Our bodies burn calories even when they’re at rest. So just in case you’re curious about how many calories you burn doing some of your daily activities, here’s a list of them with an accurate approximation of energy expended. Note that if you’re underweight, you have to up the time or intensity doing these activities to burn the same number of calories we’ve indicated. If you weigh more, you’ll burn more with the same time and effort. BTW, when we say calories, we mean the scientific unit kcal!
A study supported by the University of Quebec and published in the journal PLOS ONE in 2013 has found that young, healthy women who have moderately intense sex burn 3.1 calories per minute. For comparison purposes, the researchers also measured how many calories are burned by doing moderately intense jogging on a treadmill (moving at eight kilometers per hour). They found that moderately intense jogging burns 7.1 calories per minute.
Sex may not burn as many calories as jogging, but sex can burn more than walking at 4.8 kilometers per hour. According to the researchers, “sexual activity may potentially be considered, at times, as a significant exercise.”
2-3. Standing up and sitting down
In 2016, the Journal of Physical Activity and Health published a study calculating how much energy was used in long periods of sitting, standing, and walking. The researchers, affiliated with the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, found that sitting for 15 minutes burned 20 calories (that’s 1.3 calories per minute). Standing for 15 minutes, on the other hand, burned 22 calories—that’s only two additional calories from sitting, which isn’t statistically significant.
This isn’t to say the researchers dissuade you from standing up. It still has its benefits, such as better blood sugar control and less back and shoulder pain from slouching while seated.
4. Climbing stairs
A 2002 study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise has found that the energy expenditure for climbing stairs one step at a time is 10.2 calories per minute. It has also computed that going up a step uses up 0.11 calories.
Research published in PLOS ONE in 2012 advises those who want to control or lose weight to take the stairs one step at a time rather than skipping a step (taking two steps at a time), since the former burns slightly more calories than the latter. The researchers write, “Climbing just a [15-meter] high stairway five times a day represents an energy expenditure of on average 302 kcal per week using the one-step strategy and 266 kcal using the two-step strategy.”
All that said, stair-climbing can be a form of exercise because it improves cardiorespiratory fitness. Stairs are practically everywhere and stair-climbing doesn’t cost you money, so if you want to ease your way into getting in shape, take the stairs.
Doing some light typing while you’re seated on a chair with your back straight burns 1.55 calories per minute, according to a study on Korean young adults’ energy expenditure published in the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine in 2016.
The same study on Korean young adults found that light dishwashing burns 2.47 calories per minute. This activity involves cleaning the dishes—three or four plates and two sets of utensils—while standing up, and setting them aside to dry.
Yup, household chores can burn a fair number of calories. Mopping the floor burns about the same number calories as sex does. The research on Korean young adults’ energy expenditure found that preparing a bucket of water and mopping a floor space measuring 3.3 square meters burns a little over three calories per minute.
8. Getting a hot bath
The journal Temperature published a study that has found that men burn 140 calories when they have a hot bath (40 degrees Celsius) for an hour. Since this is a fairly new finding, more research has to be done on this calorie-burning activity called “passive heating.” In addition, since the study doesn’t have female participants, the exact number of calories women would burn in the same set-up is unknown—just that it’s lower than 140.
Medical and fitness professionals as of now still recommend burning calories the old-fashioned way: through exercise. Running a kilometer in seven to 10 minutes already burns 100 calories. That means you’ll burn so many more if you run an hour, or even half that. If you decide to run instead of having that hot bath, you’ll have more time to do other things too.
Keep in mind that the listed activities aren’t meant to encourage you to replace any of them with exercising, but that you should avoid being sedentary. As you’ve already seen, some of the calories burned when you do nothing but sit down, for instance, is really low.
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