When it comes to fat loss, the biggest part of the equation is making sure you burn more calories each day than you take in through your nutritional choices.
Many people fail to reach their goals, not because they aren't putting in the effort at the gym, but because they lead a sedentary lifestyle. Many think that as long as they go to the gym, they can relax the rest of the day knowing they've done the work that needs to be completed.
People who are most active in their day-to-day lives often burn more calories than regular gym-goers. Hitting the gym is great and definitely a part of the weight-loss and muscle-building process, but you need to keep active when you're not in the gym as well.
To give you an idea of where to start, here's a list of 10 activities that burn 100, 200, and 300 calories each. This way, you can pick the level of boost you want and add to your day accordingly.
If you don't consume any additional foods, you could burn off a full pound just by adding a single 100-calorie activity every day for a month. Pick a 200-burn activity and you'll double that, and go for a 300-calories activity for more almost three extra pounds of fat melted from your body over the course of a month. Remember, the actual number of calories you burn depends on your weight, degree of muscle mass and how well you perform each activity; they're based on a 135-pound individual for our purposes here.
The 100-calorie burn level is good for individuals with a short amount of time—just string several together over the course of a day—or individuals with a low level of fitness. These aren't too taxing, so don't worry about impeding your recovery from your usual workout sessions.
Power walk upon waking
There's nothing like a brisk walk first thing in the morning to rev your metabolism and increase your energy for the day ahead. "Make sure you drink ample water and throw in some BCAAs like Gaspari Nutrition's AMINOLAST to help give you energy and prevent muscle loss," recommends physique competitor Collin Wasiak, 24, who hails from Detroit.
Dance with your significant other on a Friday evening
Take your partner out for an evening of dancing to kill the work-week stress and boost your fitness at the same time.
Perform stretching and calisthenics while watching TV
in the evening
Watching TV is the lowest calorie-burning activity you could do. Rev your burn by focusing on your flexibility-boosting exercises instead. Add a few crunches and push-ups to push up the overall calories expended.
Reduce your rest periods from 60 to 30 seconds
By reducing your rest periods between the sets during your workout session, you'll increase your post-workout calorie burn (called EPOC) for up to 48 hours. The level of boost you'll get depends on the intensity of exercises you choose to perform; stick with multi-joint moves with moderate weights.
Take the stairs rather than the elevator during the work day
Taking the stairs not only burns calories but boosts your energy since it gets blood flowing while strengthening your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
Park and Walk
"One of the best ways to up your daily calorie burn is to simply walk more often. Rather than finding the closest parking spot you can, park a distance away and walk the rest," recommends Wasiak.
"You might even invest in a pedometer to wear throughout the day so you can keep trying to beat your previous day's total step count," explains Ohio's Ashley Kaltwasser, 2013 Ms. Bikini Olympia.
Rake your front lawn
Raking is a good household chore for gaining upper-body strength and burning calories quickly. Lunge into the movement to work the lower body as well.
Cook a healthy dinner meal
for your family
Take the time out on a low-key weeknight to make something special for your family. Cooking for just a half an hour will burn up 100 calories—helping you keep your evening calorie intake in check.
Go window shopping with a friend
"Rather than sitting for coffee and burning negligible calories, go window shopping and keep on the move. It's the fit way to socialize," says Kaltwasser.
Flex Your Forearm at Your Desk
(3-minute intervals, 5-6 sets)
Here's one from fitness competitor Wasiak: A great way to burn calories and boost strength is to bring a forearm grip to work and whenever you have a moment, perform a set of 40-50 squeezes. Do this 5-6 times per day and you'll have dramatically improved grip strength, which also means better gym performance.
Incinerating 200 calories requires a little more effort but still not so much that you shouldn't be able to easily fit these into your day.
Go for a bike ride with your family
Cycling is a great way to improve your lower-body strength while improving your cardiovascular fitness. Hit the pavement for a bike ride after dinner.
