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How Many Calories Do You Burn Doing Nothing? A Lot More Than You Think

You know those wonderful lazy days when your parents take the kids and you’re left with an empty and (most importantly) silent house? If you’ve ever felt guilty at the end of it for having done absolutely nothing except relax, don’t be! It turns out your body is a calorie-burning machine that’s working hard even when you’re not.

So, how many calories do you burn doing nothing? The answer depends on a number of factors, among them age, weight, and gender. Men typically burn more calories than women, heavier people tend to use up more calories than lighter people, and younger folk expend more calories than older ones.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to calculate resting metabolic rate, aka the amount of energy your body uses to perform basic functions (such as keeping your heart beating, your brain working, and your lungs breathing). All you have to do is plug a few numbers into the formula below: 

  • For Women: resting metabolic rate = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
  • For Men: resting metabolic rate = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years) 

The average height and weight of a woman in the US is 63.7 inches and 168.5 pounds, respectively, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, let’s assume this hypothetical woman is 40 years old. If we do the math, you should get a resting metabolic rate of 1,499.365. That means a 40-year-old woman who does nothing all day would still burn almost 1,500 calories a day doing nothing beyond just existing.

If that number seems high, just compare it to the government’s recommendations for daily calorie intake. Sedentary adult women between the ages of 36 to 50 should consume roughly 1,800 calories per day to offset all the calories their bodies burn just carrying out normal functions. Of course, the assumption is that most women aren’t sitting on their butts all day doing nothing. That means the roughly 300-calorie difference between resting metabolic rate and daily caloric intake can be burned up by exercising so you don’t gain weight. 

Now that we can feel better about doing nothing while still burning calories, we’re going to plop ourselves back down on the couch. See you later!

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