Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that the equation is simple – you have to use more calories than you take in – but the effort is usually more challenging. We are pretty good at taking in calories, but where we tend to get hung up is doing what it takes to burn calories.
Our bodies burn calories all the time just to maintain respiration, circulation and all the systems it takes to stay alive. This basal metabolic rate is relatively low, however.
Another way we burn calories is digestion, or what is known as the thermic effect of food. The body actually uses calories in the process of breaking down food, absorbing nutrients and more.
But the biggest way to burn calories is through activity or movement. Every movement counts, from fidgeting to gardening to walking the dog to going up and down stairs. Of course, you’ll burn the most calories through exercise – and the more vigorous, the more calories expended. Cardio activities like jogging, using an elliptical, climbing stairs, cycling and more are great ways to raise your heart rate and hold it there for an extended period of time. The longer you exercise, the more calories consumed.
Strength training is another way to burn calories, both while you exercise and after, while your body builds muscle that consumes more calories and raises your metabolism. Activities like Pilates, yoga and stretching are not big calorie-burners per se, but still are valuable ways to tone the muscles.
Any movement is better than sitting on the couch with the remote control and a bag of chips, obviously. So whether you like to play golf or bowl or walk in 5K races, do it regularly and stay active. Walk rather than sit, take the stairs when you can, use your bike instead of your car, exercise while watching TV or movies at home, and on and on. Our bodies are the healthiest when we are active, and you’ll burn more calories and be fitter.