Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Burning Calories

Two of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they are trying to lose weight are 1) under-estimating the calories they consume and 2) overestimating their activity level. If someone is making both of these mistakes, it can compound the situation and lead to frustration when they don't get the results they are expecting.

I'd like to address the second issue of burning calories in this post. Two people may do the same exercise for the same amount of time, but one may burn far more calories than the other. There are several things that can contribute to this discrepancy, but one of the biggest is because of the intensity of the workout.

When I go to the gym and leisurely shoot baskets for an hour, I burn about 400 calories in an hour. If I'm playing a half court game, then I'd burn closer to 550 calories. If I'm playing competitive full court ball, then I can expect to burn at least 750 calories in an hour.

Below is another example of how many calories a person can burn by exercising (note the difference in results as a person picks up the pace with greater intensity). If a 150 pound woman who goes "running" for an hour, she might expect the following results.

12 minute mile pace = 563 calories burned per hour.
10 minute mile pace = 704 calories burned an hour.
8  minute mile pace = 950 calories burned an hour.
6  minute mile pace= 1126 calories burned an hour.

This scenario shows how 4 people could all do what they felt was the same activity, but one of them burned twice as many calories as the others. I'm a fan of shorter, high intensity workouts that don't take all day, but it is important to remember that with higher intensity activities, there is also a higher risk of injuries, so you need to prepare your body to be able to exercise at a higher intensity.

If you are injured, out of shape, a beginner, or overweight, it is not wise to start working out with sprints and plyometrics. For some people with certain health conditions or limitations, a leisurely walk may still be the most appropriate activity, but for many of us who are in the habit of kidding ourselves when it comes to determining how many calories we burn, we may need to pick up the intensity while exercising.

I also suggest you look online and compare different exercises to see how many calories are burned while doing different activities. It's not all about how many calories a person burns when exercising, but if someone is trying to keep track of their energy expenditure, it sure helps to know the figures you are using are accurate rather than a vague assumption.

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