The Calorie-Burning Myth

The very common notion that doing a certain activity (sport, exercise) for a set period of time will ‘burn’ (a colloquial term) a specific number of calories is, to put it politely, unscientific. Or to put it bluntly, stupid. When some expert tells you that activity Y burns X calories per unit of time, ignore them. Their calorie theory is like suggesting that every vehicle in Australia (cars, motorbikes, trucks, vans, buses) would use the same amount petrol travelling from Melbourne to Perth.

Calorie burning (energy expenditure) can differ greatly for the same activity (let’s use walking as an example) depending on a broad range of variables, including things like body-weight, gradient (flat, decline or incline), walking speed, stride length, walking surface (sand, dirt, concrete, grass), temperature, biomechanical efficiency and much more. For example, the 50kg woman who walks 5kms at a 5kph pace around suburbia might expend less than half the energy when compared to the 105kg muscle-bound dude who walks the same distance at 6kph in soft sand.

However, if she decided to carry the dude… ;)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ecmcspline June 6, 2014 at 8:42 am

Yep totally understand, and I am having a battle at the moment I have for probably the last 10 years weighed 110kg and I am 182 cm tall, but the old treadmill isn’t burning enough and maybe it’s time for the pavement to burn more of those calories you talk about… I would like to get to 100kg and I have been close 105.5kg!!! Thanks for the insight Craig :-)

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Symoneinoz June 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Thanks Craig. I have always been skeptical of those calorie burning numbers & calculators etc. Way too many variables. Next item to tackle: how long is a piece of string. :) Symoneinoz

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Ronald June 6, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Indeed, seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it! :-)

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Luke June 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Ever noticed how some some of these articles pick a Mr Average person it applies to in theory. Usually around 80kg male and 75kg female. That really gives me the shits!!!

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