Surprising 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.


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?