How to Calculate the Calories You Burn During Exercise

How to Calculate the Calories You Burn During Exercise

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There are a number of ways to burn calories. To figure out exactly how many you burn each day, or your total energy expenditure (TEE), you need to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the thermic effect of food (TEF) you eat, and your general activity level. Exercise is the fourth factor and one that has the potential to burn the most calories.


Whether you're trying to lose weight, want to know how much to fuel your body after a workout, or are just curious about how many calories you burned during exercise, you can estimate your calorie expenditure by using a simple calculator.

To use this "calories burned exercising" calculator, you'll need to pick your activity, enter how long you performed it for, and enter your weight. Though you're burning calories all the time simply by doing your normal daily activities, exercise can help you burn even more. The amount depends on the type of exercise and how long you do it.

Alternatively, you can use an activity tracker to track your calories burned.

Calories Burned Formula

The basic formula for the calculator is:

Total calories burned = Duration (in minutes)*(MET*3.5*weight in kg)/200

Calculators have an activity MET (metabolic equivalent for task) built-in. This number estimates how much energy the body uses during a specific activity. It varies based on activity and is standardized so that it can be used across the board for different people and so that it's easier to compare different activities to each other.

For example, low-impact aerobic dancing (5 METs) burns fewer calories per minute compared to high-impact aerobic dancing (7 METs). Slow-paced walking (3 METs) burns less.


Keep in mind that this is a very broad estimate and it isn't going to be exact. The only way to get a truly accurate number is to go to a lab and have them hook you up to machines that measure everything from your VO2 max (maximum oxygen uptake) to your maximum heart rate.

Since most people will not go to such lengths, use your estimate of calories burned as a base point to track your workouts. If you typically burn a certain number of calories during a certain type of workout, you can increase that number to burn more calories or decrease it if you're feeling burned out or overtrained.

Most cardio machines will give you a general number of calories burned, but keep in mind that's just an estimate as well.

Other Factors

The machine doesn't take into account all of the factors that influence exercise intensity such as:

  • Age: The older you are, the harder you have to work to get to a higher intensity level of activity.
  • Body Composition: A person with more muscle will often burn more calories than a person with higher body fat.
  • Temperature: The warmer the environment you're working out in, the more calories you will burn. This raises your body temperature so you do have to warm up as much and more energy can be directed toward calorie burn. You can also workout longer but should be cautious not to overdo it to the point of heat exhaustion.
  • Fitness Level: An experienced exerciser will burn fewer calories because his or her body has become more efficient at exercise.
  • Diet: Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories, so it's directly affected by your diet. If you do not eat enough, skip meals, or eat unhealthy foods (including too much caffeine), your metabolism can fall and affect your calorie burn.​
  • Sleep: Not getting an adequate amount of sleep can cause you to burn fewer calories. Not only will you feel more fatigued and possibly exercise less, but a lack of sleep can also reduce your metabolism as well.
  • Oxygen Intake: Oxygen gives your body the energy it needs to keep going. People who breathe more heavily during their workout tend to burn more calories. It indicates that you're working harder and for every liter of oxygen you take in, you're burning 5 calories.

Your best option is to use these numbers as kind of a baseline. Maybe they're not totally accurate, but you at least get a sense of which activities tend to burn more calories and you can tweak your workouts each week to get a little more out of your exercise time.

For example, if you usually walk at 3 miles per hour, try bumping up your speed to the next level or raise your incline. Even doing that just a few times throughout the workout can increase how many calories you burn.

A Word From Verywell

Just like counting calories in your food can help you reach your weight loss goals, so can knowing how many calories you're burning during exercise. Remember to keep it simple and only worry about the estimates for exercises you're actually doing.

There's no need to overwhelm yourself with numbers right off the bat. If you add something new, run it through the formula. Try to focus on the goals of staying active and eating healthy and you should notice some weight loss.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Hills AP, Mokhtar N, Byrne NM. Assessment of physical activity and energy expenditure: an overview of objective measures. Front Nutr. 2014;1:5. doi:10.3389/fnut.2014.00005

  2. Bushman B PhD. Complete Guide to Fitness and Health 2nd Edition. American College of Sports Medicine. Human Kinetics. 2017.

  3. The Compendium of Physical Trackings Guide. Prevention Research Center, University of South Carolina.

  4. Del coso J, Hamouti N, Ortega JF, Mora-rodriguez R. Aerobic fitness determines whole-body fat oxidation rate during exercise in the heat. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2010;35(6):741-8.  doi:10.1139/H10-068

  5. Broussard JL, Ehrmann DA, Van cauter E, Tasali E, Brady MJ. Impaired insulin signaling in human adipocytes after experimental sleep restriction: a randomized, crossover study. Ann Intern Med. 2012;157(8):549-57. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-157-8-201210160-00005

  6. McColl P. 5 things to know about metabolic equivalents. American Council on Exercise. 2017.

Additional Reading
  • McArdle WD, Katch FI, Katch VL. Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015.

By Paige Waehner
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."