How Calorie Burn Works
There are endless ways to get the exercise you need to stay healthy. Sick of the gym? Try going dancing or cleaning up the yard. Small, fun, casual activities do more to help you stay fit and lose fat than you think.
The number of calories you burn doing any given activity is partly determined by how big you are—it takes more energy to move a bigger body. Especially if you're Kris Gethin in a pool.
Keep in mind that these calorie numbers are just estimates and can be influenced by other variables. How vigorously you perform an exercise makes a difference, so don't just phone it in.
Activities That Burn 100 Calories
These activities are great if you're short on time—just string several together over the course of a day—or are still building your fitness. They're not too taxing, so don't worry about impeding your recovery from your usual workout sessions.
1. Power walk before breakfast
There's nothing like a brisk walk first thing in the morning to rev up your metabolism and increase your energy for the day ahead.
"Make sure you drink ample water and throw in some BCAAs to help give you energy and promote muscle anabolism," recommends physique competitor Collin Wasiak.
2. Go dancing 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.
3. Perform stretching and calisthenics while watching TV in the evening
Watching TV is the lowest-calorie-burning activity you could do. Rev up your burn by focusing on your flexibility-boosting exercises instead. Add a few crunches and push-ups to push up the overall calories expended.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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 2013 Ms. Bikini Olympia Ashley Kaltwasser.
7. Rake your front lawn
Raking builds upper-body strength and burns calories quickly. Lunge into the movement to work your lower body as well.
8. Cook a healthy meal
Take the time on a low-key weeknight to make something special and healthy. Cooking for just half an hour will burn up 100 calories—helping you keep your evening calorie balance in check.
9. 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.
10. 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.
Activities That Burn 200 Calories
Incinerating 200 calories requires a little more effort, but you can still easily fit these into your day.
1. Go for an easy bike ride
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.
2. 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 multijoint and a single-joint move working the same muscle group, such as doing dumbbell presses for chest followed by dumbbell flyes.
3. 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 body, and lower body and will help you quickly add more activity to your day. And your floors will finally be clean.
4. 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 won't cut it.
5. Play 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.
6. 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.
7. Head out of the office for lunch
"Instead of spending your lunch break at your desk, 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.
8. Bowl three games
Bowling is a great leisure activity to do with friends while you burn calories at the same time. Plus, cute shoes.
9. 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.
10. Skip rope
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.
Activities That Burn 300 Calories
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.
1. 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.
2. Rollerblade on a sunny day
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.
3. 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.
4. Play ultimate Frisbee
Ultimate Frisbee is a game to be enjoyed as a group, so it's perfect for larger barbecues or get-togethers. Keep up the pace to burn calories quickly!
5. Work at 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. For the office worker, this can be a win-win solution.
"This is a great way to burn additional calories throughout the day and reduce the adverse health effects of prolonged sitting," explains Wasiak.
6. Clear your walk and driveways of snow
Shoveling snow is not just one of the best wintertime calorie-burning activities you can do, it also makes everyone's life a lot easier. To stress your muscles properly while preventing back pain, make sure to bend from your knees, not your back.
7. Go for an afternoon kayak
If you live near water, 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.
8. 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. Find an adult amateur league through your city's parks and rec department or YMCA.
9. 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.
10. Wash your car inside and out
Keep your car clean as part of your active lifestyle. Washing the outside and detailing the inside of your car can easily burn up to 300 calories.