Skip to content

How Many Calories Are Burned in a Day Without Exercise?

Discover how many calories your body naturally burns in a day without exercise. Learn about factors like age, gender, body composition, and more.

In the quest for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, there lies a fundamental question that often goes unnoticed – how many calories does your body naturally burn in a day without any exercise? Put simply, understanding the baseline for calorie expenditure forms the basis of effective weight management. By delving into the intricate workings of your metabolism and uncovering the various factors that contribute to your daily energy expenditure, this article aims to shed light on the commonly overlooked but crucial aspect of overall health and well-being.

How Many Calories Are Burned in a Day Without Exercise?

Factors Affecting Basal Metabolic Rate


Age is a significant factor influencing basal metabolic rate (BMR). As you grow older, your BMR tends to decrease. This is because aging leads to a decline in muscle mass and a decrease in overall physical activity. With a lower BMR, your body requires fewer calories to maintain basic bodily functions.


Gender is another determinant of BMR. On average, men tend to have a higher BMR than women. This is due to the fact that men usually have a higher muscle mass and a lower percentage of body fat compared to women. Muscles are more metabolically active than fat, so individuals with a higher muscle mass have a higher BMR.

Body Size and Composition

Your body size and composition play a crucial role in determining your BMR. In general, individuals with larger bodies and higher weight require more energy to maintain their bodily functions. Similarly, individuals with a higher percentage of muscle mass tend to have a higher BMR since muscles burn more calories at rest compared to fat.

Muscle Mass

The amount of muscle mass you have significantly affects your BMR. As mentioned earlier, muscles are metabolically active tissues that require energy even at rest. Therefore, individuals with a higher muscle mass have a higher BMR and burn more calories throughout the day. This is why strength training and muscle-building exercises are often recommended for those looking to increase their metabolic rate.


Genetics can also impact your BMR. Some individuals may have a naturally higher or lower metabolic rate due to genetic factors. However, it’s important to note that genetic predispositions can be modified through lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise. While you may not be able to change your genetics, you can still influence your metabolic rate through other factors.

Calculating Basal Metabolic Rate

Harris-Benedict Equation

The Harris-Benedict Equation is a commonly used method to estimate BMR. It takes into account factors like age, gender, weight, and height to calculate an individual’s basal metabolic rate. However, it’s important to remember that this equation provides an estimate and may not be entirely accurate for everyone. Other factors like muscle mass and body composition are not accounted for in this equation.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body Mass Index (BMI) is another tool that can be used to estimate BMR. BMI is a measurement that compares your height and weight to determine if you are within a healthy weight range. While BMI can give an estimate of body composition, it does not directly calculate BMR. However, it can provide a general idea of whether an individual’s weight is within a healthy range, which can indirectly affect BMR.

Other Formulas

Apart from the Harris-Benedict Equation and BMI, there are other formulas available to estimate BMR, such as the Mifflin-St Jeor equation and the Katch-McArdle equation. These formulas may take into account additional factors like body fat percentage and lean body mass to provide a more accurate estimation of BMR. Consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can help determine the most appropriate method for calculating your BMR.

Average Calories Burned Without Exercise

Inactivity Level

Your level of inactivity can affect the number of calories you burn on a daily basis. If you have a sedentary lifestyle with little to no physical activity, your calorie burn will generally be lower compared to someone who engages in regular exercise or has an active occupation. Inactivity can lead to a decrease in muscle mass and a slower metabolic rate, resulting in a lower number of calories burned without exercise.

Calories Burned During Sleep

Calories burned during sleep are part of your daily caloric expenditure. However, the number of calories burned during sleep varies based on factors like age, weight, and overall health. On average, an adult may burn around 50-100 calories per hour during sleep. This accounts for the energy required for essential bodily functions like respiration, digestion, and maintaining body temperature.

Calories Burned During Rest

Resting metabolic rate (RMR) refers to the number of calories your body burns at rest, including when you’re awake and not engaged in any physical activity. It is similar to BMR but usually slightly higher since it takes into account minor movements and non-exercise activities. RMR accounts for about 60-75% of your total daily caloric expenditure.

Additional Factors

Other factors that can influence the number of calories burned without exercise include stress levels, hormones, and medical conditions. High levels of stress and certain hormonal imbalances can affect your metabolism and potentially lead to a decrease in caloric expenditure. Medical conditions like hypothyroidism can also result in a lower metabolic rate and subsequently fewer calories burned at rest.

