Calories Burned During Exercise

Understanding calories burned during exercise can maximize your workouts. When trying to lose weight many people incorporate a weekly exercise routine in addition to eating healthy.

Studies show that those who add exercise to their weight loss plan versus those that only diet tend to lose more weight in the same period of time.

If you have decided to add exercise to your weight loss plan, that’s great!

In order to get the most from your exercise then you want to understand your exercise calories.  In other words, you want to know how to calculate calories burned.

Certain exercises will give you higher calories burned during exercise while others may give you more fat burning benefits while still others will give you the benefit of raising your basal metabolic rate.

What is an Exercise Calorie?

Although the word calorie has various definitions, the ones we think of when talking about weight loss and exercising are “a unit of measure for the energy value of food” and “a measure of energy expenditure”.  This second definition is what many refer to as exercise calories.

You are expending or burning calories while do everyday tasks including while you sleep.  This is what is considered your basal metabolic rate, or the rate at which you burn calories for normal body functions and activities.

Exercise calories are the calories you expend, or burn, by performing specific exercise activities like walking, jogging, swimming and many other types of workouts. 

There are literally thousands of different types of exercises you can do and each will produce a different number of calories burned.

Calories Burned Through Aerobics

In general, aerobic exercises will give you the higher calories burned during exercise. 

Although some anaerobic exercises can give you a significant calorie burn most people cannot keep up the level of intensity required for this high calorie burn.

Aerobic exercises require oxygen and fat needs oxygen to burn, so your aerobic exercises will give you a greater fat burning benefit in addition to the higher calorie burn.

But don't just focus on exercises that have higher calories burned during exercise.  

You also want to include in your weekly workout routine some strength training exercises.  These types of exercises will help tone and strengthen your muscles and build lean muscle mass.  

The more lean muscles you have the higher your BMR, thus the more calories you will burn doing everyday activities.

Variables Used in Calculating Exercise Calories

Everyone knows that you burn calories while exercising, but do you know how the exercise calories are calculated and what information is used to calculate calories burned?

There are many free exercise calorie calculators available on the web where you can type in certain information and get the results of your exercising efforts.  These calculators make our lives much easier when we are trying to track our exercise calories.

The results that are returned from these calculators are not an exact figure, but rather a good estimation of how many calories you burned during your exercise routine.

Why is this calculation just an estimate?  Well, understanding how this is calculated will help you understand why it is not an exact scientific figure.  There are various factors that are used to calculate the exercise calories.  These factors include;
  • Weight
  • Activity
  • Intensity level of the activity
  • Duration
Although some exercise calculators include gender and age as one of the selections, this really is not part of the calculation for calories burned during exercise.  These calculators may use this information to provide you details on your target heart rate zone.

How it's Calculated

The calculation for exercise calories is actually very technical and as stated above, not an exact science. 

In order to determine your exercise calories, you must know the metabolic equivalent, or MET, for each different type of activity. 

The MET is a relative measure of intensity.  The formula for calories burned during exercise is as follows;

Total Calories Burned = Duration (in minutes) X (MET X 3.5 X weight in kg)/200

So, if a person weighing 68 kg did low impact aerobic exercises for 30 minutes, the calculation would be;

Total Calories Burned = 30 min X (MET X 3.5 X 68 kg)/200

To figure out the MET, let’s complete the calculation – time to get out the algebra books to figure this out.  Let’s use the variable c for calories burned and variable m for MET.  The formula would look like this;

c = 30 X (m X 3.5 X 68)/200
c= 30 X (m X 238)/200
c= 30 X (m X 1.19)
c = 35.7 X m

Of course this does not solve the equation because we have two variables, but if we use an exercise calorie calculator and select the correct information (68 kg for weight, aerobic, low impact and 30 minute duration) it will return an answer of 180 calories. 

So now we can provide our formula with the 180 calories and it would now look like this;

180 = 35.7 X m

If we divide each side by 35.7, we now have the answer to our MET variable of 5.042017.  As stated above, the MET is different for each different type of exercise and intensity level.  This is why the value is an approximation and not an exact science. 

Math lesson is over for the day (whew!).  The good news is, you don’t have to figure out the MET for each activity you plan to do.  Just use this calculator to figure out your calories burned during exercise.  

Let this tool exercise it's mind while you exercise your body.

Additional Articles

Fat Burning Aerobic Exercises
Aerobic exercises can give you a higher fat and calorie burn than strength training. Check out this article to see which types of aerobics really burn the fat.

Exercise Calorie Tracker
Download this free spreadsheet to track your workouts. Keep track of when and how long you exercise and compare that to how much weight you are losing. Then adjust your workouts if needed.

Exercise Motivation
Not ready to get up off the couch yet? Try using these motivational tips to get you exercising today.