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Weight-Loss Software > How Many Calories Burned?

How Many Calories Burned?

By Terry Dunkle, DietPower Editor-In-Chief*

"How many calories burned?" is a question frequently asked by people trying to lose weight through exercise or by adopting a more active lifestyle. Invariably, the answer depends on four factors:

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1. The Activity

Obviously, running up stairs will burn more calories than playing shuffleboard.

2. Your Speed

Similarly, running a mile in six minutes will burn more calories than running the same distance in eight minutes.

3. Your Weight

A 240-pound person will burn more calories performing the same exercise at the same speed as a 150-pound person. Reason: The heavier person is moving more mass, which requires more energy—and calories are a measure of energy.

4. Your Metabolism

A person with a slow metabolism requires fewer calories to perform the same exercise as someone with fast metabolism. Your metabolism may vary as much as 15 percent from the norm—or even more if you have a thyroid condition or certain other disorders.

Measuring How Many Calories Burned

With four different factors operating every time you exercise, how can you ever know how many calories you burned?

Answer: Use calorie-counting software.

DietPower®, for example, calculates how many calories you burn in more than 1000 activities. It takes into account not only your speed and body weight, but also your personal metabolism, which it "learns" by watching how your weight changes in response to your net calorie intake.

There is no easier way to measure how many calories burned. You could do it by wearing special laboratory equipment that analyzes your oxygen intake while you exercise. But this costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars per workout.

Or you could spend a few hundred dollars on a device (usually worn on the upper arm) that estimates calories burned by monitoring your heart rate. Such devices are relatively inaccurate, however.

Many exercise machines estimate calories burned, but these are notoriously imprecise—possibly because they have an economic incentive to overestimate. I know of only one company (Nordic Track) that actually uses laboratory studies to calibrate its machine readouts. Most others apparently use rules of thumb that assume everyone has average metabolism. Some don't even take into account your body weight.

*Terry Dunkle is a 30-year veteran medical journalist and consumer advocate who serves as CEO and chief editor at DietPower, Inc., a leading maker of nutrition and weight-loss software.

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Last modified december 28, 2010

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