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How Many Calories Do Your Workouts Really Burn?

Posted in: General Health 17 Aug, 2015

I love this kind of question because it suggests that the gym is not worth the effort. That's something I hope is true because my loathing of gym smell and noise is great.

Let's take a closer look.

Does The Gym Burn Calories?

If you're at the gym running on the treadmill or heaving yourself up the Stairmaster you'll feel like you've burned a million calories, but you may be disappointed.

Some gym equipment counts calories if you input your height and weight. This is wildly inaccurate as your calorie burn depends on a lot of factors, not just your rough height and a small lie about your weight. Factors such as the humidity, your work-out intensity and your muscle mass all make a difference.

The gym is a good place to get fit, there's no getting away from that. But you don't have to gym it (hurrah!), there are other options to burn calories (treble hurrah!) that save you cash and are far more enjoyable.

What Else Works

Experts say that burning calories is about the amount of oxygen you consume. So if you are breathing heavily, then you are burning calories. That means any heavy breathing exertion is exercise - except these:


  • Hyperventilating over the latest David Gandy pants advert.
  • Looking at your bank account halfway through the month.
  • Heaving and frothing at the mouth during Question Time.
  • Losing it when someone doesn't indicate left at the roundabout.
  • Trying to keep calm mid-pee when your 4 year old answers the phone to your mother in law.

Housework, gardening, walking to the shops, sex and climbing the stairs all count. You've got to put some effort in, though. In fact, it seems to me this kind of non-gym weight loss regime is easier to stick with and therefore more likely to get you lighter, healthier and happier.

How To Track Calorie Burn Accurately

Whether you're in the gym or chasing a four year old through mud you can monitor how many calories you're burning up. Wearable technology is pretty accurate if you can personalise it with heart rate, exercise duration, exercise type, weight, age, gender and fitness level.

Other options include pedometers to track your step count and apps for your phone. These apps tell you if you're in the fat-burning zone whilst dead-heading the roses, and how many calories you've burned doing the victory dance when your jeans are still too loose despite a 60 degree wash.

Calories Are Not The Be All And End All

Rather than worry about calorie-counting why not focus on another goal such as getting fit? You could train to run 5k without dramatic collapse and a subsequent call to the Winebulance (it exists - Google it!) The British Heart Foundation says that playing with your grandchildren burns off 300 calories an hour. So play! Dinosaurs lying down with headaches is a personal favourite of mine, but isn't that intensive I'll admit.

Whatever way you decide to exercise, enjoy yourself and make sure you breathe heavy.

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