Burning Calories


Women swimming in a poolWe all need to burn off calories to help maintain a healthy body weight for our size and age. You use some calories simply without thinking about it in your day-to-day activities. How active do you have to be beyond that? There is no simple answer. The important thing to remember is that many people need to become more active than they are now, and you might be one of them.

Each person uses different amounts of calories doing the same type of activity. In general, heavier people use more calories. Those who weigh less use fewer. Women also probably use fewer.

appleExperts do not know how the number of calories used during an activity differs for older people compared to those who are younger. As an example, if an average younger man—around 5’10”, 154 pounds—eats a wedge of apple pie for dessert (about 356 calories), how long would he have to ride a bicycle to burn off the calories? More than an hour based on some estimates.

We don’t know if it’s the same for you, but whether you would have to ride even longer or a little less, that’s still a long time on a bike. And what if you ate an apple (about 110 calories) instead of that pie? You’d have to spend less time on the bike to burn the calories.

Here's a Tip

What is BMI—Body Mass Index?

Your doctor might mention BMI when talking about your weight. Your BMI—body mass index—is a number based on your height and weight that can be compared to a chart to see if you are considered overweight or underweight.

Obesity is a growing problem for all age groups in the United States. In older adults who are overweight, the decision whether to lose some or all of that extra weight is complicated, and BMI is just one factor. Body changes that come with age and health problems may mean that an older person’s desired weight is higher than for someone younger.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH, has information on obesity and physical activity and on BMI. Or you can call NHLBI at 1-301-592-8573 to order publications.


What's On Your Plate? is based on the nutrition recommendations for older adults in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).