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If you are trying to lose weight, first and foremost, you will need to cut back on how many calories you eat. “Energy in” vs. “energy out” is a simple but imperative concept if we are trying to change our body composition. If you are trying to lose weight, you should be eating less calories than you are burning, and vice versa; if you are trying to gain weight, you should be consuming more calories than you are burning. Weight loss tends to be the most common fitness goal people aspire for, and this blog discusses ways in which you can boost your weight loss efforts by burning more calories day to day. This makes it easier to take off extra weight and help you stress a little less when it comes to eating.

Most people rely heavily on their workouts in the gym to burn their calories. But it’s important to realize that any kind of movement uses energy and the more work the activity takes, the more calories you burn. Even fidgeting burns more calories than sitting still.

Think of it this way: In one week there are 168 hours. Let’s say you sleep 7 hours a night, which is 49 total hours a week. That leaves 119 hours of cognitive awareness. Now, let’s say you workout 3 times a week for one hour, or even 5 times a week for 1.5 hours each time. That gives you 3 or 7.5 hours a week of working out. That’s 2.5% or 6% of your week spent in the gym if we don’t include your sleep time and 1.7% or 4% if we do include your sleep time. Yet still, most people focus and rely on their time spent in the gym to burn all their calories.

“The best advice I can give you is to look for ways to be more active everyday outside of the gym. Even small changes, such as standing instead of sitting while on the phone, can burn up to 100 calories a day or more.”

If you’re only spending 2.5% or 6% of your week being active does that make you an active person? Probably not. Below is a list of small changes you can implement and practice to boost your activity level and burn more calories through your day.

Ways to Move More

Stand up. The muscles in your back and legs do extra work when you stand. To burn even more calories, pace back and forth while you talk on the phone. If you have a desk job, see if you can get a standing desk, and spend part of the day standing while you work.

Take regular breaks from sitting. People who often take breaks from sitting burn more calories than people who sit in one place for hours on end. Just getting up for a quick stretch will break up your sitting time. Think about how much you sit during the day: you commute to work sitting down (or maybe just get out of bed and walk to the kitchen), you get to your desk and sit, then go on a lunch break and sit down, go back to your desk for the rest of the day and then commute home (or commute the couch), and then sit in front of the TV. That’s a lot of sitting! 

Walk more. Walk to the bathroom on the other end of the building. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Get off the bus or subway several stops ahead and walk the rest of the way. Always be on the lookout for ways you can add more walking to your life. Humans are not meant to be sedentary – we need to move more, and unfortunately society is building/progressing so we move less.

Put your shoes on standing up. See if you can put on your socks, shoes, and tie your shoes without letting your foot touch the ground. You will work your leg muscles, core muscles, and improve your balance and posture. This is a small habit that through the course of a week will accumulate to a lot of energy burnt!  

Be in a hurry. Walking fast burns more calories than a slow stroll. Make a game out of seeing how quickly you can get to your destination. Walk with a purpose! 

Take the stairs. If you have to get to the 11th floor, walk up as many flights as you can, then take the elevator the rest of the way. Stair climbing is one of the easiest activities you can do to burn calories without going to a gym. 

Wear a tracking device. Wearable activity monitors can tell you how active you have been on a given day. You might set a daily goal for yourself. Seeing how adding extra activities add to your daily results can inspire you to do even more.

Watch less TV. Television remains one of the biggest draws for sitting marathons. If you are hooked on a certain show, tune in and then hit the “off” button as soon as your show ends. You could also try standing up while you watch or doing pushups, crunches, or squats every time a commercial comes on. Only allowing yourself to watch your favorite show at the gym can help motivate you to get in your workouts.

Do your shopping in person. When you physically go to a store to shop, you walk to the building, take the stairs, walk the aisles, reach for things, and lift and carry bags. Compare that to the tiny movements involved in online shopping.

Do it yourself. Pre-packaged foods, snow blowers, riding mowers and other conveniences are all great time-saving inventions. But as things get easier, it gets harder to balance the calories you eat with the energy you use. Cooking from scratch, cutting the grass with a push mower, and shoveling snow all make you move! And the more you move, the more you burn, and the healthier you will be.

Remember to look like an active person you need to be an active person! What percentage of your week are you actually active?

Written By: Ashley Dunwell, MS, NASM-CPT