Surprise-Things That Burn Calories

Surprising things that burn calories

As an OB/GYN, probably one of the most common questions I get from patients each day is, how can I burn more calories? Every woman seems concerned with getting more steps and more calories burned. But here’s the lovely secret: every minute of every day, your body burns calories doing anything and everything. While the rate that you burn calories varies by your age, weight, sex and activity level, your body requires a certain number of calories daily to maintain your bodily functions — like just existing. This is your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

With the fitness tracker and heart rate monitor (i.e. Fitbit) craze underway, most women are eerily conscious of their steps, but how do you judge what kind of calories you’re burning just from life? Aside from killing yourself in an Orange Theory class, here are some surprising ways you burn some extra calories throughout your day.


Raise your fidgeting hands… how many of your are chronic fidgeters? Well, congratulations. While tapping your fingers on the desk or wiggling your foot during a meeting, your body is constantly moving. And moving equals calorie burn! It’s entirely possible you could burn up to 350 extra calories per day with the extra activity, thanks to information studied at Iowa State University. If you were to sit while fidgeting all day, you could burn about 600 more calories than if you sat motionless all day. Standing and fidgeting increases that calorie burn to nearly 950 calories more than remaining motionless. So wiggle that foot, shake that knee and tap those phalanges. Fidgeters rule!


When you’re in the midst of a heart-breaking sob, it feels like every ounce of your body is involved. During emotionally stressful moments, it is not uncommon for a person’s heart rate to elevate. So coming back to the real question, does crying burn calories? The answer is surprisingly yes, regardless of the way that you might cry. By extrapolation, crying is thought to burn the same amount of calories that laughing does, or about 1.3 calories per minute (there’s been no actual medical studies on the calorie burning power of a good sob). And there is something true to the excessive “ugly” cry compared to the soft “Jane Austen” version.

Just to compare, CrossFit burns about 10 calories per minute. But hey, who wants to pump iron when they’ve been dumped? Cry it out, ladies. And whatever has made you tremendously sad, the consolation is at least you’ve shredded a small amount of calories to make up for that medicinal ice cream.


Yes! Laughter gives the body a “mini aerobic workout.” It causes the heart to beat faster, sending larger amounts of blood around the body. Laughing burns calories by causing your heart rate to rise by 10 to 20 percent. As your heart rate rises from fits of giggles, your metabolism increases as well, which means you’ll continue to burn calories once you stop guffawing. It’s the ultimate cardio!

Research conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center revealed that laughing for ten to 15 minutes burns between ten and 40 calories.That’s enough to shift between one and 4 pounds per year. Laughing intensely for an hour can burn as many calories as lifting weight for 30 minutes, those same scientists have found. So, laugh… a lot!


Ever wonder what kind of workout you get between the sheets? Researchers from the University of Montreal discovered the precise number of calories we burn during the “deed”: men burn 100 calories in the average sex session, while women expend 69. (I swear I didn’t make that up). That is per HOUR of romping, while the average start-to-finish time for most action is a mere 25 minutes.

To make it easier, the next time you engage in some bed play, multiply the time in minutes by 4.2 (for men) or 3.1 (for women). The more time you spend between the sheets in active “play”, the more calories burned. And in case you’re wondering how the researchers discovered this scientific data, it involved all sorts of sadistic-looking lab equipment. Hint: your fitness tracker can give you the same data at home, too, without the embarrassing laboratory audience.


Chewing, my dears! The act of masticating — aka chewing — involves serious jaw muscles to perform. That act, along with swallowing and digesting, burns about 140 calories per hour.

Certain foods are known for their calorie burning. One, in particular, can literally burn. Research shows that the capsaicin in chili peppers can boost your metabolic rate, causing the body to potentially torch 50-100 more calories a day. Research conducted at the Mayo Clinic and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that chewing gum burns about 11 calories an hour. That’s about 20 percent more than you would burn by just sitting on your bum in a chair for that same time period.


Haven’t you ever come back exhausted from a great shopping excursion? Think of this: the more you buy, the more you have to carry — and that burns extra calories. According to the University of Hawaii Nutrition Department, walking through the store at a leisurely 2 mph burns around 200 calories per hour for a 150-pound person. A power shopper will burn even more calories.

