It’s easier than you think…

…to increase your caloric burn! I read an AWESOME article in my Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal that I think has  potential to really help drive home the point that healthy living and weight maintenance should not be a temporary goal or activity-it needs to be a lifestyle. (Yes, I am actually this excited about the article-I don’t call it Get Your Geek On for nothing!). The article is called Energy Cost of Stepping in Place while Watching Television Commercials. The authors studied 23 adults, 9 normal weight, 10 overweight, and 4 obese, in two phases. In the first phase, they measured the energy expenditure of the subjects while lying awake in a reclined position, sitting, standing, walking at 3 mph on a treadmill and stepping in place. They used a face mask for calorimetry measurements (that’s how they measured the calories burned). Just the results from the first phase were interesting: there were significant differences in calories burned between all of the activities except reclining and sitting still. The energy cost of standing was greater than that of reclining or sitting still by 1.02 kcal/kg/hr. So for me, who weighs approximately 62 kg, that’s a difference of 63 calories an hour. Side note-does anyone with a desk job want to try standing at work more?? The energy cost of stepping in place was 1.13 kcal/kg/hr higher than standing, and the energy cost of walking 3 mph on the treadmill was 3.14 plus/minus 0.53 kcal/kg/hr more. I will get into the difference of stepping in place versus sitting, but if we really want to go crazy-imagine how many more calories you would burn going for a walk for 30-60 minutes over watching TV with those numbers!

Back to the point of the study-the researchers wanted to determine if an individual could burn significantly more calories stepping in place during commercial breaks than just sitting and watching TV for an hour. They had the subjects watch TV for two hours straight-one hour they sat still and watched TV, and the other hour they stepped in place at their own pace during the commercial breaks. The results were incredible-the group who sat and watched TV for an hour burned an average of 81 kcal/hr. The group who stepped in place during commercials burned an average of 148 kcal/hr.

What does all of this mean? To put it into perspective, various studies have shown that the average American watches anywhere from 2.8 to 5.9 hours of TV per day. The authors used an example of commercial stepping for a 1.5 hour period of watching TV. Based on the fact that there is an average of 38 minutes of stepping that would occur during that 1.5 hours (yes, we watch commercials for over 33% of the time we are watching TV!), the average person would burn at least 165 kcal during their TV watching time. This is more than you would burn on a 30 minute walk at 3 mph (approximately 150 kcal).

I am certainly not proposing that commercial stepping replace actual exercise. But what about those days where you miss your workout? Or the individuals who want to get healthier and more active, but don’t know where to start? Or aren’t quite ready to start a workout program yet? Even those of us who do exercise regularly-why not boost our output just a little more? It doesn’t have to be just stepping in place either. Say you want to get better at push-ups…see how many push-ups you can do each commercial break. Want to strengthen your core? Plank away! The point is, a lot of times when we look at getting healthier, we think big. We think gym memberships, completing half marathons, complete diet make-overs. I’m not saying we shouldn’t still have those goals. It’s important to push yourself. But why would we pass up an opportunity to make such a small change that can make such a big difference?

Steeves, J, Thompson, D & Bassett, D. Energy cost of stepping in place while watching television commercials. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2012;44(2):330-335.


I’m going to add a link to an article because I think it has some relevance to this topic. We’ve all heard people say “I’ll never be thin, being overweight is in my genes”. Well, that’s only true to an extent. Yes, there is an obesity gene that they have identified. No, it is not impossible to overcome. Read this article from about how individuals with the gene can avoid obesity, simply by walking! We make it way too complicated…

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