How Many Calories Does Waiting Tables Burn?

Busy waiter and waitresses working at bar night
Invest in a fitness tracker to get a better read on how many calories you burn while waiting tables. (Image: jean-marie guyon/iStock/Getty Images)

When you’re trying to lose weight, going for a jog or spending an hour on the elliptical machine at the gym isn't the only way to do it. Even your profession, if it’s active, can help you burn calories to shed extra pounds. Waiting tables is an active job that keeps you on your feet for hours at a time. According to Harvard Health Publications, a 155-pound person can burn 185 calories waiting tables for an hour. If you work in a very fast-paced restaurant, carry heavy trays or have to walk up stairs during your shift, you could burn even more.

What Makes You Burn Calories?

Your body burns calories even while you’re at rest, taking care of all its various physiological functions, such as respiration and digestion. Any physical activity you do – from walking to raking leaves to lifting weights – increases your total calorie burn. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn because your body has to work harder to propel you forward, and men usually burn more calories than women doing the same amount of work.

Variables That Affect Calories Burned While Waiting Tables

Those who work in a small restaurant with a slower pace have to walk a shorter distance and burn fewer calories than workers in a larger restaurant who have to walk farther and/or a faster-paced restaurant. Also, if a food runner carries your customers' orders to the table for you, you’ll burn fewer calories. If the kitchen is in the basement, and your tables are on the first floor, travelling up and down the stairs will increase your calorie burn. The list of variables is long, but you can assume that anything that increases your effort will cause you to burn more calories.

Portrait of waitress in cafe
Busy waitress? You can be sure she's feeling the burn. (Image: PIKSEL/iStock/Getty Images)

Estimating Calories Burned While Waiting Tables

Because there are so many variables involved in waiting tables, it's difficult to pin down exactly how many calories are burned. Harvard Health Publications estimates a 125-pound person burns 150 calories per hour waiting tables, and a 185-pound person burns 222 calories per hour of work. If you work a six-hour shift, consider how much of that time you spend on your feet walking around, carrying food and drink, or shuttling supplies from the storeroom. Do not include the time you spend sitting down folding napkins or refilling condiments. If four hours of your six-hour shift are active, you could burn almost 750 calories per shift if you weigh 155 pounds. That’s similar to the number of calories you would burn running at a 5 mph pace for about 75 minutes.

How to Measure Exact Calories Burned While Waiting Tables

If you really want to know how many calories you burn each shift, invest in a fitness tracker and wear it each time you work. Your fitness tracker will have info on your sex, weight and other variables, which it will then use, along with how often you are active, to give you a more accurate estimate of your calorie burn. A fitness tracker with a heart rate monitor will be even more accurate, because it can more accurately measure exertion levels.

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