How to Calculate the Calories You Burn During Exercise
To use this calorie burn calculator, you need to find your activity level in the table below and its corresponding MET value. Then, enter your weight (in pounds or kilograms) and the duration of your exercise in minutes. Press “Calculate” to see the number of calories burned during exercise.
Find Out How Many Calories You’re Burning
MET stands for “metabolic equivalent of task,” and it’s a measure of the relative energy cost for a period of activity.
It’s an easy way to compare different activities and the amount of energy used.
1 MET represents the amount of oxygen consumed while sitting at rest and is equal to 3.5 ml O2 per kg body weight x min.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
For example, running at 11 min/mile pace has a MET value of 9, while easy-paced walking has a MET value of 3.
This means that running can burn nearly three times as many calories as walking in the same amount of time.
The table below lists common exercises and their corresponding MET values:
Examples of METs for various activities
|Bodyweight exercises (moderate effort)||3.8|
|Bodyweight exercises (vigorous effort)||8|
|Canoeing/rowing (light effort)||2.8|
|Canoeing/rowing (moderate effort)||5.8|
|Canoeing/rowing (vigorous effort)||12|
|Circuit training (vigorous intensity)||8|
|Cross-country skiing (slow)||6.8|
|Cross-country skiing (moderate)||9|
|Cross-country skiing (fast)||12.5|
|Cycling (slow, 10-11.9 mph)||6.8|
|Cycling (moderate, 12-13.9 mph)||8|
|Cycling (fast, 14-15.9 mph)||10|
|Cycling (racing, 16-19 mph)||12|
|Elliptical trainer (moderate effort)||5|
|Inline skating (slow, 9.0 mph)||7.5|
|Inline skating (moderate, 11.0 mph)||9.8|
|Inline skating (fast, 13.0 mph)||12.3|
|Mountain biking (general)||8.5|
|Mountain biking (uphill, vigorous)||14|
|Running (6 min/mile)||14.5|
|Running (7 min/mile)||12.3|
|Running (8 min/mile)||11.3|
|Running (9 min/mile)||10.5|
|Running (10 min/mile)||9.8|
|Running (11 min/mile)||9|
|Running (12 min/mile)||8.3|
|Running (15 min/mile)||6|
|Running, cross country||9|
|MET = Metabolic Equivalent of Task|
|Stationary cycling (light effort, 51-89 watts)||4.8|
|Stationary cycling (moderate effort, 90-100 watts)||6.8|
|Stationary cycling (vigorous effort, 101-160 watts)||8.8|
|Stationary cycling (vigorous effort, 161-200 watts)||11|
|Stationary cycling (vigorous effort, 201-270 watts)||14|
|Stationary rowing (100 watts, moderate effort)||7|
|Stationary rowing (150 watts, vigorous effort)||8.5|
|Stationary rowing (200 watts, very vigorous effort)||12|
|Swimming (backstroke, moderate)||4.8|
|Swimming (breaststroke, moderate)||5.3|
|Swimming (freestyle, moderate)||5.8|
|Swimming (freestyle, fast)||9.8|
|Walking (2.5 mph, easy pace)||3|
|Walking (3 mph, moderate pace)||3.5|
|Walking (3.5 mph, brisk pace)||4.3|
|Walking (4 mph, very brisk pace)||5|
|Walking (4.5 mph, power walking)||7|
|Walking (5 mph, power walking)||8.3|
|Walking Uphill (2.9 to 3.5 mph, 1 to 5% grade)||5.3|
|Walking Uphill (2.9 to 3.5 mph, 6 to 15% grade)||8|
|Walking Uphill (5 mph, 3% grade)||9.8|
|Weight training (moderate effort)||3.5|
|Weight training (vigorous effort)||6|
|MET = Metabolic Equivalent of Task|
How Many Calories Did I Burn While Running?
Let’s try an example: I’m going to assume you’re 5″ 7inches and weigh 165 pounds. You’re running for weight loss and you’ve just run for 60 minutes at a pace of 12 min/mile on the flat.
STEP 1: Check the MET table. The metabolic equivalents are 8.3 for running at a 12 min/mile pace.
STEP 2: Select imperial units on the calorie calculator.
STEP 3: Input your weight – 165 pounds, the time – 60 minutes, and the MET value of 8.3. Press calculate.
STEP 4: The calories burned calculator gives us a result of 652 calories!
That’s a big contribution to a weekly weight loss goal.
How Many Calories Do You Need to Burn?
In simple terms, the number of calories you burn during exercise depends on your weight, the intensity of your workout, and the duration of your activity.
Generally, a larger person will burn more calories during exercise than a smaller person because they have to work harder to move their body weight.
If you increase the intensity or duration of your workout, you will also burn more calories.
It’s helpful to know the number of calories burned if you’re trying to lose weight or want to refuel your body sufficiently after a workout.
Basal Metabolic Rate
Everyone has a basal metabolic rate (BMR). Think of it as the calories you burn by just being alive – sleeping, and sitting on the couch for 24 hours.
It only makes up part of your total daily energy expenditure (TEE). Just 60-75%, even for individuals who never exercise and have a sedentary occupation – such as working at a desk all day.
