Does Running Tone Your Stomach?

No matter why you start running, you can benefit from this simple exercise in many ways. Running promotes fat loss and tones your muscles. Runners don’t necessarily get six packs but strengthen their abdominal muscles because running forces them to engage their core. 

Does this strengthening result in a more toned stomach? The answer may not be what you expect.

The truth is that different types of running are more likely to produce faster results if you’re looking to develop your core. For example, hill workouts and interval sprints can have a dramatic effect.

Does running tone your stomach? Let’s get into it!

Does Running Tone Your Stomach?

Does running tone your stomach?

The simple answer is yes, running does tone your stomach and can give you abs, but there are a few things you need to incorporate along with running to see this definition. 

Most of us start exercising because we want sculpted, toned stomach muscles, but is running the right way to go about it? Running is great for building cardiovascular health and has many other benefits, but you must include strength exercises to see the bigger upsides. 

In addition to creating a toned figure, exercising your abdominal muscles will also increase your running speed and endurance. Working on your core helps protect your spine from exercise strain while promoting proper posture. Even if a chiseled physique is not your main goal, working on your abdomen should be a top priority as a runner (and in general life!).

So, are there running exercises that help strengthen and shape your abdominals? Yes! Certain exercises can target different abdominal muscles and affect them differently.

How To Tone Your Stomach By Running

Below, we’ll look at some of the most effective exercises to add to your training plan.

Do Hill Workouts

Hills are the bane of any runner’s training. They are tough and tiring, and there’s no doubt that running uphill is more tiring than running downhill. But both of these work your abdominal muscles and strengthen them. 

Running up and down hills should be done with caution. It’s all too easy to overextend your stride when running downhill or let your form slip into a slouch when running uphill. Engage your core muscles, pull your belly button towards your spine, lift your head and ensure your chin isn’t against your neck, and relax your shoulders.

Choose the Stairs

If you don’t live near any hills, don’t worry; we have the perfect solution – choose the stairs! If you live or work in a building with stairs, forgo the elevator and get a workout in before and after work by running up and down the stairs. Adding variety to your workout can be achieved by running upstairs. 

Stair climbing is much tougher than it seems, but it’s a great way to train your legs, arms, and core. Refrain from using the railing – swing your arms in a north-south movement to give you momentum. Watch your step as you go; you don’t want to trip and fall.


Believe it or not, sprinting is one of the best exercises (not just running exercises) to get a flat, defined, toned stomach. Sprinting integrates powerful movements and high-intensity cardio training, unlike traditional stomach exercises like sit-ups or crunches. This strengthens the core muscles while burning belly fat. The longer strides required for sprinting also build your leg, glute, and shoulder muscles – a full-body workout!

Here are a few sprint/interval workouts you can include in your training plan:

  • 3 miles (easy) + 8 x 25-second strides w/40-second recovery, 800m cool-down
  • 800m warm-up, 10 x 400m @ 5K pace w/2 minute recovery, 800m cool-down
  • 800m warm-up, 4 x 800m @ 10K pace w/2 minute recovery, 800m cool-down
  • 800m warm-up, 5 x 1k @ 10K pace w/2 minute recovery, 800m cool-down
  • 800m warm-up, 12 x 400m @ 5K pace w/2 minute recovery, 800m cool-down
  • 1 mile warm-up, 2 x 1 mile @ 10K pace w/4 minute recovery, 800m cool-down

Running With Weights

If you have been running for a few months and feel like your training has plateaued, you can incorporate weights into the workout. There are weights available for your ankles and wrists, or you can get a weight vest. 

When running with weights, the distance you cover should be shorter, as the extra weight places more strain on your body. However, this strain will make your workouts even more effective for toning. When using the weights, check that you’re running with the correct posture and intensity. 

You also need to ensure that the added weight is appropriate for you – the rule of thumb is you shouldn’t run with more than 10% of your body weight added through a vest or weights.

Running Performance Is Dependent on the Core

Running boasts many more benefits when you build core strength. A strong core can enhance your posture and improve your speed. Your limbs are powered by your core, so the stronger your core, the stronger your arms and legs will be. For the rest of the body to be robust, you must have a strong core.

