Pretty much everyone knows that we take in calories when we eat and drink food and beverages, and if we ingest too many without burning them off, we add fat. But not many people realize there are only three ways to burn calories.
Three Ways to Burn Calories
- Basal metabolism – supports vital functions, like respiration, circulation and nervous system activity
- Thermogenesis – we actually burn a few calories in the digestion process after we eat
- Physical activity – of course, movement uses calories – this is the best way to expend energy
The only one of these factors that we can control is physical activity, so here are a few ways to burn calories effectively.
- Commit to regular exercise – There’s just no way around it; to expend calories, you must exercise consistently. Ideally, that means several times a week for 20-60 or more minutes, every week. The body was designed for movement, and in today’s sedentary environment, we must be diligent at exercising often.
- Do strength training – Strength training builds muscle, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. You don’t have to bulk up, but should lift weights at least twice per week to condition the major muscle groups in the body. Bonus: you’ll look leaner as well!
- Incorporate interval training – Rather than just staying at a steady pace during cardio workouts, adding short bursts of high-intensity can significantly increase your caloric expenditure during and after your session. Try 20-second to two-minute segments to boost your heart rate and challenge yourself.
- Vary workouts – Our bodies adapt to the same workouts over time, and we become more efficient at them and burn fewer calories. Try something new – take a class, join a running group, try a workout video, work with a trainer or choose different workout programs on exercise equipment. Mix it up!
- Move often – Stand and walk around during phone calls, take the stairs whenever you can, skip the email and walk over to see a co-worker, sneak in some exercises during TV commercials, walk the dog frequently and walk or take your bike if possible when taking short trips (versus the car).
- Use a fitness tracker or pedometer – These devices can give you valuable information about how many calories you are burning, how many steps you take and much more. Use them to see where you are and set higher goals.
- Don’t skip meals – Keep your metabolism humming along by eating regular small meals each day, and don’t skip meals, which decreases metabolism so that you burn calories more slowly.
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water (not coffee, caffeinated soda or alcohol, which are diuretics) to maintain hydration. Metabolism slows when you are dehydrated.