8 Ways to Burn More Calories When You Aren’t Exercising

This article discusses eight ways to burn more calories each day even when you're not actively exercising.

You work out most days and rarely skip a workout unless it’s a planned rest day. You’re disciplined! But even a daily workout can’t make up for hours of sitting. When you sit for hours at a time, your body goes into hibernation mode and calorie burning grinds to a halt. By now you’re aware that too much sitting is harmful to your health – and to your waistline. If you’re trying to control your weight, you need to keep your body in fat-burning mode even after your workout is finished. Here are eight tips on how to help you burn more calories.

Burn More Calories: Stand When You Work

Desk jobs where you sit all day negatively impact your health in a number of ways. Prolonged sitting is linked with a greater risk for heart disease, type diabetes as well as the greater all-cause mortality. It’s even worse for your posture.

Is there a better way to get your work done? Elevate your computer on a stack of large books so you can work standing up. For every hour you stand, instead of sit, you burn an extra 30 calories. Throw in a few squats while you work and you’ll burn even more. Treadmill desks are also growing in popularity. If it keeps you out of your chair, it’s better for you and burns more calories.  Find ways to sit less.

 Burn More Calories: Eat a High-Protein Breakfast

Prime your metabolism from the get-go with a high-protein breakfast. Your body burns more calories digesting a protein-rich meal than a meal high in carbs. It’s a small difference that adds up when you do it consistently. Plus, starting the day with protein will reduce your appetite later in the day. Think omelet, not bagel.

 Burn More Calories: Turn Back the Thermostat

Research shows working in a cooler environment, around 60 degrees F, turns on brown fat. Most of us have small amounts of brown fat, usually around our neck and collarbones, left over from babyhood. Cooler environments help turn on this quiescent fat. How is this beneficial? Brown fat is inefficient fat that converts a portion of the calories you eat into wasted energy or heat. Some researchers believe a few hours in a cool environment is as beneficial as an exercise session due to the effects of brown fat.

Burn More Calories: Be an Opportunistic Exerciser

Train yourself to “take the long and hard way” at work. Skip the elevator and park at the far end of the parking lot. When you take a break, walk the stairs a few times. Take a walking lunch break instead of a sit-down one. Opportunistic exercise burns extra calories and helps you avoid the health consequences of sitting too much.

Burn More Calories: Track Your Daily Movements

A growing number of apps and wearable devices are available that record your activity throughout the day –  how far you walk, how many minutes you’re active, calorie burn, etc. Wearing a device like this gives you added motivation to move more and makes you aware of how much you’re sitting. Sometimes we need a wake-up call! Use a high-tech gadget to challenge yourself.

Burn More Calories: Sip Green Tea

Green tea modestly boosts thermogenesis and fat oxidation so you burn more calories over the course of the day. Drinking green tea without added sugar means you’ll sip fewer drinks with calories too. Green tea may have other benefits as well due to its natural antioxidants. Make green tea and water your go-to drinks if you’re trying to control your weight.

Burn More Calories: Add High-Intensity Intervals to Your Fitness Routine

Long periods of moderate-intensity exercise may burn more calories while you’re doing it, but high-intensity intervals force you to expend more calories during the recovery period. That means you’ll burn calories at a higher rate even after you finish. Turn up the heat with Tabata training or a heart-thumping interval training video first thing in the morning and reap the calorie-burning benefits for the rest of the day by burning calories at a higher rate even after you finish.

 Burn More Calories: Fidget

Fidgeting is a form of non-exercise activity thermogenesis, also referred to as NEAT. Research shows fidgeting could be the key to why some people don’t gain weight easily. They literally fidget the calories away. Tapping or shaking your feet, twirling your hair, hitting a pencil on the table all qualify as fidgeting behavior. If you fidget all day, you can burn a significant number of calories. Not a natural fidgeter?  No reason why you can’t train yourself to tap your feet more once you’re aware of it. Cultivate the fidgeting habit even if you have to work at it.

 The Bottom Line?

None of these calorie burners are enough to cause fast weight loss but do one or more of them consistently and you’ll burn more calories over the course of the day. Small changes like these can add up to substantial benefits over time. Besides, movement is good for you no matter what form it takes. Take advantage of these added calorie burners.



Joslin Diabetes Center. “Turning Up the Heat on Brown Fat”

J Med Food. 2006 Winter;9(4):451-8.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Dec;72(6):1451-4.

Science Daily. “Fidgeting, Moving Around Key To Why Some Don’t Gain Weight”


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