You want to get in shape and lose a couple of kilos. You’ve started counting the calories going in at meal times, but how do you take them off over the course of the day?
Don’t disappear! Burning calories may be easier than you think, as we explain below.
This is the first part of a 2 part piece on burning calories in daily life. If you’d like to read the second part, see here.
1. Invest in Sleep
If you have babies or young children who keep you up at night, this might be a challenge, but research has shown that a decent stretch of beauty sleep aids calorific burn – as well as helping your mood and general health. In fact, only having four or less hours kip for a prolonged period slows the metabolism. This may mean that you not only feel sluggish, but that the weigh can also start to creep on. A good night’s sleep for most people is 7 to 9 hours, so pop in those earplugs and embrace the joys of sleep.
2. Be Active Socially
Next time you organise a work social function, pick an activity that gets you moving whilst having fun at the same time. Bare foot bowls is great in the warmer weather, whilst ten pin bowling or go-karting (and my personal favourite) dancing, are good all year round. Each of these options burns on average about 200 calories per hour.
Try and laugh more. A mere 10-15 minutes of laughter a day can use up to an extra 50 calories. Watch your favourite funny sitcom, tune in to cats videos on YouTube, read a funny story or even ring a friend that always cracks you up. Burning calories has never been so much fun!
4. Work your Core
Every time you are driving and you get stuck at a red light, switch on your core (and if you are a lady, maybe give those pelvic floor muscles a tense too – I know I should!). Not only does switching on your core help you lower back it actually burns calories because you are tensing your stomach muscles. Before long you will be doing it automatically. Red light = Switch on core!
And if you’d like some advice on how to activate your core, see here
5. Don’t Eat in the Car
And whilst we are talking about driving, unless you are on a long road trip, don’t eat in the car. Eating in the car can lead to mindless consumption of calories – think of all those junk food wrappers, mounting up! Yes, sometimes it can be a time saver, but all too often eating is a way to distract from the boredom of sitting in traffic.
6. Watch Less Television
With dozens of streaming platforms to choose from and multiple screens for you to watch on, most of us are watching too much television. It should be quality over quantity when it comes to our viewing schedules and you shouldn’t automatically switch Netflix on as soon as you get home, just for something to do. Watch your favourite shows without guilt, but I’m sure we have all sat staring at the TV and thought to ourselves: ‘There is nothing on!’, and then continued to sit there. Studies have shown that adults who halved how much TV they watch burned an extra 119 calories per day, without actually changing their calorie intake.
Who knew that burning calories could be as simple as turning off the telly?!
7. Take the Long Way
The classic example of this is taking the stairs rather than the lift whenever you can. Other ways to get some extra calorie burning into your day are to go to the toilet furthest from your desk when at work and get off your bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way to work. You can push it further by choosing to cycle into work a couple of times a week.
8. Change Sides
This is so easy to do and yet so often overlooked. When you are carrying your child, the supermarket shopping or a heavy bag, switch sides regularly. Swapping over engages more muscles and so burns more calories.
9. Ditch Technology
Don’t phone or email work colleagues that work on the same floor as you – get up and walk over to them. It’ll give you some exercise, refocus your mind and provide some valuable human interaction. The same thing goes for calling the family for dinner. Get your kids to go and knock on their siblings door rather than yelling at them from the kitchen! Burning calories is a game the whole family can play!
10. Start Counting your Steps
Discover the joys of a pedometer. Whether you go for an App on your phone or have a dedicated device, the advice is to try and do 10,000 steps per day. 10,000 steps is about 5 miles (8 kms), which depending on a few variables, such as weight sex and age, can burn anywhere from 250-600 calories per day.
11. Walk and Talk
If you can, get upright and even mobile during phone calls. If you are at home don’t sit down but walk around the house while on the phone, at work if possible take the phone call standing up or even look at taking the call on your mobile. If you are working from home, maybe you can pair your call with a head-clearing walk. Not surprisingly, standing burns more calories than sitting – about 50% more. That means you can burn about an extra 50 calories per hour by standing and talking on the phone and if you walk while you talk that can go up to 85-90 calories per hour.
12. Move Quickly
Ever noticed how fit people seem to do everyday tasks with more speed, whilst overweight people tend to complete the same tasks at a much slower rate? It’s not really any great secret, move your body more quickly and you will be burning calories more rapidly . Want to move more quickly? When you are walking places during the day, walk like you are late for a meeting.
13. Do Things By Hand
Again, this can be hard if you have a young family or are swamped with work, but when you have the opportunity, do household tasks yourself. Vacuum your house, wash your car, mow the lawn, wash the dishes rather than chucking them in the dishwasher or hang out the washing. Yes, it is great when someone does all of these things for you, but doing them takes energy. For example, hand washing your car will burn about 210 calories per hour.
14. Drink Cold Water
You might be surprised to learn that for every litre of cold water that you drink, your body burns around 30 calories. This is because you are hot (literally!) and your body has to work to bring any cold water that you drink up to the right temperature.
15. Drink Strong Green Tea
If you like the taste, get into green tea. Green tea has a couple of things going for it. It contains caffeine and research shows that caffeine can accelerate the metabolism. In addition, it contains a plant chemical called catechin polyphenols and it appears that this also encourages our bodies in burning calories.
If you’d like to know more about teas and their health benefits, see here.
16. Have a Break
For each hour you spend sitting at your desk at work, get up and move around for 5 minutes. Take a short walk to get a drink or head outside for a few minutes and do some gentle stretching. You could even get the yoga mat out and run through a handful of quick poses. You will find that it can actually help keep you alert and lead to better productivity.
17. Learn to Relax
It may seem strange, but if you can relax properly, you may well burn more calories. If you are feeling stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol and cortisol is responsible for your body holding on to calories as fat. So destress and the calories won’t turn to unwanted weight.
18. Cook Your Own Food
It’s usually healthier to cook for yourself than to call for a take away, but have you ever thought of the calories that you burn whilst prepping dinner? If nothing else, you are standing up for a while and that’s better than sitting in your car, driving to pick up food.
19. Chew Gum
I admit that I thought that this was an urban myth, but it seems that you are actually burning calories (though admittedly not heaps of them) whilst chewing gum. Perhaps more importantly, chewing may distract you from eating out of boredom.
20. Spice Things Up
I’m a big fan of this last point as I was born in the UK and was raised on fiery curries. There is evidence to show that your metabolism can be raised by eating spicy food – hooray! Try adding chilli flakes or sauce to dishes or throw on some wasabi or a punchy mustard.