On paper, if you're burning 600 calories a day through exercise without changing anything else, you have the potential to lose about 5 pounds per month. Keep in mind, though, that whether you will lose weight (and at what rate) depends on a lot of different factors, including your genetics, sleep habits, hormones and — not least of all — your nutrition.
Here, we'll dig into how to burn calories for weight loss, how to accurately keep track of your calorie burn, how to burn 600 calories with exercise and how to adjust your nutrition to help with weight loss.
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How to Burn Calories for Weight Loss
If you're going to the trouble of burning 600 calories a day, you'll want to make sure you're actually creating a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. If you're burning those calories but also increasing the calories you eat, you won't see the scale move.
To lose weight, you'll need to burn more calories than you take in, according to the Mayo Clinic. That means you'll first have to determine how many calories you need to maintain your current weight (your "maintenance calories") and stick to that amount in your diet each day. Then you'll have to burn 600 calories more than you normally do per day.
Figuring out your maintenance calories can be tricky. You could keep a food diary for several weeks, tallying the calories for everything you eat and drink and noting any weight fluctuations. Or you could download a calorie-counting app to do the math for you.
To give you a rough estimate, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults eat somewhere between 1,600 and 2,400 calories per day to maintain their weight. But a lot of different factors can affect this number, including your age, current weight and activity levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Is Burning 600 Calories a Day Good?
Burning 600 calories a day is enough to lose weight if you're not offsetting that by eating more calories. But whether this is the right approach to weight loss for you depends on factors like your health status, fitness level, age and current weight, per the CDC.
Work with your doctor and/or a registered dietitian or personal trainer to get a better overall picture of your health and determine an appropriate and sustainable daily calorie goal for you.
How Much Weight Will You Lose if You Burn 600 Calories a Day?
In the past, researchers and health care professionals believed there were 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, which meant you'd have to cut or burn that many calories in order to lose a pound, per the Mayo Clinic. Under that line of thinking, burning 600 calories a day would amount to burning 4,200 calories a week, which would help you lose a little over a pound. So mathematically, you'd lose a little over 5 pounds per month.
This is an overly simplified way of thinking about weight loss, though, and doesn't take into account your genes, body composition, medical history or other lifestyle factors. Weight loss happens a little differently for everyone, so take these numbers with a grain of salt.
Exercises That Burn 600 Calories
Burning 600 calories a day through exercise is no easy task for most people, as it typically requires a lot of time and both mental and physical energy.
With that said, you can torch 600 calories by doing just about any activity, depending on your intensity and duration. But generally speaking, more intense aerobic activities such as running or climbing stairs — anything that gets your heart pumping fast — will burn the most calories in the least amount of time. Also, the heavier you are, the more calories you'll burn during exercise.
Here's a breakdown of exercises that burn 600 calories, according to the Calorie Control Council's Get Moving! Calculator:
Minutes of Exercise Needed to Burn 600 Calories
Type of Exercise
Circuit training or HIIT
Running (12-minute mile)
Why Strength Training Is Important, Too
Strength training doesn't burn a ton of calories — about 270 an hour if you weigh 200 pounds, per the Calorie Control Council. But it can help you torch more calories over time because it builds muscle, which increases your resting metabolism (aka your body's calorie-burning ability).
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults strength train all major muscle groups at least twice per week.
The best strength-training exercises for weight loss are simple yet effective, such as squats, burpees, deadlifts, push-ups and pull-ups. You can use weights or resistance bands during these exercises, or you can build strength using just your body weight.
How to Track the Calories You're Burning
If you want to burn 600 calories a day, you'll need to track your calories to make sure you're on track toward your goal. You can do so by using a calorie-counting app and/or a wearable fitness tracker:
- Calorie-counting app: Apps such as MyFitnessPal or Argus (both free to download) can help you log your calorie intake as well as the calories you burn during physical activity. Some of these apps sync with wearable fitness trackers, which can make tracking your calorie burn more accurate.
- Fitness tracker: Wearables such as the Apple Watch (From $329, Apple.com or Amazon) or FitBit Versa ($149.95, FitBit.com) keep track of your physical activity and the calories you burn. The best fitness trackers typically calculate the latter using a combination of factors, including your age, weight and heart rate.
How to Adjust Your Nutrition for Weight Loss
If you take in too many calories, your daily 600-calorie burn isn't going to result in weight loss. That's why it's important to pay attention to what you're eating and drinking and stick to a daily calorie goal.
You might also consider decreasing the number of calories you're eating and aiming to burn fewer calories via exercise each day. A combination of diet and exercise is likely the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off in the long-term, according to the Mayo Clinic.
For example, if you need 2,000 calories to maintain your weight, eating 1,600 calories and burning 200 calories through exercise each day would put you at a 600-calorie daily deficit. You can burn 200 calories a lot quicker than you can burn 600 calories, and cutting 400 calories from your diet is relatively easy if you:
- Choose whole foods over processed foods, which tend to be higher in calories.
- Opt for low-calories, high-protein foods that will fill you up on fewer calories, such as beans, tempeh and tofu, chicken breast, fish, eggs and low-fat yogurt (plain).
- Avoid sugary drinks like soda and flavored coffees, which pack a lot of calories with no nutritional value.
- Cook at home rather than dining out or ordering takeout food.
- Limit or avoid fried and fast food.
- Nix or limit alcohol.
Just make sure you're not cutting your calories too low — below 1,500 or so. Why? Very low-calorie diets come with health risks, including muscle loss, nutrient deficiencies, gallstones and GI problems. They may also backfire: Eating too-few calories can slow down your metabolism and sap your energy for exercise, making weight loss more challenging.
Other Factors That Affect Weight Loss
Mathematically, weight loss is a "calories in, calories out" process — you have to take in fewer calories than you burn. But the truth is that it's more complicated than that.
Even if you're burning 600 calories a day, how much weight you lose and how quickly will depend on factors including:
- Body composition: Having more muscle on your frame increases the number of calories you burn each day, according to an April 2016 study in the International Journal of Exercise Science — so even if two people weigh the same, they will burn calories differently depending on how much of their weight is fat vs. muscle
- Sleep quality: Sleep and weight loss are connected — when you don't get the recommended seven to nine hours per night, it can rev up your hunger hormones, sap your energy for exercise and change the way your body stores fat
- Stress management: Chronic stress can affect your weight by sapping your energy for exercise, messing with your sleep quality, slowing your metabolism and more.
- Underlying medical conditions: Thyroid issues, Cushing syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are just a few of the many conditions that may make it harder for you to lose weight, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Medications: Prescription drugs that treat depression and seizures can make weight loss tougher, per the NIH, as can corticosteroids
Burning 600 calories a day through exercise will likely help you lose weight as long as you're paying attention to your calorie intake, too. But this approach to weight loss may not be sustainable or healthy for everyone. Consider working with your doctor, a registered dietitian and/or a personal trainer to create the right plan that will help you lose weight and keep it off in the long run.
- Mayo Clinic: "Weight-loss basics"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Balancing Food and Activity for Healthy Weight"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics"
- Calorie Control Council: "Get Moving! Calculator"
- National Institutes of Health: "What causes obesity & overweight?"
- International Journal of Exercise Science: "Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training"
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition
- Mayo Clinic: "Mayo Clinic Minute: Which is better for losing weight – diet or exercise?"