Importance of Knowing Caloric Needs

Weight Management

Understanding your caloric needs is crucial for weight management. Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your current weight, knowing your caloric requirements is essential. By consuming the appropriate number of calories, you can ensure that your body is receiving the energy it needs without exceeding or falling short of your goals.

Healthy Eating

Knowing your caloric needs can help guide healthy eating choices. By having an idea of how many calories you should consume daily, you can make informed decisions about portion sizes and food choices. This knowledge helps promote a balanced and nutritious diet that meets your body’s energy needs while providing essential nutrients.

Nutritional Planning

Caloric needs play a vital role in nutritional planning. Whether you’re an athlete looking to optimize performance or someone with specific dietary requirements, understanding your caloric needs allows for effective planning. By tailoring your macronutrient intake (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) to align with your caloric goals, you can optimize your overall nutritional intake and support your body’s needs.

How Many Calories Are Burned in a Day Without Exercise?

Tips for Increasing Daily Calorie Burn

Incorporate Physical Activity

One effective way to increase your daily calorie burn is to incorporate physical activity into your routine. Engaging in regular exercise, such as cardiovascular activities (e.g., walking, running, swimming) or strength training, can significantly increase your metabolic rate and overall caloric expenditure. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, along with two or more days of strength training per week.

Increase Non-Exercise Activities

In addition to planned exercise, increasing non-exercise activities throughout your day can help boost calorie burn. Simple changes like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from your destination, or incorporating short walks during breaks can add up to a significant increase in daily energy expenditure.

Optimize Metabolism

Several lifestyle habits can optimize your metabolism and increase calorie burn. These include eating regular meals and snacks to maintain stable blood sugar levels, staying hydrated, getting adequate sleep, and managing stress. These factors can positively impact your metabolic rate and contribute to a higher daily caloric burn.

Strength Training

Incorporating strength training exercises into your routine can help increase muscle mass, which can boost your BMR and overall calorie burn. Strength training exercises, such as weightlifting or bodyweight exercises, help build and maintain lean muscle tissue. Aim for two or more days of strength training per week, focusing on all major muscle groups for optimal results.

Standing Instead of Sitting

Sitting for extended periods can lead to a decrease in calorie burn. Whenever possible, try to stand instead of sitting, especially during sedentary activities like working at a desk. Standing requires more energy compared to sitting and engages different muscle groups, leading to a higher daily calorie expenditure.

Common Misconceptions about Burning Calories

Calories Burned Through Digestion

A common misconception is that certain foods, such as those labeled as “negative calorie,” burn more calories during digestion than they provide. While it’s true that the digestion process requires energy, the overall amount of calories burned through digestion is relatively small compared to total daily energy expenditure. Focus on overall calorie balance and nutrient quality rather than relying on specific foods to burn more calories during digestion.

Calories Burned from Fidgeting

Fidgeting, or spontaneous physical movements like tapping your feet or fiddling with objects, does contribute to calorie burn. However, the energy expended from fidgeting is generally minimal and unlikely to have a significant impact on overall caloric expenditure. Engaging in structured exercise and increasing non-exercise physical activities are more effective strategies for increasing calorie burn.

Calories Burned While Standing

While standing does burn more calories than sitting, the difference in energy expenditure is relatively small. Standing burns about 20% more calories per hour compared to sitting, but it would still take a significant amount of time to make a substantial impact on daily caloric burn. It’s important to focus on a combination of structured exercise, non-exercise physical activity, and optimizing overall metabolic rate to have a more significant effect on calorie burn.

Effects of Exercise on Caloric Burn

Increasing Daily Calorie Burn

Exercise is an effective way to increase your daily calorie burn. Engaging in physical activity raises your metabolic rate and leads to an increase in caloric expenditure both during and after exercise. Regular exercise can also help preserve and build muscle mass, which further elevates your basal metabolic rate and contributes to a higher overall caloric burn.

Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardiovascular exercises, also known as aerobic exercises, are excellent for burning calories. Activities like running, cycling, swimming, and dancing increase your heart rate and require sustained effort, thereby maximizing caloric burn. The duration, intensity, and frequency of cardiovascular exercises can be adjusted to personalize calorie burn based on individual goals and fitness levels.

