Exercise. The magical thing which earns us calorie free cakes and ice creams.
And the harder we work, the more calories we burn and the more cakes we can eat with no consequence.
If only. Oh goodness me, IF ONLY!!
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Low intensity exercise, like going for a slow walk on the flat, burns about 4 calories a minute – so about 250 calories in an hour.
Moderate intensity exercise, which probably covers most intentional exercise like going for a constant paced swim or a cycle, or perhaps even your average gym session, burns about 6 calories a minute – so about 360 calories in a full hour, not including any warm up / cool down time.
High intensity interval training, the current love of exercise enthusiasts where you work as hard as possible in short bursts interspaced with short easy bursts, burns about 9 calories a minute if we work on 15 calories during a hard minute and 3 calories during an easy minute. Now, no one is doing true hour long HIIT workouts, half an hour is a much more realistic (and sometimes optimistic!) estimation, so we can say that an average HIIT workout burns about 270 calories in a half hour session.
All this sounds a bit depressing if you’re exercising to earn a slice of cake, and gets a bit more depressing when you factor in the fact that our bodies get used to the exercise we do and become more efficient. Plus, there really isn’t a massive difference in the pay out you get for working harder.
Even if you don’t eat back the calories you use in a workout, the calorie deficit created by doing one of these types of workouts a a few times a week isn’t likely to lose you even a pound a week.
The point of the number check is this: don’t mislead yourself!
Exercise is really pretty ineffective for burning calories. Exercise for the fitness and the overall health benefits – not for calorie burn and fat loss.
Instead, use exercise to increase your muscle mass, build strength and improve the way you move. This approach isn’t going to burn more calories during your actual workout, but will increase the calories your body uses to just stand still. On top of this, clean up your diet and eat a little less than you burn (this is by far the most effective way to create a calorie deficit), and you will soon see changes to your figure.