  • Essential Fat: < 8 percent
  • Athletes: 8 to 15 percent
  • General Fitness: 16 to 23 percent
  • Good Health: 24 to 30 percent
  • Overweight: 31 to 36 percent
  • Too High: > 37

How To Attain Ideal BMI?

While there is no “ideal” BMI, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends a range of 18.5-24.9 as a healthy weight for most adults. However, this range does not consider individual body composition and frame size differences.

Some tips to help you attain or maintain a healthy weight for runners are as follows:

1. Balance Energy In With Energy Out

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn. Runners can use a calorie calculator to estimate how many calories they burn during running and other activities. Also, pay attention to the calories in the foods and drinks you consume.

2. Eat a Nutritious Diet

Focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. Avoid sugary drinks, processed meats, and refined carbohydrates. Choose quality over quantity when it comes to food. Also, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is important for overall health and well-being and can help with weight management. A lack of sleep can lead to increased hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

4. Manage Stress

Chronic stress can lead to weight gain and poor eating habits. Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or other relaxation techniques to manage stress. Also, get regular exercise, which can help reduce stress levels. With a healthy diet and regular exercise, you can reach or maintain a healthy weight for running. Everyone is different, so focus on what works best for you.

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Sun rises over distant mountain range


1. What Are The Benefits of Maintaining a Healthy Weight?

There are many benefits to maintaining a healthy weight, including improved cardiovascular health, reduced risk of injuries, and increased energy levels. A healthy weight can also improve your mental well-being and overall quality of life. If you are looking to lose weight, gain weight, or just stay at a healthy weight, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about the best plan for you.

2. Do Runners Need to be a Certain Weight?

There is no ideal weight for runners, as everyone is different. However, it is important to maintain a healthy weight to stay safe and improve your performance. If you carry too much body fat, you may be at increased risk for injuries and health problems. On the other hand, if you are too thin, you may not have enough energy or nutrients to fuel your runs.

3. Is It Safe to Lose Weight While Running?

Regarding weight loss, it is generally safe to lose 1-2 pounds per week. However, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any other health concerns, talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine. Running can be an excellent way to lose weight and muscle mass, but it is important to do so healthily.

BMI Calculator