September 16, 2021

Using Exercise Energy Expenditure for Weight Control

Written by: Zaakir Shakoor, MSc

What is Exercise Energy Expenditure? 

Following my previous introductory article, we learned about energy balance and how energy intake (food) and energy output (burning calories) can help maintain or lose weight.

Exercise is one of many components of the energy output equation but a common misconception is that it is considered the only way to lose weight.

This couldn't be further from the truth, exercise only accounts for around 15% of energy output, but that's not to say that it doesn't play a part in weight management.  

Exercise could help burn 500-600 or more additional calories and tip the energy scale for you to lose weight. 

When choosing your exercise, I wouldn't put a great deal of importance on the 'fat burning' training mode that you keep hearing about.

Long story short, it makes no difference which energy system is being used to burn calories. The body will respond to a calorie deficit by using stored body fat for energy regardless, and vice versa when storing body fat for energy.  



Let's say an individual can maintain weight at 2000 calories (basal metabolic rate) but eats 2700 calories from food. The example subject's current activity level allows him to burn 400 calories (net 2300 calories).

Clearly, we can still see 300 calories more than the subject needs, which will cause some weight gain in the longer term. 

Now let's put 1hr of newly introduced daily brisk walking into the equation. We could expect the example subject to burn an additional 300+ calories. 

Net Energy balance would now be at 2000 calories, suitable for the individual to maintain weight.

In a nutshell, this is the effect of exercise! And it would help if you understood that exercise doesn't have to be hours and hours of endless and exhausting treadmill work or cycling. 



8 Exercise Suggestions to Burn Calories  

In no particular order, I am giving you 8 exercise suggestions that you may want to include in your day to burn more calories, thereby contributing towards weight management. 

The estimated exercise energy expenditure of the exercises is based on a 70-80kg individual. Someone heavier may burn more calories, whereas someone lighter may burn less.  


#1 Cycling (<10mph)

Cycling is a fun and effective exercise that works the muscles of the lower body from sitting on a saddle and pushing some pedals through the legs. Cycling can burn a reasonable 292kcal per hr. 

You can opt for indoor or outdoor cycling depending on your preference. 

Indoor cycling will be on a static bike (in one position) and at times can become boring, but each to their own, I guess. 

On the other hand, we have outdoor cycling where you may experience more road bumps and perhaps even get better scenery depending on where you're based. 



#2 Running (5 mph)

We've all done a bit of running before, and unlike cycling, it engages both upper and lower extremities activating almost all of the muscle in the body. This cardiovascular based exercise burns a whopping 606 kcals per hr

Once again, running can be done on a treadmill machine, which you could think of as an electronic moving surface that you would run on top of but essentially track no physical distance.

Running outdoors is much better, in my opinion, as you can embrace the fresh air and scenery depending on where you're based.


#3 Brisk walk 

A brisk walk can be done anywhere outdoors or on the treadmill. Generally, the idea is to put some pace behind the walking to bring the heart rate up. 

If you choose to use the treadmill, you may want to adjust the speed as fast as possible before entering into a running speed. 

Brisk walking burns 314 calories per hr



#4 Hiking   

This is my all-time favorite form of exercise; I love being able to embark on long hikes through the scenic routes of the countryside, and on top of that, hiking burns an impressive 438kcal per hr

Personally, I make a day out of hiking and can walk continuously for 2-3hrs, burning around 1000 calories, but I don't do that often and perhaps only during the summer weekends.

In all honesty, if you're unable to go hiking in the outdoors, you could mimic the activity on the treadmill walking on different inclines, but this is certainly not as fun, in my opinion. 



#5 Cross trainer 

The cross trainer or elliptical trainer can be found in most gym settings and is a great exercise to work the whole body and burns a reasonable 366kcal per hr

To my knowledge, the cross trainer is not available in a mobile form that you could take for a ride outdoors; in most cases, you're stuck in the gym. 



#6 Rowing

Rowing is another exercise that can be done outdoors or mimics via the rowing machine in the gym.  

We're looking at many arms and back engagement, burning through around 493 kcals per hour at a moderate effort level. 



#7  Swimming  

Swimming is another great exercise that works the whole body burning through around 423 kcal per hour and not even loading the joints. 

Light to moderate Swimming is a highly recommended low impact exercise for all, especially for the elderly who need to maintain a level of activity but cannot load joints due to issues like osteoarthritis.



#8 Resistance training (weights)

Resistance training is my go-to, it only burns around 100-200 kcal per hr, but what makes resistance training unique is that it promotes muscle mass/tone and the more skeletal muscle we hold on our frames, the faster our metabolic rate works. 

Why? Simply because muscle burns more calories at rest. 

In the long run, resistance training could prove to be one of the best forms of exercise. 

My top 4 exercises for an enjoyable workout, As well as burning calories and building muscle are the;

  • Barbell squats
  • Leg Press
  • Leg extensions 
  • Barbell Deadlift



Final Message 

Use but don’t abuse exercise!

As established from the article, you can realistically burn 200-600 calories from a reasonable amount of exercise. 

Exercise Expenditure can help you burn calories and eventually lose weight but should not be relied on. You may need to think about other areas that contribute to weight management, like food intake and activity that is not directly exercise. 

We will cover these areas in future articles. 

So, Stay tuned!



  1. Westerterp, K.R. Control of energy expenditure in humans. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017;71 (3): 340-344.
  2. Ainsworth, BE, Haskell, WL, Herrmann, SD et al.  2011 Compendium of Physical Activities: a second update of codes and MET values. Medicine and science in sport and exercise. 2011; 43(8): 1575-1581.
  3. Lytle, JR, Kravits, DM, Martin, SE et al.  Predicting Energy Expenditure of an Acute Resistance Exercise Bout in Men and Women.  Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise. 2019; 51 (7): 1532-1537.
Article written by Zaakir Shakoor, MSc
Zack Shakoor Kayani was born and raised in the South East of England/London. Zack has attained a bolus of knowledge regarding biosciences through academia and his career experiences. In terms of his educational background, he has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Hons.), a Postgraduate diploma in sports nutrition with the International Olympic Committee, and a Master’s of Science in Nutritional Sciences. Zack has been fortunate enough to apply his Exercise Science and Nutrition Knowledge to aid Hundreds if not Thousands of Patients and Athletes, providing 1-1 consultation, Personal training, Information sheets, offering recommendations to collate nutrition and exercise programs, etc. Not to mention, in 2020, he authored a book called ‘Obesity Decoded’

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