I am not a runner, nor am I an intense exerciser. I am all about the moderate intensity exercise — at most. I do not, by the way, have anything against running as an activity. It is just that I’ve been told by more than one orthopedic surgeon that I should not run, due to my knee cartilage (or the lack thereof). So, I walk and use the exercise bike and basically usually am more doing moderate intensity exercise.
Why am I talking about all this? Well, I read a lot of blogs. I find them highly motivational and I get good ideas from them. And, in the weight loss world, I’ve noticed that some blogs are written by runners (or high intensity exercisers) wanting to lose weight or who have done so and are maintaining, while other blogs are written by those who are not runners or intense exercisers. (So this doesn’t get tedious throughout I’ll just use the term runner from here on to mean either someone who actually runs or someone who engages in intense exercise of any type).
In fact, some of my most favorite blogs are those of runners. Many of those blogs have been extremely motivational to me. But, it also strikes me that there tend to be some differences between the blogs of runners and those who, like me, are not runners. And, I realized that there is risk to me as someone losing weight, if I don’t recognize those differences.
The big difference to recognize is that runners usually burn a lot more calories per day than I do. Higher intensity exercise, such as running, simply burns more calories quicker than the moderate walking that I do. As a result, many who engage in high intensity exercise, particularly for significant periods of time, can eat way more calories a day than I do and still lose weight. In fact, a runner who restricts calories at a level anywhere close to the calories I eat often loses weight far more rapidly than I lose weight. A pounds and a half or 2 pounds loss during a week isn’t uncommon at all. Of course, engaging in high intensity exercise can, quite naturally, make you hungrier so some who are really active eat more calories than I can eat, but still lose weight. I’ve seen those who can get eat at a level where I would gain weight, but they still lose weight due to the calories being burned.
The point is that if I – a non runner – were to eat like a runner I wouldn’t get the same results. A runner who eats like I eat (I aim to average 1200 calories a day) and who burns routinely over 2000 calories a day could lose 2 pounds a week. I am lucky to lose half a pound in a week and often it is less than that. Even worse, some of those who engage in lots of high intensity exercise can eat 1700 or 2000 calories a day and still lose weight. If I took that as a model for how I could eat, I would actually gain weight.
Tuesday I had a great day for activity. I had taken off from exercise on Monday. As it turned out, I didn’t do much non-exercise activity either and my Fitbit says I burned 1420 calories. That is actually not as low as I do on a totally sedentary day at home. I went out on for awhile on Monday so I wasn’t totally sedentary. I actually have burned as little as just over 1300 calories on a very sedentary day. Tuesday, though, I was away from home for most of the day and did some walking around in addition to my exercise walking. I also did feel recharged from Monday and wanted to have a good day. And, I did.
For the first time ever, I had over 15,000 steps (not actual steps for part of it as I had my Fitbit on while on the exercise bike and some of the steps were earned there…but I was well over 10,000 steps of actual walking). I burned over 2000 calories for the first time since April of last year — when I weighed almost 25 pounds more than I weigh now.
I was very happy to burn 2068 calories (yes, I know, it isn’t totally accurate but it was based upon heart rate from either the Charge HR or from my Polar chest strap). But, let me explain what I had to do to do it. First, as mentioned I was away from home part of the day and walked some going to and fro. This was more walking than I would typically do if I was home all day at our one story home.
But, then, there was actual exercise I did. I have found that I do best on exercise if I can break it up into blocks that aren’t too long. I like to take a break and then continue.
So this is what I did on Tuesday:
- 22 minutes walking at the mall – This was continuous walking with no stops. I did some other steps while having lunch and doing some shopping, but that isn’t included in the exercise walking
- 20 minutes on the treadmill – I then took a break for dinner
- 20 minutes on the treadmill – I then took a break and read
- 21 minutes on the treadmill – More reading
- 40 minutes on the exercise bike – This was lower intensity than the treadmill, while I was reading
- 20 minutes on the exercise bike – Reading while using the bike
- 6 minutes on the treadmill – I could see I was close to getting to over 2000 calories burned and wanted to make sure I got there
Total: 149 minutes
So, basically 2 1/2 hours. Fitbit tells me that 91 minutes were “fairly active”, while 58 minutes very “very active.” As best as I can tell, fairly active is meant to equate to something more moderate, while very active is more vigorous. That is probably as vigorous as I’m going to get.
The point is that for me — with a basal metabolic rate under 1300 — it takes a lot for me to get to a calorie burn of over 2000 calories. Today, I had the 2 1/2 hours that I could spend on doing this, but I did basically spend the entire evening exercising for awhile, then taking a break, then exercising. I don’t always have the time to do that.
Let me be clear here. I know there are reasons having nothing to do with exercise that I burn fewer calories than some others. Some of things that affect my basal metabolic rate:
- Age – I am 60 years old. Using the Mifflin-St. Jeor formula, my BMR is 1246 (the calculator says that on my birthday Saturday, that number will be 5 calories lower). If I was 30, my BMR would be 1396
- Weight – When I started this blog, I weighed 186.8 pounds. My BMR was 1410. As I lose weight, I burn fewer calories just existing and I burn fewer calories when I exercise.
- Body Fat – The Mifflin – St. Jeor formula doesn’t use body fat. Most people don’t know their body fat percentage. But the Katch McArdle formula does use it. So, using my body fat (from my scale), that formula says my BMR is 1280. It would be more if my body fat was less.
So, a runner who is younger than me (same weight) would have a BMR higher than mine, as would a similar aged runner who weighs more.
Another factor is that I have a sedentary lifestyle. I live in a one story house. I work part-time from home doing sedentary work. My hobbies are mostly sedentary (reading or computer related). Someone who has a job that is more active will burn more calories.
Still, exercise activity matters. I often see those who run or engage in high intensity exercise burning well over 2000 calories a day — and without spending 2 1/2 hours exercising (some do exercise that much, but then burn even more calories). To take a more typical example for me, here are some calories burned on days where I exercised for roughly 40 minutes (usually walking or exercise bike): 1619, 1605, 1562, 1769, 1519.
What I have learned is that I get a lot of motivation and good ideas from reading blogs of runners. But, I have to be aware that I have to match my eating to my activity level, which is not as intense. If I try to match it to someone who does exercise that burns many more calories at a much faster pace, then I will end up not losing.
And, if I want to burn over 2000 calories in day, then at the intensity of exercise that I can do, it will take a lot of exercising.