So what makes up the rest of your energy needs?
TEE has four parts:
- basal metabolic rate (BMR)
- non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)
- thermic effect of food (TEF)
- calories burned during exercise.
The last item – calories burned by exercising, can make the biggest difference to how much energy your body needs every day.
Burning calories by walking, running, or just moving more can make weight loss so much easier.
Resting Metabolic Rate
Most sources talk about resting metabolic rate (RMR) as if it’s the same as BMR. They’re similar but different.
BMR is a more accurate value. It’s tested under strict conditions in a lab, where you’ll sleep overnight and refrain from eating and exercising for 12 hours beforehand.
RMR is a quicker test taken under less strict conditions. It tends to be a slightly higher value because of the thermic effect of food. Yes, it’s true – digesting food burns calories!
Where BMR is the minimum number of calories required for basic functions at rest, RMR is the number of calories your body burns while at rest.
For estimating your total energy expenditure (TEE) it’s okay to use BMR interchangeably with RMR.
How Many Calories Do I Need To Burn According To My BMI?
If we go back to the example of the runner, using a height of 5ft, 7 inches, and weight of 165 pounds, we can calculate body mass index (BMI).
Enter these values in this BMI calculator and we get a BMI of 25.8.
BMI is a rough indicator of your ideal weight. It doesn’t account for your gender or age or body composition – it can’t tell if you have too much body fat or you’re an athlete with a lot of muscle.
If you’re female or an older adult it’s possible to have a BMI in the normal range and still have too much body fat.
You can also be athletic with a lot of muscle and a high BMI but not be overweight.
Use BMI with caution – it’s a quick check to assess your weight and targeting a normal BMI can be a good fitness goal. But if you have any concerns, get some medical advice.
In our example, the runner is overweight and needs to lose at least 6 pounds to be a healthy weight.
Losing one pound of body fat is equivalent to 3500 calories. But only if the fuel from exercising comes entirely from body fat.
In this example, the runner needs to burn:
Calories = 3500 x 6 = 21000 calories burned to hit a target normal BMI.
This sounds like a lot, but by running 5 days a week for 60 minutes at 12 min/mile pace, this runner would burn approximately:
652 x 5 calories = 3260 calories every week and hit their goal in 6 to 7 weeks.
It’s assumed that:
- extra calories burned are not replaced by eating more calories,
- calorie intake is no more than the calories required for your total energy expenditure TEE for daily sedentary activities (BMR + NEAT + TEF).
You could try and get the same weight loss by eating fewer calories but crash diets or diets with highly restrictive calorie intake normally fail and can cause long-term weight gain.
Ever lost a lot of weight quickly and put it all back on a few months later – plus a little bit more? Thought so… you’re not the only one. That’s why the diet industry makes so much money!
It’s far better to make a few positive changes to your existing diet, make some better food choices, and create a calorie deficit by exercising regularly.
How is Calorie Burn Calculated?
To calculate calories burned during exercise, the following equation is used:
Calories/min = MET value * 3.5 * body weight (in kg) / 200
You can rewrite this is
Calories Burned = 1.05 * MET value * body weight (in kg) * exercise duration (in hours)
This calculation only applies to a specific activity, not overall calorie burn for the day.
You would need to add up the calories burned from all activities in a day to get your total.
This is an estimate. It’s going to take a trip to a lab to measure your VO2 Max to get a more accurate reading.
The calories burned calculator is a guide. It will give you an idea of which activities burn the most calories, but it’s not exact.
MET values are calculated as average values and the calories burned calculator uses weight to account for differences in fitness level.
That’s a very big assumption – that heavy people are less fit!
There are other factors affecting accuracy:
Age: Performance decreases with age but the effort level doesn’t change. For example, over the age of 40, running times decrease by about 1% per year.
Body composition: If you have big muscles you’ll burn more calories than a person of the same weight but with higher body fat.
Fitness Level: You burn more calories if you’re working hard. A fit, efficient runner will find a 12 min/mile pace easy. Someone new to running will be working very hard to maintain this pace.
Oxygen Intake: When you’re breathing heavily during workouts, you’ll burn more calories. This is linked to fitness level and it’s another reason your fitness level has a big impact on how hard you’re working and the calories burned.
Diet: What you eat and how much directly affects your metabolism. It’s the main reason diets often don’t work. Drastically reduce your calorie intake and your metabolism slows down.
Sleep: When you’re trying to lose weight, make sure you’re getting enough sleep – it also has an impact on your metabolism.
Tips To Lose Weight
If weight loss is your goal, it’s best to take a long-term view when you’re trying to get in shape. People don’t gain weight overnight – so don’t expect to lose weight quickly.
It’s better to aim for a gradual weight loss process. Consume calories based on your typical TEE for a rest day plus a few more calories on a day when your physical activity is high.
Try and follow a healthy diet and eat better by making small gradual changes – replacing sugary snacks with healthier options, avoiding high-sugar drinks, and cutting out highly processed fast food.
Find an exercise you love and move more. Being fit feels terrific!