And three big things that influence your ability to do it
Here’s the thing about fitness news stories: every day there’s a new diet that enables you to eat piles of butter without gaining weight, high-tech clothing that monitors your body temperature and exertion, and a magic wand that instantly turns fat into defined muscle.
(I made up that last one, but it’s only a matter of time.)
In the middle of all the ruckus are a lot of nonsense, myths, and out-and-out lies.
As a fitness pro, I hear it all.
Example: One so-called fitness “expert” claims you burn more calories driving in a convertible than in an enclosed vehicle because of the wind resistance on your face.
Yes, for real.
I’ve also come across a lot of charts lately that promise to help you “BURN 1,000 CALORIES IN AN HOUR!”
First, let me say upfront that’s a boatload of calories — nearly a day’s worth of food for some people — and a pretty serious declaration to make.
The exercises included in many of these articles are, as you’d expect: cardio.
Lots and lots of cardio.
Mainly jumping jacks, high stepping, lunging, squatting for 300 reps or until your eyes bleed or paramedics show up to revive you so you can do it all over again.
Not a single workout I found that makes this claim would legitimately burn anywhere CLOSE to 1,000 calories.
In addition to this lofty promise, not everyone burns calories at the same rate. Factors outside our control play a role.
Let’s start with…
ONE: Your body weight.
Think about it.
It takes more energy for you to move a heavier object, right?
Same goes for your bod. A person who weighs 300 lbs. will burn more calories than someone weighing 150 lbs performing the same activity.
Check out this calculator to see what it takes for you to reach a 1k calorie burn.
So a blanket statement that a person “will burn X calories” doing a particular activity can’t work the same for everyone. It’s simply science.
TWO: Your fitness level.
Research shows moderately active people burn about 200 calories more than sedentary people. However, highly active exercisers did not burn more than moderately active study participants.
In other words, their calorie burning reached a plateau.
As unfair as it sounds, a fit person becomes more efficient at workouts they’re accustomed to doing. The body adapts.
Think of a routine you do all the time. It gets easier because muscles know what to expect, so to speak, so they’re not flailing about trying to get all coordinated as they did in the beginning.
Why fit people should be punished this way baffles my mind.
THREE: Your gender
I once worked with a couple, a man and a woman, who were both striving to lose weight. The man was easily able to drop pounds fairly quickly.
His wife not only lost more slowly, but his nonchalant attitude (“I don’t know what the big deal is with this weight loss thing…”) infuriated her.
So much so that she went out of her way to sabotage him by adding extra mayo to his sandwiches in an attempt to even the playing field.
It didn’t work.
Fact is, men DO have an easier time losing weight. They simply have more muscle mass and faster metabolisms. In addition, the location of the fat on a man’s body (visceral versus subcutaneous in woman) also makes it easier for the weight to drop off.
In other words: Life isn’t always fair.
In general, if you’re striving to burn a pound of fat, you need to create a 3,500 calorie deficit. It’s easier to cut back on food than to try to burn it off with exercise.
But if you’re striving to burn AND eat less, here’s the truth about what it takes to hit that goal:
According to the American College of Sports Medicine):
If you weigh 300 lbs., you’ll burn over 1,000 calories an hour walking at a very brisk, 5 mph.
If you weigh 140 lbs., you’ll burn half that, 535 calories.
At 200 lbs you’ll burn 764 calories walking at the same pace for the same amount of time.
Huge differences, right?
Calisthenics like jumping jacks burn about half that number of calories.
In reality, a 150-lb. person would need to do two hours of continuous, vigorous, hardcore exercises to burn 1,000 calories.
So with these facts in hand, I took a middle of the road approach for exercise sequences that enable a 150 lb. woman to burn 1,000 calories.
Below you’ll find the most popular workouts and the calorie burn per hour.
Mix and match them to add up to 1,000 calories, or refer to the combos I created below (HINT: it won’t be easy!) …
Walk briskly (4.0 mph) on a flat surface: 358 calories/hour
Swim “leisurely” (no laps): 430
Walk on a treadmill moderately slow (3.0 mph): 236
Walk uphill at a 3% grade (3.0 mph): 325
Running, flat (6 mph): 729
Machine circuit training (moderate effort): 430
Dancing (ballroom, slow): 215
Dancing (ballroom, fast): 394
Group exercise, general aerobics: 465
Strength training (general): 394
Rowing (general): 501
Stationary bike (moderate effort): 501
Biking outdoors (general): 573
1,000-calorie burning (or close to it) combos:
NOTE: I am not recommending these workouts, mainly because they’re too much for the average person to do all at once.
I busted out my calculator mainly to show you what it really takes to burn so many calories…
- Walk 1 hour + stationary bike 30 minutes + 1 hour strength training
- Swim 1 hour + circuit train 1 hour + walk slowly on a treadmill 30 minutes
- Strength train 1 hour + row or stationary bike 1 hour
- Bike outside 1 hour + group exercise 1 hour
- Ballroom dance 1 hour (vigorously) + machine circuit train 1 hour
- More realistically, you can cut these in half, though, and burn 500 calories, which is still not too shabby.
For a more doable workout that burns 500 calories, simply cut these guidelines in half.
Find something you enjoy — or incorporate a facet you enjoy, like listening to audiobooks while working out — be consistent, and you’ll make progress.