Your core is responsible for keeping your body upright while running; it also increases your stability and balance. Balance is key for runners, but also in everyday life. While running doesn’t guarantee that you will get a 6-pack, it will work your ab muscles.

By strengthening your core, your pelvis, hips, and back will function more efficiently, so you will use less energy when running and reduce your risk of falling.

Running longer distances requires runners to have strong core muscles. The closer you get to the end of a long run, the more tired you become and the more difficult it becomes to maintain your form. Poor form causes you to slow down and can result in injuries.

Does Running Get Rid of Love Handles?

Running is one of the best exercises to burn fat, but even if you run often, you may be unable to shed all of the excess fat built up around your hips and stomach. Why is this the case? The most common reason people struggle to get rid of their love handles and lose the last few pounds is their diet.

If you eat the wrong foods, you prevent the last bit of fat from being used while running. Foods that runners often praise as being great for recovery and fueling on long runs can be problematic if you are still carrying extra weight and fat. 

These foods include energy drinks, protein bars, and energy gels. The issue with consuming these is that they have a higher sugar content to give you energy while running and exercising. But when you have extra fat and eat these, your body uses the food for energy rather than burning fat.

You can eat plenty of other foods while running, such as bananas, potatoes, and dried fruit, that will boost your energy levels with natural sugar while your body uses its fat stores. If you do this, then yes, running will help get rid of your love handles.

But we highly recommend adding some targeted core workouts to your training plan.

Running can get rid of love handles, but diet is important too

How Much Should You Run to Tone Your Stomach?

If you want to burn fat and tone your stomach, you first need to create a training plan and stick to it. Consistency is key. Running once per week won’t do much for your core, unfortunately. 

To lose weight, burn fat, and tone your muscles, you need to run 4 to 5 times per week for 30 to 60 minutes each time – the longer, the better. 

If you are starting, you may need to begin by running twice per week for 30 minutes, then build it up. You can include swimming, cycling, dancing, or gym workouts for the other sessions to build your strength and fitness while developing your running base.

Goals for Success in Running

Setting small, achievable goals makes you more likely to succeed. You should start with a few goals that you know you can manage. Here are a few goals to keep in mind:

  • Stay consistent with your plan
  • Establish a routine that you can follow
  • Diversify your running program by including other activities
  • Get an accountability partner or join a running club

Get medical advice before starting any new exercise routine to ensure you don’t strain yourself or have any underlying conditions that could put you at risk for injury. You can also talk to a personal trainer to get advice about running programs specifically designed for toning the stomach.

What Other Benefits Does Running Have for Your Health?

Running or jogging regularly has many positive effects on your health. Running can:

  • Develop your core strength
  • Build and strengthen your muscles
  • Promote strong, healthy bone density
  • Burn calories and fat
  • Improve your cardiovascular fitness
  • Reduce your risk for certain cancers, hypertension, and heart disease
  • Help you maintain a healthy weight

A sedentary lifestyle is associated with hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, coronary artery disease, and higher mortality. Being inactive is also the primary cause of several preventable chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol, all of which reduce the quality of life.

Running can significantly improve your quality of life, mental health, rate of aging, and self-confidence.

Tips For Getting Started

There are a few things that you can do to make your running program more effective for building strong, healthy muscles.

  • Ensure your diet is high in healthy protein and carbohydrates.
  • Don’t run immediately after eating – your body will prioritize digestion over running efficiency.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially after your run, and include BCAA electrolytes daily.
  • Don’t neglect your recovery days – they are critical for your muscles’ strength and development.
  • If you get a niggle or injury, rest! Don’t run if you experience any pain. Running can be uncomfortable, but should never be painful.

Start Running to Tone Your Stomach!

There is no doubt that running helps tone your stomach and helps you to burn fat, which helps build and strengthen your abdominal muscles. Many people don’t realize running helps tone the muscles in the whole body.

You are on your way to a toned stomach by combining running with a healthy diet and targeted exercises.

Author Profile

Thalia Oosthuizen

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Thalia started running during the the pandemic as a way of getting out of the house. The running bug bit, and now much of her life revolves around everything to do with running - videos, podcasts, studies, books, articles, and interviews. She's also done several courses on running nutrition and mechanics to aid in her training and advising others.
Thalia Oosthuizen

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