If you are trying to lose weight, you need to cut back on how many calories you eat. But you can boost your weight loss efforts by burning more calories every day. This makes it easier to take off extra weight.
Being More Active Burns More Calories
Any kind of physical activity uses energy. The more work the activity takes, the more calories you burn. Even fidgeting burns calories more calories than sitting still.
Here is a comparison of different activities and how many calories a 170-pound (77 kilograms) person can burn in an hour.
- Standing burns more calories than sitting (186 calories vs. 139 calories).
- Walking at a moderate pace burns more calories than standing (324 calories vs. 186 calories).
- Walking briskly burns more calories than moderate-paced walking (371 calories vs. 324 calories).
Look for ways to be more active every day. Even small changes, such as standing instead of sitting while on the phone, can add up to 100 calories a day or more. Start with the suggestions below and come up with your own ideas.
Always talk to your health care provider before starting a new exercise program especially if you are not already exercising regularly.
Ways to Move More
- Stand up. The muscles in your back and legs do extra work when you stand. To burn even more calories, pace back and forth while you talk on the phone. If you have a desk job, see if you can get a standing desk, or rig one up, and spend part of the day standing while you work.
- Take regular breaks. People who often take breaks from sitting burn more calories than people who sit in one place for hours on end. Just getting up for a quick stretch will break up your sitting time.
- Walk more. Walk to the bathroom on the other end of the building. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Get off the bus or subway several stops ahead and walk the rest of the way. Always be on the lookout for ways you can add more walking to your life.
- Stand on one foot. While standing, lift one foot an inch (2.5 centimeters) off the ground, see how long you can hold that position, then change feet. You will work your leg muscles, core muscles, and improve your balance.
- Put your shoes on standing up. This is another great exercise for balance. See if you can put on your sock, shoe, and tie your shoe without letting your foot touch the ground.
- Be in a hurry. Walking fast burns more calories than a slow stroll. Make a game out of seeing how quickly you can get to your destination.
- Take the stairs. If you have to get to the 11th floor, walk up as many flights as you can, then take the elevator the rest of the way. Stair climbing is one of the easiest activities you can do to burn calories without going to a gym.
- Plan active parties. If you have guests over for a BBQ or dinner party, start the evening with a game of volleyball, badminton, or an active video game. Make social events active by meeting to go bowling, throw darts, or play pool.
- Wear a tracking device. Wearable activity monitors can tell you how active you have been on a given day. You might set a daily goal for yourself, or get a friend to join you in a friendly competition. Seeing how adding extra activities add to your daily results can inspire you to do even more.
- Add music. Listening to music while you walk can make the activity more fun and take your mind off what you are doing. Pick an upbeat tune, and you may find you up the intensity without realizing it.
- Watch less TV. Television remains one of the biggest draws for sitting marathons. If you are hooked on a certain show, tune in and then hit the off button as soon as your show ends. You could also try standing up while you watch or doing pushups, crunches, or squats every time a commercial comes on. Only allowing yourself to watch your favorite show at the gym can help motivate you to get in your workouts.
- Do your shopping in person. When you physically go to a store to shop, you walk to the building, take the stairs, walk the aisles, reach for things, and lift and carry bags. Compare that to the tiny movements involved in online shopping.
- Do it yourself. Prepackaged foods, snow blowers, riding mowers and other conveniences are all great time-saving inventions. But as things get easier, it gets harder to balance the calories you eat with the energy you use. Cooking from scratch, cutting the grass with a push mower, and shoveling the walk all make you move. And the more you move, the more you burn, and the healthier you will be.
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American Council on Exercise website. Caloric cost of physical activity. www.acefitness.org/updateable/update_display.aspx?pageID=593. Updated June 7, 2017. Accessed July 14, 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Overcoming barriers to physical activity. www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adding-pa/barriers.html. Updated December 20, 2017. Accessed July 14, 2018.
Despres J-P, Larose E, Poirier P. Obesity and cardiometabolic disease. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 50.
U.S. Department of Agriculture website. Tips for increasing physical activity. www.choosemyplate.gov/physical-activity-tips. Updated June 10, 2015. Accessed July 14, 2018.
Review Date 4/23/2018
Updated by: Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.