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Busy Burning Calories

Understanding how many calories our bodies burn and how running helps.

Every activity we do during the day burns up Calories, even watching TV and sleeping, so we thought it would be interesting to compare how many Calories we burn by running with other popular sports and common everyday tasks. We’ve used an example of a 10 stone man for illustration purposes, but we’ve also provided formulae so that you can make your own personal calculations if you wish.

 

Busy Doing Nothing

Before we look at the Calories burned when we’re active, it’s worth considering the Calories burned when we’re inactive!
When we’re resting and doing nothing, our body is still busy burning a minimal amount of Calories, just to keep our vital organs functioning – a bit like the ‘standby’ button on the TV! Experts call this the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and you can roughly estimate how many Calories you burn per minute through your BMR using the following formulae:

Male BMR per minute = weight in pounds x 11 / 1440


Female BMR per minute = weight in pounds x 10 / 1440

So, for example, a 10 stone man (140 pounds), would burn around 0.97 Calories each minute of the day even without undertaking any activity- this equates to around 1,400 Calories per day.

As our BMR is the absolute minimum Calorie burn needed to keep our body alive, we do burn slightly more by sleeping but the difference is very small so it’s best not to count sleeping as an activity! Next we’ll look at the discretionary elements of our daily Calorie burn.

 

Busy Doing Something

The amount of Calories we burn depends on the energy involved in the activity, which is usually affected by our body weight, as most activities involve moving our body! The heavier the body, the more energy used to move it and therefore the more Calories burned. The amount of Calories burned therefore differs depending on your weight. However, every activity also has a different energy cost per pound of weight.

In 1993, the University of South Carolina published a paper called “Compendium of Physical Activities: classification of energy costs of human physical activities”, later updated in 2000. This published the results of research into the relative amounts of energy burned by different sports and other everyday activities. The paper used the concept of a Metabolic Equivalent (MET) to rate activities by reference to the Calories burned by sitting still, which was given a MET value of 1. So, for example, mowing the lawn with a conventional petrol lawnmower has a MET of 5.5, so burns around five and half times as many Calories as sitting doing nothing!

You can estimate the Calories burned from the MET of any activity using the following formula:

Calories Burned per minute = weight in pounds / 132.3 x MET

The following table shows some examples of common daily activities and their MET values.

Activity

MET

Approx. Calories Burned Per Minute (10st Man)

Sitting / Watching TV

1.0

1.06

Deskwork, internet use

1.8

1.90

Washing Up

2.5

2.65

Vacuuming

3.5

3.70

Ironing

2.3

2.43

Mowing Lawn

5.5

5.82

Talking on the Phone

1.5

1.59

Driving a Car

2.0

2.12

Having a Shower

2.0

2.12

You can find out the MET values for many other activities in the Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide.

 

Busy Doing Exercise

To burn off larger amounts of Calories you need to exercise and running is one of the best ways to burn Calories, as well as conditioning your body in other ways. The amount of Calories burned by running is mainly dependent on how far you run, it doesn’t matter how long you take, although if you slow down to a walk you will then burn less Calories, as you are no longer using energy to raise your body off the ground. 

Unlike running, the amount of Calories burned by cycling is dependent on speed as well as distance. This is because cycling is normally undertaken at much higher speeds where wind resistance also has an impact.

For swimming, the amount of Calories burned is primarily driven by the intensity of the swimming strokes and how long you are swimming for.

The following table shows some examples of common exercises and their MET values.

Activity

MET

Approx. Calories Burned Per Minute (10st Man)

Running (9 mins per mile)

11.0

11.64

Cycling (12-14 mph)

8.0

8.47

Swimming (breaststroke)

10.0

10.58

Walking (3 mph)

3.3

3.49

 

Summary

So, running is an excellent way to burn Calories and compares very well with other activities and sports. If you want to burn off some Calories and time is of the essence, there aren’t many better options than running! 

Activity

MET

Approx. Calories Burned Per Minute (10st Man)

BMR / Sleeping

0.9

0.97

Light activity (e.g. driving)

2.0

2.12

Walking (3 mph)

3.3

3.49

Cycling (12-14 mph)

8.0

8.47

Swimming (breaststroke)

10.0

10.58

Running (9 min/mile)

11.0

11.64

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