Do supersets in the gym
Instead of doing your usual straight-set workout protocol, consider supersetting two exercises back-to-back, resting only after you complete both moves. "I increase my calories in the gym by supersetting body parts like chest and back, while resting very little between sets," explains former competitive bodybuilder and supplement CEO Rich Gaspari on how he gets lean. He adds that for a real challenge you can also do a superset by combining a multi-joint and a single-joint move working the same muscle group, such as doing dumbbell presses for chest followed by dumbbell flys.
Scrub the floors
OK, we didn't say they'd all be fun. But washing floors is an excellent way to work your core, upper and lower body and will help you quickly add more activity to your day. And your floors will finally be clean.
Mow the front and back lawn
Cutting your lawn each week is a great way to build lifestyle fitness into your protocol. Use a push mower and you'll burn 200 calories in just over 30 minutes. Writing a check to the gardener just doesn't cut it, here at least.
Play a game of tennis
Tennis is a fast-paced game that'll not only burn calories, but boost your hand-eye coordination and strengthen your core, lower body, and arms all at the same time.
Hit a park trail and walk your dog
Your pet needs fitness, too! Take your dog out for a walk each evening after dinner and watch your fat burn increase.
Head out of the office for lunch
"Instead of eating at your desk for lunch, eat before or after and use that time to head out for a walk or jog," recommends Wasiak. The fresh air will not only energize you, you'll be more prepared to work hard when you return. In the winter, the extra sunlight will also be good for your mood.
Bowl three games
Bowling is a great leisurely activity to do with friends while you burn calories all at the same time.
Play a game of beach volleyball
Beach volleyball is an especially great lower-body workout; the sand is harder to push against. It's a perfect hot-weather calorie-burning activity.
Skip rope outside
Skipping rope is fun and it burns more calories than running because your upper arms are so heavily involved. If you need a break from your usual cardio routine, this is a great choice.
For those of you who want to triple your calories burned and make a concerted effort to lose fat, here are 10 more activities to choose from. Most of these are nearly full workouts in themselves, so try to plan them for an off day from your strength-training sessions.
Go cross-country skiing
Few activities burn as many calories as cross-country skiing. This activity works your legs, core, and arms while making you break a sweat during the cold weather. And since you'll be going for longer than just 18 minutes, you're really going to burn some blubber.
Rollerblade on a sunny day
Meanwhile on warmer days, rollerblading is a great way to get your heart rate up, work your quads and glutes to the extreme, and help you torch calories quickly. Before starting, just make sure you know how to stop.
Take a rock climbing class
If you're looking for a challenge, a rock climbing class might just be the perfect fit. You'll strengthen all the upper-body muscles while ensuring that you boost your core strength as well.
Play a game of ultimate Frisbee
Ultimate Frisbee is a game to be enjoyed as a group, so it's perfect for larger barbecues or get-togethers. Burn calories quickly! Keep up the pace!
Invest in a Standing Desk
One of the hot trends right now is the standing or even walking desk, which allows you to stand or walk all day long rather than sit. "This is a great way to burn additional calories throughout the day and reduce the adverse health effects of prolonged sitting," explains Wasiak. For the office worker, this can be a win-win solution.
Clear your walk and driveways of snow
Shovelling snow is not just one of the best wintertime calorie-burning activities you can do, it clears your path for you and your family. To stress your muscles properly while preventing back pain, make sure to bend from your knees, not your back.
Go for an afternoon kayak
Kayaking is another great activity you can do in a short afternoon to work the upper body and core. If you've never done this activity before, prepare to be challenged.
Play a game of baseball
Baseball is a great summertime league sport that'll add fun and camaraderie, especially when you least feel like hitting the gym for cardio.
Go for a walk along the beach
If you're lucky enough to live near a beach, take advantage by going for walks on a regular basis. In sand instead of on the pavement, you work the calves and lower-body muscles to a greater degree.
Wash your car inside and out
Keep your car clean as part of your active lifestyle. Washing both the outside and inside of your car can easily burn up to 300 calories.