Keep in mind that it’s difficult to consistently walk during your shopping trip — but luckily standing in line for 30 minutes (though seriously, who’s going to do that?) burns about 47 calories. And putting away all of those packages burns a more impressive 179 calories per hour. Head to the mall and feel guilty no more! Just stay away from the food court to avoid adding those calories back in.


Drink up! When it comes to drinking, the colder, the better. According to this study, drinking eight pints of ice water a day will cause your body to expend almost 125 calories of metabolic heat to warm that water to body temperature (by the way, that’s a full gallon of water!)

On the opposite spectrum, drinking can actually add calories if you’re imbibing the wrong drinks. In other words, don’t just drink a frozen margarita because you believe it burns more calories because your body has to warm it up.


Oh, glorious playtime! I find that my patients have the hardest time working this calorie burner into their day. But it does burn calories and, better yet, it’s fun!

According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, watching TV or reading burns around 35 calories per hour; and doing Sudoku, or anything that requires heavy concentration or brain activity, takes the total to 110 calories per hour.

The Harvard article notes that taking the play outside revs up the metabolism even more — playing with the kids for 20 minutes burns a whopping 78 calories and adding a game of hopscotch or dodgeball increases to 210 calories per hour. If jumping around post babies isn’t your game, then just walking while pushing a stroller for 30 minutes burns nearly 150 calories per hour.

Add some Just Dance Now or turning on Pandora Disco radio and shaking your booty burns a whopping 200 calories per hour. Playing gives you family memories and, frankly, it’s just plain fun. Who couldn’t use some more of that in their life?


Ah, one of my favorite “exercises.” Yes, you even burn calories when you are snoozing! Your body is actually performing a host of duties while in golden slumber — repairing cells, renewing tissue and cleaning toxins. Most of my patients don’t get enough sleep and I routinely recommend a full eight hours of shuteye per night. Just think, ladies, while just laying there on your Tempurpedic, you still burn about 63 calories per hour. An 8-hour overnight sleep burns a whopping 500 calories! But if a siesta is more your style, according to the Harvard Health chart, a 185-pound person burns 28 calories in 30 minutes. Wow, it might be time for me to take a short nap.

Burn, baby burn!

See a trend here, ladies? Living a full life does burn extra calories. Book a great date night with your partner — in theory a night of talking, dancing, eating, drinking, a little sex, followed by 8 hours of shuteye could expend nearly a thousand calories! Whoa, fun is the ultimate calorie burn?

Check out the Harvard Health School for more calorie-driven data. There, researchers have listed hundreds of other activities and their calorie burning potential (including such cool exercises as gardening, archery and hang gliding).


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Signs you’re not drinking enough water

We hear it all day, every day: most of us are not drinking enough water. We know that we need it, but for one reason or another, we often fail to make it a priority. As a result, we may begin to notice changes in our sense of well-being.

The average adult body is made up of between 55-60 percent water, which is an indication as to why it’s so important to replenish and refresh these vital stores. It makes sense that when we get dehydrated our bodies, much like our vehicles, send out clear warning signs that we need to check our fluid levels. If that happens, it’s important to do everything to get your hydration level back on track.

Here are some of the symptoms associated with not drinking enough water.

Dry skin that doesn’t improve with lotion

It’s normal for our skin to change with the seasons. In winter months, we may find that our skin seems dull and lifeless. You see, dry skin lacks sebum (oil) and should respond to the application of oil-rich products. In these situations, applying copious amounts of moisturizer is often enough to improve the situation.

If, at any point in the year, your skin stays dry and chapped despite being slathered in healing lotions, you may want to grab a drink (or several). When skin loses its luster due to dehydration, all it desperately needs is to be watered!

Dry, sticky mouth and excessive thirst

It feels a bit obvious to point out the fact that if you haven’t been drinking enough water, your mouth and tongue may be extra dry and sticky, but some people may genuinely miss this sign. Along the same lines, being excessively thirsty is actually a symptom that you’ve been dehydrated for a while. In both cases, grab a glass and start replenishing any lost fluids (especially since desert-like conditions in your mouth can cause a serious case of bad breath!).

