Physical Activity Burns Fewer Calories Than You Might Think, Says New Research
5 min read
And to that, we say, "so what?" Reminder: Burning calories is not the only point of moving your body.
Conventional wisdom (and your smartwatch) suggests that working out will help you burn a few more calories. But new research suggests it's not exactly that simple.

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The study published in Current Biology found that, if you exercise, your body may actually burn fewer calories during the rest of the day than would be expected — specifically, about 28 percent less.

Need some more details? Fair.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from 1,754 adults, looking specifically at how many calories they burned at baseline (aka their basal energy expenditure or basal metabolic rate, which, is the number of calories your body needs to simply function) and how many calories they burned overall during the day. Researchers then subtracted their basal metabolic rate from their overall calories burned, and figured out how many calories people burned from exercise and general activity (such as walking, working, etc.). That figure was then compared to the number of calories that people theoretically should have burned (according to commonly accepted formulas for estimated calorie burn) based on their basal energy expenditure and which activities and workouts they did that day. (Related: What You Need to Understand About Exercise and Calorie-Burn)

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While everyone's metabolism and calorie-burning abilities are slightly different, the researchers found that, overall, only about 72 percent of the calories that people burned from exercise and general activity actually translated into extra calories burned that day. It's not that their workouts "didn't count" but rather, their bodies actually "compensated" for the increased effort of exercise by reducing their basal energy expenditure when they weren't being active, therefore they burning fewer calories at rest. (FYI, at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day is recommended for the average adult, according to the Mayo Clinic.)

For example, let's say your basal energy…
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