We all know that when it comes to weight loss and energy balance, it’s a matter of calories in versus calories out. But when you exercise, do you really know how many calories you’re burning?
It’s important to learn how many calories you typically burn so you can control your weight, prevent obesity and lower your cancer risk.
We talked to Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, to get more information on how to determine calories burned. Here’s what she had to say.
How do you know how many calories you’ve burned during a workout?
Measuring the exact number of calories you burn can be difficult. There are a few ways to measure your calorie burn. You can:
- Use an activity tracker or an app that will estimate your calorie burn for you. But be careful with these. The accuracy can vary from product to product.
- A heart rate monitor is one of the best ways to measure your calorie burn. Your heart rate indicates how much effort it takes for you to do a certain activity, and that effort determines the calories you burn. If a heart rate monitor indicates your calorie burn, it’s more likely to be accurate than the average activity tracker because it’s taken your specific heart rate in to account.
- A MET values chart can also show you how many calories are typically burned during specific activity based on your weight. This chart was created by researchers and used widely throughout the medical community. A sample of this chart is featured below.
Which helps you lose more weight: diet or exercise?
Diet. Cutting calories and eating healthy will help you lose weight. Exercise alone probably won’t help you lose weight, but it will help you keep the weight off.
To lose one pound a week you should aim for a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day, through a combination of reducing the calories you eat and increasing the calories you burn through physical activity. This adds up to 3,500 calories per week, the number of calories in about one pound of fat.
What factors contribute to how many calories are burned?
Several factors contribute to how quickly an individual burns calories, including:
- The intensity of an activity being performed. The more intense an activity is the more calories an individual burns.
- Weight. People who weigh more burn more calories.
- Body composition. Muscle requires more energy than fat to maintain. People with more muscle burn more calories.
How much activity do I need to do?
To lower your cancer risk, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. You can break it up throughout the day, too.