Things You Didn't Know Burn Calories

April 11th 2016

Laura Donovan

It's no secret that calorie burning can lead to weight loss. What you might not realize, however, is that there's more to calorie burning than making regular gym sessions.

Exercise, of course, is the most effective way to burn a lot of calories at once, but there are many other subtle habits that also burn calories.

Here are some surprising ways you burn calories.

1. Sleeping

Yes, it's true. Sleeping, one of the most glorious aspects of life, burns calories. How many calories you burn is determined by multiple factors, including your weight and how long you sleep, but the act is a calorie burner nonetheless.

Many people with the exercise tracker, FitBit, learn this by waking up and seeing that they burned calories overnight.


FitBit addresses overnight calorie burning on its website:

"You still burn calories even if you are sedentary or sleeping. We estimate your calorie burn based on your age, gender, height, and weight. If your tracker measures heart rate, the calorie burn estimate also takes heart rate into account."

Getting a good night's sleep can also impact how many calories you consume, research has shown. A 2013 University of Colorado study found that dieters who got enough sleep consumed six percent fewer calories. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting around seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults ages 18 through 64.

2. Cleaning

Cleaning your home can be a workout in itself. A 150-pound person can burn 153 calories after an hour of mopping, 90 calories after scrubbing the bathtub for 15 minutes, 119 calories after 30 minutes of vacuuming, and 100 calories after 15 minutes of moving furniture, according to a piece from Huffington Post Healthy Living published on As noted in the piece, the amount of calories you burn will vary based on body composition and the intensity of your workout. You also have to factor in how much time you'll really spend mopping the floor of your home and conducting these various chores.

This also doesn't mean housework is a substitute for actual workouts. A 2013 study in the journal BMC Public Health found that housework "may not be sufficient to provide all of the benefits normally associated with meeting the physical-activity guidelines," so while rigorous chores can lead to heavy calorie burning, you should probably hit the gym in addition to cleaning your home if you want substantial exercise that day.

3. Sex

Sex is another delightful part of life that burns calories. Last year, sexologist Jaiya Kinzbach told Woman's Day magazine that a woman could potentially burn more than 200 calories having sex on top of her partner for 30 minutes.

"If you are on top, try moving your hips like a belly dancer; this feels great and will give you a workout," she told the publication. "Also try a position where you squat on top of him and then bounce up and down. This is a great workout for your thighs and butt, and it can burn up to 207 calories in 30 minutes."

Of course, having sex for 30 minutes straight is unlikely, as nearly half of men ejaculate within two minutes, according to Harry Fisch, author of "The New Naked: The Ultimate Sex Education for Grown-Ups." Certain positions and increasing your sex frequency, however, could help increase the number of calories you burn having sex.

4. Standing

Standing desk

In moderation, standing desks can be very helpful for people who work at a desk eight or more hours per day. A 2015 study from the University of Iowa found that workers with sit-stand desks burned up to 87 more calories per day than those who merely sat all day at work. Study author Dr. Lucas Carr said in a statement last year that this supports the notion that adjusting the sedentary work environment could also help fight the obesity problem in the U.S.

"Studies suggest American workers today burn roughly 100 calories-less each day while at work compared to American workers in 1960," Carr said. "This decline in occupational energy expenditure is thought to play a substantial role in the rising obesity epidemic we have observed over that same time period. Our findings are important because they support redesigning the traditionally sedentary office environment as a potentially cost-effective approach for fighting the obesity epidemic."

In 2013, BBC magazine and the University of Chester conducted a small experiment that found standing could lead to a larger number of calories burned compared to sitting. For the study, 10 real estate agents were asked to stand for at least three hours per day for a week. Researcher John Buckley told BBC that heart rate monitors revealed that the volunteers burned more calories when they stood versus when they sat.

"If we look at the heart rates, we can see they are quite a lot higher actually - on average around 10 beats per minute higher and that makes a difference of about 0.7 of a calorie per minute," Buckley said.

Standing for up to four hours a day, everyday, equates to a serious annual work out, he said.

"If you want to put that into activity levels, then that would be the equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year. Just by standing up three or four hours in your day at work," he said.

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