Burning more calories can help you lose and maintain a healthy
Exercising and eating the right foods are two effective
ways to do this.
However, there are also some more unusual ways to boost the
number of calories
Here are six unconventional ways to burn calories.
1. Cold Exposure
In addition to mainly white fat, your fat stores are also made
up of small amounts of brown fat. These two types of body fat
have very different effects.
Brown fat’s calorie-burning effect has been shown to vary among
individuals. In general, obese people seem to have less active
brown fat than lean people do (4).
Based on early animal research, chronic exposure to cold is
believed to lead to the “browning” of white fat. However, this
is still being studied (5).
What’s more, you don’t need to endure freezing temperatures to
reap this benefit.
In one study, healthy young men with similar body compositions
remained in a 66°F (19°C) environment for two hours. Although
calorie burning increased in all men, the effect was three
times greater in men with the highest brown fat activity
In another study, when 10 lean young men were regularly exposed
to a temperature of 62°F (17°C) for two hours, they burned an
additional 164 calories per day, on average (11).
A few ways to obtain the benefits of cold exposure include
slightly lowering the temperature in your home, taking cold
showers and walking outside in cold weather.
Bottom Line: Exposure to cold temperatures
has been shown to stimulate brown fat activity, which
increases the number of calories you burn.
2. Drink Cold Water
Water is the best beverage choice for quenching thirst and
staying well hydrated.
Drinking water has also been shown to temporarily boost
metabolism in studies of normal and overweight adults and
children. What’s more, some studies suggest that you may be
able to maximize this effect by drinking cold water (12, 13, 14, 15, 16).
One group of researchers reported that 40% of this increase in
metabolic rate is a result of your body warming up the water to
body temperature (15).
However, the number of people studied was fairly small, and
additional research suggests that water’s effect on metabolic
rate may vary from person to person.
For instance, another study in healthy young adults found that
drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of cold water increased calorie
expenditure by only 4.5% for 60 minutes (17).
Bottom Line: Drinking cold water has been
shown to temporarily boost calorie burning. However, the
strength of this effect may vary by individual.
3. Chew Gum
Chewing gum has been shown to promote feelings of fullness and
reduce calorie intake at snacks (18).
In a small study, normal-weight men consumed meals on four
separate occasions. They burned significantly more calories
after meals when they chewed gum after eating (20).
In another study, when 30 young men and women chewed gum for 20
minutes after each meal, their metabolic rate was higher than
when they did not chew gum. In addition, it remained higher
after an overnight fast (21).
Make sure to choose sugar-free gum in order to get these
beneficial effects on metabolism and protect the health of your
Bottom Line: Chewing gum appears to increase
metabolic rate when consumed after meals or between meals.
4. Donate Blood
Donating blood may save the life of someone in need.
In addition, having your blood drawn increases the number of
calories you burn, at least temporarily.
According to online sources, researchers at the University of
California, San Diego found that donating one pint of blood
burned 650 calories, on average.
While the study isn’t available to verify this figure, a
substantial increase in calorie expenditure would make sense.
When you donate blood, your body uses energy to synthesize new
proteins, red blood cells and other blood components to replace
what has been lost.
Of course, donating blood isn’t something you can do every day.
In general, you need to wait at least eight weeks between blood
draws in order to replenish your blood supply.
Also, research suggests that donating blood may offer several
health benefits, including lowering inflammatory markers,
increasing antioxidant activity and reducing the risk of heart
disease (23, 24).
But most importantly, whenever you donate blood, you are
potentially saving lives.
Bottom Line: In addition to helping save
lives, donating blood temporarily increases the number of
calories you burn and provides other health benefits.
5. Fidget More
Exercising burns calories and helps you stay fit.
However, more subtle forms of physical activity can also boost
your metabolic rate. This concept is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which
Fidgeting involves moving body parts in a restless manner.
Examples include repeatedly bouncing a leg, tapping fingers on
a table and playing with rings.
In one study, people who fidgeted while seated or standing were
shown to burn five to six times more calories, on average, than
when they sat or stood still (25).
Another study found that people with the highest body weights
experienced the greatest increase in metabolic rate in response
to fidgeting and other types of non-exercise activity (26).
In some cases, NEAT can make a significant contribution to
daily calorie expenditure.
For instance, one group of researchers suggested that a
combination of fidgeting, walking and standing could burn up to
2,000 additional calories daily, depending on a person’s weight
and activity level (27).
Other ways to benefit from NEAT include taking the stairs,
standing desk and cleaning.
Bottom Line: Fidgeting has been shown to
increase the number of calories burned while sitting and
standing, especially in those who are overweight.
6. Laugh Often
They say laughter is the best medicine.
In addition, laughing also burns calories.
In one study, 45 couples watched movies that were either
humorous or serious. When they laughed during the funny movies,
their metabolic rate increased by 10–20% (33).
Although this isn’t very much, laughing on a regular basis is
still a great way to improve your overall health and make you
happier as well.