Ahh the holidays! People love the time away from work and the ability to spend more time with family, but many don’t enjoy the extra weight gain that can accumulate during this period of overindulgence. It starts with an office party followed by your significant other’s office party. Then you attend a farewell for a co-worker, a holiday luncheon on post followed by the children’s holiday parties. With all these extra commitments you may not find the time to exercise as frequently as you’d like. Combine the reduced physical activity along with increased caloric intake and you’re left with clothes that are a little too snug and a scale this is creeping upward. Your plan may be to hit the gym hard after the Holidays and use the wonderful cardio equipment housed there. They can be great resources during implement weather when you can’t exercise outside, but don’t rely on their caloric expenditure estimates because they are not accurate. However, there are available tools you can use to help prevent weight gain and get back on track with weight maintenance by providing accurate caloric expenditure estimations tailored for you. Everybody is unique due to body composition and genetics, so many factors affect our metabolism and subsequently our calorie burn. Luckily there is a quick calculation to help you determine how many calories you burn during various activities. A metabolic equivalent (MET) is a factor you can use to calculate this expenditure. The chart below shows different METs for different activities and can make computing your caloric expenditure effortless. For example, if a person jogged at 5 miles per hour (mph) their MET would be 8 for that activity.
So what does this mean to you? If the treadmill says you ran 2.5 miles and burned 400 calories, does it matter if you weigh 150 or 200 pounds (lb)? Definitely! That’s why the cardio equipment shouldn’t be trusted. Let’s look at why. Get your scale and your calculator out so we can get started. First, step on the scale to find your body weight. Second, convert your weight from lb to kilograms (kg) by simply dividing by 2.2. If you are 150lbs divide 150 by 2.2 to convert lb to kg.
If you are 200lb, divide 200 by 2.2. 200/2.2=90.9kg
Next, multiply your weight in kg by the duration of your activity (in hours) and then by the MET for your activity.
(body weight in kg) x (duration of event in hours) x (MET) = calories burned during activity
68.2(weight in kg) x 0.5 (1/2 hour) x 8 (jogging 5mph) = 273 calories or
90.9(weight in kg) x 0.5 (1/2 hour) x 8 (jogging 5mph) = 364 calories
Not bad for a 30 minute workout no matter what your weight is, but the two numbers differ. The 200lb person burned more calories doing the same activity because there is more weight to move and the body has to burn more calories (expend more energy) to complete the activity. If a person is solely relying on the information given by cardio equipment he or she may be under- or overestimating his or her caloric expenditure during exercise.
So, what can you do with these numbers? If you think about the calories you burned running and compare it to food (there are many images online that compare holiday meal items with different activities) you might rethink that second helping of mashed potatoes or that piece of pecan pie. If a 200lb person consumed a four ounce serving of ham and did the physical activity mentioned above in the calculation he or she would have burned the calories consumed from that ham (345) since he or she burned 364 calories from running. Considering a typical Thanksgiving meal is 3,000 calories, the same 200lb person should run at a pace of 5mph for 4.25 hours to burn off that one meal. Wow, it surely puts things in perspective. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy your holiday meals or even the occasional treat, but ensure you’re consuming appropriate portions and continue with your exercise regimen to maintain your weight.