Humans run at speeds which conserve calories, study shows

People wanting to shave time off their running times need to overcome their natural biology – the tendency to run at speeds which conserves calories.

That is according to a new study which examined how people run out in the world and suggests tricks people can adopt to speed up.

Researchers from Queens University in Ontario and Stanford University in California have been looking at the mechanics of running for 15 years. Now they have combined data from wearable technology used by runners in their day-to-day lives with lab experiments to discover more about how people run.

Examining data from more than 37,000 runs ‘in the wild’ and those done in the lab has led to “new insights”, the team has said.

First author Jessica Selinger said: “We intuitively assume that people run faster for shorter distances and then would slow their pace for longer distances.”

However, their findings revealed that most runners tend to maintain the same speed, whatever the distance. This tendency to conserve calories has already been detected in the animal world.

For runners wanting to try to overcome this natural biology, the researchers have some tips, such as listening to music with a faster pace, which can increase stride frequency. They also say running with someone else can help.

The team says the data collected from this large group could help deepen understanding about populations, with co-author Jennifer Hicks saying: “You can look at connections with the built environment and access to recreation resources and start to layer all of that data to really understand how to improve physical activity and health more broadly.”

Click here to use our calorie calculator and find out how many calories you’d burn by activity.

The study has been published in the journal Current Biology.

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