How do I Burn Calories?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Calories refer to energy and specifically a single calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius, which is nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit. So when you are burning calories, what you are really doing is using your body’s energy. We measure the amount of energy burned by calories, and greater or longer lasting activity will burn calories at a quicker rate.

Walking is a low impact way for seniors to burn calories.
Walking is a low impact way for seniors to burn calories.

Pretty much anything you do will help you burn calories. This includes walking up and down your own stairs, vacuuming the floors, running errands to the store or moderate play with your pet. Most of us want to know how to burn calories more efficiently, and how to burn more calories overall.

Tai chi increases energy output, and because it is low-impact, it benefits almost anyone of any age.
Tai chi increases energy output, and because it is low-impact, it benefits almost anyone of any age.

A basic rule of nutrition is that your calorie intake (what you eat and drink) should not exceed the amount of calories you burn. In fact, if you can reduce calorie intake to lower than what you are burning, you are very likely to lose weight. This is because we have stored energy in areas like fat. If we’re not taking in enough calories, then a healthy body is likely to start accessing that stored energy for its energy needs.

What can you do to burn calories at a quicker rate? There are plenty of things. Taking a walk for about half an hour at a leisurely pace burns about 90 calories. If you want to increase your calorie burning, you can pick up your pace. If you can walk at a rate of about 3 miles per hour (4.2 km per hour), you can burn approximately 200 calories in a 30-minute period. That might be enough to allow you to have a few cookies after dinner, or simply to slowly drop some weight.

It’s important to reiterate that we burn calories at virtually all times, and you can choose other activities to increase calorie burn. Increasing the amount of time you walk anywhere will help you burn more calories. For instance, taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator will be a better method for using up calories. Parking a distance from stores or your office gives you another chance to burn some more calories.

Plenty of gentle sports suited to lots of people can help you increase energy output. Consider activities like tai chi or yoga. Even fun things like listening to 20 minutes of music a day may help you burn an additional calorie a minute. If you're interested in more ways to burn calories check out diet or exercise books or online calorie calculators which can help you determine how much energy each activity uses.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Paying attention to your diet and eating patterns can also help to maximize the calories you burn. Your metabolic rate is important in burning calories. Eating five to six smaller meals per day will help to boost your metabolic rate. The body burns calories while it is digesting food, so if you can keep food in your stomach your body will burn calories continuously. Just be sure that you continue to eat healthy balanced meals.


A good way to increase the calories you burn is to combine cardio with strength training. It is important to be sure to stretch and warm-up before any workout, but cardio is not necessarily the only way to warm up. Light strength training or calisthenics is very effective for a warm-up. Once you are warmed up, doing strength training followed by cardio is the most effective way to burn calories. Doing cardio last prevents you from tiring out during strength training. Your body will continue to burn calories well after strength training, so doing cardio at the end of a workout will allow you to take advantage of your increased metabolic rate. If you find that you are short on time you can do interval cardio workouts. Basically you start with a warm-up, move on to interval cardio sets, and finally finish with a cool down period. This type of cardio workout can be done in even intervals, progressively longer pyramid intervals, or unpredictable intervals. Unpredictable intervals are best for sports training because they emulate the pace of a game.


The more muscular people burn more calories, that is why in general men loose weight at a faster rate. Muscle will burn calories at the rate of about three to one, in comparison to fat.

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