Resistance Training

While cardiovascular exercises primarily burn calories during the workout, resistance training has long-term effects on caloric burn. Resistance training helps build and maintain muscle mass, leading to an increase in BMR and overall calorie burn. This is because muscles burn more calories at rest compared to fat. Incorporating a balanced strength training routine into your exercise regimen can have a significant impact on your daily caloric expenditure.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by recovery periods. This type of exercise can significantly increase calorie burn due to its high energy demands and metabolic effects. HIIT workouts can be completed in a shorter amount of time compared to steady-state exercises, making it an efficient option for those looking to maximize caloric expenditure.

Factors Influencing Caloric Expenditure during Exercise

Intensity of Exercise

The intensity of exercise plays a crucial role in determining caloric expenditure. Higher-intensity activities, such as sprinting or high-intensity interval training, generally burn more calories than lower-intensity exercises like walking or gentle yoga. When exercise intensity increases, the body requires more energy to meet the demands, resulting in a higher caloric expenditure.

Duration of Exercise

The duration of exercise directly impacts the number of calories burned. Longer workouts provide more time for energy expenditure, leading to a higher overall caloric burn. However, it’s important to note that exercise duration alone may not be as significant a factor as intensity when it comes to maximizing calorie burn. Finding the right balance between duration and intensity is key for achieving optimal results.

Body Weight

Body weight affects caloric expenditure during exercise, with heavier individuals generally burning more calories. This is because more energy is required to move a larger body mass during physical activity. As a result, a person weighing 200 pounds may burn more calories during the same exercise compared to someone weighing 150 pounds. However, body weight should not be the sole focus when it comes to exercise; it’s important to consider overall health and fitness goals.

Fitness Level

Fitness level plays a role in caloric expenditure during exercise. As fitness improves, the body becomes more efficient at performing physical activities, which can lead to a decrease in caloric burn over time. This is why it’s crucial to continually challenge yourself and vary your exercise routine to prevent your body from adapting to a certain level of fitness.

Type of Exercise

The type of exercise you engage in affects the number of calories burned. Different activities require varying amounts of energy, resulting in different caloric expenditures. For example, running typically burns more calories compared to cycling or swimming due to its higher impact and increased muscle activation. Incorporating a variety of exercises that target different muscle groups can help maximize overall caloric expenditure.

Monitoring Caloric Burn

Wearable Fitness Trackers

Wearable fitness trackers, such as smartwatches or activity monitors, can provide valuable information about caloric burn. These devices use sensors to track metrics like heart rate, steps taken, and energy expenditure during exercise. By wearing a fitness tracker, you can monitor your daily caloric burn, set goals, and track progress over time.

Mobile Applications

Mobile applications offer a convenient way to monitor caloric burn. Many fitness apps allow you to input exercise data and track calories burned based on the type of activity performed. These apps often sync with other health-related data, such as heart rate or sleep patterns, providing a holistic view of your overall caloric expenditure.

Heart Rate Monitors

Heart rate monitors can provide accurate data on caloric burn during exercise. By measuring your heart rate and factoring in other variables like age, gender, and exercise intensity, heart rate monitors can estimate the energy expenditure associated with different activities. This information can help provide a more precise understanding of caloric burn during workouts and optimize training efforts.


Understanding the factors that affect basal metabolic rate (BMR) and daily caloric burn is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and supporting overall well-being. Age, gender, body size and composition, muscle mass, and genetics all play significant roles in determining BMR. By calculating BMR using methods like the Harris-Benedict Equation or Body Mass Index (BMI), individuals can estimate their daily caloric needs.

While factors like inactivity level, sleep, and rest contribute to calories burned without exercise, incorporating physical activity and optimizing metabolism through strength training and non-exercise activities can increase daily caloric burn. It’s important to dispel common misconceptions about calorie burn, such as relying on digestion or fidgeting for significant energy expenditure. Instead, focus on factors like exercise intensity, duration, body weight, fitness level, and the type of exercise performed to maximize caloric burn.

Monitoring caloric burn through wearable fitness trackers, mobile applications, and heart rate monitors provides valuable insights into daily energy expenditure. By being aware of your caloric needs and making informed decisions about exercise and nutrition, you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight and support a balanced and active lifestyle. Always consult with healthcare professionals or registered dietitians for personalized guidance on caloric needs and exercise recommendations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *