Set Your Calories on Fire With the Type of Exercise You Choose!

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It seems like everyone these days is trying to find the secret to weight loss. New fad diets are always catching people’s attention. Some constantly cycle through exercise programs, while others try the newest diet pill that claims to instantly reduce body fat. Any weight loss program that advertises weight reduction without diet and exercise is probably a scam. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated, and the principle of weight loss isn’t a secret. All you need to know about losing weight is that the energy you consume through food needs to be expended through activity, or else it will convert to fat.

The Calorie

You can use the terms calorie and energy interchangeably. The calorie is just a unit that measures the energy we get from food. And different types of foods consist of different amounts of calories. Both carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that 45 to 66 percent of our calories come from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from fats, and 10 to 35 from protein1.

Most of us know that eating too many calories will result in weight gain. But you need a certain amount of calories for your body to function properly because your body is always using energy, whether you’re exercising, watching TV, or even sleeping. An intake of 1500 to 2400 calories for women and 2000 to 3000 for men is a healthy range, which will give you the energy needed for daily activities and exercise2.

Ideally, 10 percent of our calorie expenditure would come from resting, and the remainder would be spent doing daily activities and exercise. Unfortunately, most individuals are physically inactive, so they’re energy expenditure rarely gets above the resting level3. Hence, physical inactivity is one of the leading causes of obesity because the calories we don’t use are stored as fat.

Calories Burned by the Type of Activity

Physical activity is the key ingredient for burning the most calories; this usually takes the form of traditional exercises and sports. But physical activity doesn’t have to be structured exercise. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by the contraction of skeletal muscles that results in a substantial increase of energy expenditure”4.

Going by this definition, physical activity can be anything from cleaning your house and shopping to riding your bike. Below are examples of the amount of calories burned from a variety of activates. These numbers are based on a 150 pound individual who engages in the listed activates for 30 minutes5. Heavier individuals tend to burn slightly more calories than lighter individuals because they have more weight to carry during the particular activity. Keep in mind that these are just estimates, and will vary depending on the size of the individual and the time he or she participates in the activity.


Calories Burned / 30 minutes





Jumping Rope












Circuit Resistance Training


Mowing (push)




Leisure Biking














Doing Laundry




















Traditional Exercises and Sports

These numbers show that you can burn calories doing a wide range of physical activities. Traditional exercises like running, walking, swimming, biking, and circuit resistance training produce some of the highest calorie expenditures. Over the years, these exercises have been proven to produce results. That’s why many people build their fitness programs around these activities.

But formal exercises are not the only way to burn calories. Sports activity is a great way to lose weight because it combines exercise with friendly competition and fun. Sports also develop team working skills, social skills, and self-confidence among young people. Instilling a love for sports is a great way to promote exercise among kids because it gets them away from TV and video games and out running around on the field or court.

At the top of the above list are several traditional sports, like racquetball, basketball, soccer, tennis, golf, and volleyball. Many of these sports require either short periods of intense cardio exertion or prolonged periods of moderate cardio effort, and as such serve as exercise opportunities.

Alternative Ways to Burn Calories

But it’s important to realize that not everybody enjoys sports and traditional exercises. Some people don’t have natural athletic aptitude and find typical exercises boring or too difficult. That doesn’t mean you have to give up on exercise.

To the contrary, the above calorie expenditure chart lists a variety of nontraditional exercises that required a high amount of energy expenditure like backpacking, dancing, yoga, fishing, and sailing. These activities serve as notable examples to the fact that just about anyone can find a physical activity they enjoy. So if you’re looking for a way to cultivate a healthy lifestyle, think about ways to combine your hobbies with physical activity.

But if you’re like most people, then you struggle to find time for any type of exercise. The key for you is to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Almost everybody has to work in their garden, mow the lawn, do laundry, vacuum the house, and cook dinner. These everyday activities burn calories and contribute to your overall health.

So the next time you have to mow the lawn or wash the car, try and keep a brisk pace so that you’ll break a sweat. What’s more, this will give you an excuse to get your chores done, which has the double benefit of improving your health and making your spouse happy that you accomplished your to-do list!

Whether it’s walking, playing tennis, or cleaning the house, all you need is 30 minutes of exercise a day to reduce your risk of heart disease and other health factors. The best way to lose weight is to find an activity that you enjoy doing. That way you won’t even realize you’re exercising. If you follow the advice mentioned above, you’ll be well on your way to living a healthy life.


1 Food and Nutrition Board.InstituteofMedicine. (2002). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy; Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids.Washington,DC:NationalAcademyPress.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010.Washington,DC:U.S. Government Printing Office.

3 Food and Nutrition Board; National Research Council. (1989). Recommended Dietary Allowances.Washington,DC:NationalAcademy of Sciences.

4 Definitions: health, fitness, and physical activity. (2002). Retrieved from President’s Council on Physical Fitness: www.fitness.gov/digest_mar2000.htm

5 McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., & Katch, V. L. (2007). Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance (6th ed.).Baltimore,MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


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