Your body is always burning calories — even in your sleep or while watching TV. But how many calories you burn resting versus sleeping depends mainly on your weight, with slight variance by individual metabolism. Here's how many calories you burn in a day by weight and activity.
Calories Burned When Sleeping
Your weight has the biggest effect on the amount of calories you burn sleeping, says Ohio-based Oscar Morey Vargas, MD, an endocrinology specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.
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"For example," Dr. Vargas says, "someone who weighs 125 pounds may burn 38 calories in one hour while sleeping. In contrast, a person who weighs 185 pounds may burn 56 calories in one hour while sleeping."
Your metabolism is the key to burning calories, whereby metabolism converts calories to energy for your body, according to the Mayo Clinic. The calories you get from food and drink are mixed with oxygen — which is how the energy is released so your body can function.
"The amount of calories burned while sleeping varies between individuals," Dr. Vargas says. "This depends on each person's basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the metabolic cost of the basic processes required for life. This includes cellular function and resting cardiopulmonary activity. Each person's BMR depends on multiple factors, including age, height and weight," he says.
Calories Naturally Burned in a Day
Your BMR, according to Harvard Health Publishing, which accounts for about two-thirds of calories used during the day, is used for such basic functions as:
- Keeping your temperature regulated
- Keeping your heart ticking
Another term is nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), or the calories you burn outside of exercising, per the Mayo Clinic. NEAT can account for up to 800 calories per day depending on the following:
- Routine activities
- Body size
Younger people and those with higher weights expend more calories, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"Because the total energy expenditure depends on the BMR, the energy consumed in processing diet and also on physical activity, the amount of calories burned while sleeping is always lower than during the day when we are awake," Dr. Vargas says.
Average Calories by Different Activity
Keeping in mind the effects of weight and other factors, you can get a general idea of calories burned over 30 minutes for some common activities in the chart below, per Harvard Health Publishing.
Calories Burned per 30 Minutes by Body Weight
Food shopping (with cart)
Walking (3.5mph/17 min/mi)
Walking (4mph/15 min/mi)
Can You Change Your Rate?
Some supplements promise to burn calories while you rest. Skip those, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But you can increase the burn by fidgeting. That's right, fidgeting.
Simple movements like tapping your feet or twirling your pen can burn calories that amount to a significant number over a full day — as many as 350, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Even better, take a break, get up, stretch and walk around.
- Oscar Morey Vargas, MD, Endocrinology Department, Cleveland Clinic, Beachwood, Ohio
- Mayo Clinic: “Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Burning Calories Without Exercise”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights”
- American Council of Exercise: “Does Eating Late at Night Cause Weight Gain?”
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