5 Simple Rules to Burn More Calories Throughout the Day

With our busy lives and COVID-19 restrictions on gyms, finding time to exercise can be difficult. While there is no perfect substitute for exercise, there are simple rules which we can apply to our lives which can help us burn more calories throughout the day. Here are five of them:

1. Take the stairs: create a rule for yourself that if you need to go up or down X or fewer levels you will take the stairs as opposed to the elevator. My own X is 3, so if I would need to go up or down 3 or fewer levels I would opt for the stairs.

2. Walk while you wait: Waiting for the train to arrive? Walk up and down the platform until the train arrives. Waiting for the traffic light turn to green? Walk around the sidewalk while you wait (obviously, this does not apply if you are in the car!). Keep an eye out for opportunities to walk a bit while you wait. Once you develop this into a habit, it will be natural and you will be walking without even having to think about it.

3. Spend more time standing: I’ve seen studies with modest differences in MET (Metabolic equivalent of task) energy expenditure between sitting and standing with 1.33 METs and 1.59 METs, respectively¹. While others report 1.2 to 1.3 METs for sitting and 2.0 to 2.5 METs for standing. Either way, the point remains that you burn more calories from standing than sitting. More importantly, it is important to stand simply to avoid the potential health risks from sitting. To this point, some have even called “Sitting the new smoking”. If you spend the majority of your workday sitting at the computer make a rule to spend a couple of hours each day standing instead of sitting. Making this adjustment shouldn’t be a problem, as adjustable standing desks are the new trend in modern offices. If you work from home this can be down by simply plopping your laptop on top of a tall drawer.

4. Don’t stand on escalators: you burn significantly more calories moving uphill or when climbing a flight of stairs (For example, you burn twice as many calories walking at a 15% incline than on flat ground ceteris paribus), when you stop to stand on an escalator you leave a significant amount of potential calories to be burned. If you are going to take the escalator, at least don’t be the type that stops and stands on it.

5. Eat more home-cooked meals: create a rule where you will only eat X ready-made meals a day. My own X is 1, so this means that only one of my meals could be from eating out and the rest I would have to prepare myself. Besides taking time, cooking also requires using energy (to be fair, not much energy, but definitely a non-zero amount). More importantly, when doing your own cooking you can optimise for health and you have a better idea of the number of calories going into each meal as opposed to eating out at a restaurant. Note: For this rule, I don’t consider meal prep meals as ready-made as you had to at some point in the past invest the time and energy to making it.

Remember that it is easier to follow a rule 100% of the time as opposed to say 98% of the time (this is the so-called 100 percent rule). Stick to whatever rules you have made for yourself. As with any habit, the more you do it the easier it gets. These simple rules won’t have you burning thousands of extra calories a day, but they could help you burn around 50 to 200 extra calories every day and over time these extra calories make a big difference.

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