Our expert says:
A few years ago, the American College of Sports Medicine (the international authority on exercise and science) drew up a list of all sorts of activities and how many calories each burned. This list was done by having people do different exercise types and then actually measure directly (by measuring oxygen intake) how much energy is used. On the Health 24 site, you can actually play with our 'Burn-O-meter' which was drawn up based on these studies and findings. If you go to the 'Diet' page, you will see the 'Burn-O-meter' near the bottom, and here you can choose from any activity. According to this list, of the 3 activities you have listed, running burns the most energy per hour. This is because it involves the largest muscles mass, using both the arms, legs and posture muscles, and because it is weight bearing. The highest energy expenditure, by the way, comes from cross country skiing, which involves all the muscle groups in weight bearing activity, including the arms (which running does not). The second from the list is probably cycling and rowing, very closely matched, and this is because they involve more local muscle groups. Because of this, some people find it hard to cycle at the same relative level as they could row, and vice-versa, since they may find that the 'limiting factor' is muscle pain or fatigue. Walking and the Healthwalker would follow this, although again, it depends just how fast you can walk or use the healthwalker, because any activity can be more demanding than another if done hard enough.
The other activity that came up on the forum was weight lifting and this is interesing. DURING exercise, weight lifting probably burns the least calories because it uses (generally) a very small muscle group. However, in the long term, it causes the overall metabolic rate to rise because muscle is more metabolically active than fat tissue. So, with weight training, your resting energy expenditure goes up, and this also translates to increase fat burning and better weight control. Therefore, my opinion is that you have to choose the activity you enjoy the most, and not worry too much about how many calories it burns, because practically, if you run but hate it, chances are you won't run for very long, and you would be better off doing something you enjoy for longer, even if it means you don't burn calories as quickly (remember that it's not just the rate that is important, it is the TOTAL, and this depends on how long you exercise, not on how fast you burn). THe other important thing is that these guidelines are general and so one person might find that they burn more cycling than running, because they just can't run fast enough, but can cycle really hard, for whatever reason.
Then, I would also do some weight training, even if it's just once or twice a week, because this increases lean muscle mass and has long term benefits, as I mentioned.
thanks for all the interested replies on the forum, it was a nice question and good debate.
hope it's cleared up slightly.
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