Does Reading Burn Calories? [Can It Help Lose Weight!]

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Many of your friends are probably in the gym or hiking somewhere when you as a “book addict” sit and read your book at home. But, isn’t book reading also a type of exercise? (mental one at least) You may be wondering if reading books can account for any calorie reduction or weight loss?

On average, reading a book burns about 95 calories in one hour. However, the rate at which you burn calories when reading is, unfortunately, not enough to cause weight loss.

In this article, we’ll try and determine to what degree reading contributes to the burning of calories. We’ll also compare reading’s calorie consumption with activities like watching TV and thinking hard and then give some tips on how to utilize reading’s ability to burn calories.

Do You Burn Calories While Reading?

You burn calories when you are reading. Reading and other brain-centered mental tasks like writing and even thinking, affect the way the brain consumes energy. And the consumption of energy means the burning of calories.

According to Marcus Raichle, neurologist, and professor of neurobiology at Washington University in St Louis the brain represents just 2% of a person’s total body weight, but it accounts for 20% of the body’s energy use. It is accepted by dieticians and researchers that you burn calories when you read.

But, unfortunately, it is minimal and not enough to let you lose weight.

How Many Calories Do You Burn When Reading?

a girl reading a book while standing in a library

It is a fact that you burn calories just to be alive – to breathe and just “exist” burn calories. Non-physical mental actions like reading also burn calories.

When you sit and read a book for about 1 hour and 30 minutes you on average burn 150 calories. This is about 1.66 calories per minute. When you walk while reading you burn more calories, but that is as a result of the extra physical action of the walking.

It makes more sense if you think about reading and walking the other way round. If you are a frequent walker, take a book with you next time you are taking your stroll and read while you walk. You will burn more calories without expanding your exercise time.

Can Reading Make You Lose Weight?

Generally speaking, reading on its own does not make you lose weight. To burn one pound, you need to read about 5-6 hours every day for 7 days while ensuring you don’t increase your diet. On the contrary, running at a comfortable pace of 5-6 mph can help you burn 500 calories in about an hour!

You need to burn 3,500 calories more than the number of calories you’ve taken in to lose one pound of weight. This means that on average you have to reduce your calories by 500 calories per day to lose one pound in a week.

To burn 500 calories per day by reading alone, you’ll have to read for at least 5 to 6 hours every day for 7 days a week. That is a lot of reading to lose one pound!

On the contrary, running can easily help you burn about 8 to 10 calories a minute. That’s nearly 5-6 times more than the number of calories you burn while reading!

Related Article – 21 Benefits of Reading Regularly [Here’s Why We Should All Read!]

Furthermore, when you read for that long, you usually start feeling hungry, and you are more likely to munch on something and add more calories than you have burned!

But there is good news as well. You can add to the calories burnt when you read while walking, or exercise on your treadmill.

Does the Brain Burn More Calories When We Think Harder?

Normal functioning of the brain burn calories and yes, when you are thinking harder you burn more calories. But unfortunately, just as with reading, the calories burnt are minimal. It’s not enough to let you lose weight.

Remember, your brain is an organ and not a muscle. Physical exercise can grow your muscles, which makes them burn more calories. This doesn’t apply to organs, including the brain. Your organs are not expanding and use more calories in the process.

The calories burnt by organs derive from the activity taking place at that moment.

So, if your daily activities involve hard thinking for most of the time, like complex ideas to be organized and analyzed, your brain burns more calories.

Also, if you have to use brain functions like imagining possible outcomes, making important decisions, and evaluating work procedures more energy is needed and more calories are burnt.

But the brain, like all other organs, hasn’t “grown” larger and keeps on burning more calories because of that – it only consumes calories when it is used.

Unfortunately, if you are solely dependent on mental tasks to burn calories, you’d need to exert yourself for many hours.

Does Reading Burn More Calories Than Watching TV?

Generally speaking, you burn more calories when reading a book than when you are sitting and watching TV. On average you’ll burn 150 calories when you read for 1 hour and 45 minutes. To burn the same amount of calories just by watching TV, you’ll have to spend about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Interesting, you will also burn 150 calories if you sleep for 2 hours 30 minutes. So, you don’t burn more calories when watching TV than when you are sleeping. But you burn about 2 times the calories when you are reading a book.

Since your brain runs off pure glucose, you’ll burn up more of the carbohydrates you’ve eaten while reading than when you eat your late-night snack while watching your favorite talk show on TV.

How to Burn More Calories When Reading?

Man reading a book on a treadmill while walking and exercising

You can burn more calories when reading if you combine the reading activity with other more physical activities. You can for instance read while

  • “Stretching your legs” by walking around in your home;
  • Taking a stroll around the block or in the nearby park;
  • Walking along the beach;
  • Exercising on your treadmill or training bicycle.
  • Exercising while listening to an audiobook instead of reading

By combining reading with physical activities you are not really burning more calories as a result of your reading, but you add to the calories burnt during your physical activities without adding any more time.   

Another way to increase the burning of calories when you are reading is to add other mental activities. You can do that by

  • Making notes of what you are reading;
  • Rethinking every chapter after you’ve read it – finding the essence of the chapter;
  • Finding the relation between the chapter and the previous chapters;
  • Imagining what you think the outcome of the story will be.

About the Author

Akansha is a former business journalist and a seasoned communications professional. She is the founder of TheBookBuff, an avid storyteller, and a lifelong biblophile! Check out her profile page to know more about Akansha.

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