It’s worth mentioning, however, that a dry mouth and increased thirst can be a sign of something more serious. If your symptoms haven’t improved after a few days of focused rehydration, you should probably make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

You’re dealing with a headache

It’s one of the worst feelings. Your head is throbbing and, with each passing minute, you can feel it getting worse. It makes it hard to concentrate on anything, and your patience begins to run thin. Fortunately, drinking more water could be enough to not only prevent these painful episodes, but also cure them.

According to the National Headache Foundation, headaches are actually a common sign that someone is experiencing mild to moderate dehydration. In fact, an inadequate intake of water can trigger a migraine! The NHF suggests drinking only water when experiencing headaches and avoiding sugary or overly salty sports beverages, which can worsen dehydration.

You’re tired all the time

Pay attention to your routines to make sure that you are getting enough sleep every night. If you are resting well but still feel sluggish and tired all of the time, you might be dehydrated.

Fatigue can seriously affect your sense of well-being and ability to concentrate, and it can leave you feeling clumsy and prone to accidents. Clearly, no one wants to feel this way, but fortunately, things could be improved simply by sipping on the right amount of H20 throughout the day.

Believe it or not, an expanding waistline can be a sign that you aren’t drinking enough water. Studies have shown that drinking as little has 500ml (about 17 ounces) of water can boost your metabolism by up to 30%. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many health and wellness experts include an increase in water consumption among their tips for losing and maintaining weight.

Along those same lines, experts believe that even mild dehydration can send mixed signals to the brain and make you think you are hungry when what you really need is some water. Drinking one to two glasses before mealtime can fill you up and prevent you from eating when your body just needs more hydration.

You’re coping with constipation

This might be TMI, but if you’re having a hard time going to the bathroom, you just might need to increase your water intake. Biologically speaking, your body needs fluids in order to pass waste through your digestive tract, so if you haven’t had enough to drink, things are going to get a little backed up. In fact, dehydration is a leading cause of chronic constipation.

The best thing you can do is get into the habit of drinking plenty of water throughout the day to prevent digestive woes. After you’ve increased your intake, you should notice an improvement in your bathroom activities. If not, check with your medical professional just in case something else is going on.

You’ve had a urinary tract infection

Anyone who has ever had a urinary tract infection will probably say that it was one of the most uncomfortable, unpleasant experiences in their life. UTIs are caused by a variety factors but often arise after bacteria has entered into our bodies through sexual intercourse or failing to wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.

One other major cause of urinary tract infections is dehydration. Drinking water helps to flush bacteria from our bladders, thus preventing infection from setting in. Some warning signs that our water intake is too low include dark colored urine or a decreased need to urinate at all. Of course, if it feels like you’ve got an infection, see a medical professional and drink plenty of water.

You feel irritable and moody

In a bad mood? This may shock you, but a simple glass of water might be all you need to turn things around. Some research has shown that just mild dehydration can lead to neurological changes that affect our ability to focus and can cause irritability.

Even more shocking is that you only need to be 1 percent below your optimal level of hydration to feel these negative effects. So, next time you’re feeling cranky and can’t understand why, pour yourself a nice tall glass of water (or two!) and let your mood improve.

You’re having muscle cramps

Having muscle cramps can be annoying, frustrating, and painful. Typically, people will try stretching or using massage techniques to relieve their symptoms, but what you really need might be much simpler.

While there is some disagreement on this, some studies have shown a relationship between dehydration and muscle cramping. Apparently, our blood circulation slows down when we drink too little water. As our bodies compensate for the lack of hydration, fluid is moved away from our muscles in an effort to protect our vital organs.

Things can be exacerbated further if our sodium and potassium levels begin to change due to sweat loss. This is why it’s crucial that we consume enough water every day, but especially in hot weather and when we are exercising.

How to know you’re getting enough water

There are so many different opinions when it comes to knowing how much water we need to consume each day. While most of us are familiar with the standard recommendation to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day, modern studies are focusing on gender and size-based requirements for optimal health. For example, a 6’5″ man might feel that eight glasses a day isn’t enough, while a 4’10” woman might feel it’s too much.

The Mayo Clinic suggests following the Institute of Medicine’s adequate intake guidelines, which indicate that 13 cups for men and nine cups for women is sufficient. Obviously, if you are sweating, increase your intake accordingly and use common sense. If it feels like you’ve had enough water, respect your body.

Remember, if you feel thirsty, you’re probably already mildly dehydrated. If your mouth feels parched, guzzle a cup or two to get back on track!

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