Fibion Blog • Daily energy expenditure is the most influential component of daily energy expenditure hamburger • Arto Pesola
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Daily energy expenditure is the most influential component of daily energy expenditure hamburger

Daily energy expenditure is the most influential component of daily energy expenditure hamburger

Our energy expenditure consists of basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of food, non-exercise activity energy expenditure and exercise energy expenditure. Basal metabolic rate is affected by body size, gender, age and some illnesses. A larger body expends more energy, and basal metabolic rate decreases while we age. Moreover, thermic effect of food is the energy expended to digest food, and is rather constant at 10% of total daily energy expenditure. During daily life we cannot considerably affect our basal metabolic rate and thermic effect of food directly with our behavior.

Let’s examine the energy equation from the perspective of energy expenditure. The number of adults participating in recreational physical activity is larger than ever before. According to questionnaires the number of adults that participate in recreational physical activity at least twice per week has increased from approximately 40 % to 70 % in the last 30 years. However, the exercise energy expenditure forms only about 5%-25% of our total physical activity energy expenditure. The reasons for this small contribution are that people exercise only occasionally, typically a couple of times per week for a short time, and still many people do not engage in recreational exercise at all.

The daily physical activity, that is sitting versus moving around, form the basis for population level energy expenditure.

Expending energy includes a lot more than just recreational exercise. Researchers in the USA asked approximately 10000 people what they do during a 24-hour period. Subjects reported all of their activity from driving a car to cleaning their house, and exercising. To the researchers’ surprise, they found that exercise made up only a small portion of daily energy expenditure. If you exercise at moderate intensity twice a week, your average energy expenditure for that week is approximately 100 kcal per day. Furthermore, exercise explained only 5% of the difference in daily energy expenditure between people of the same size.

If you do not exercise, increasing your daily energy expenditure is completely at the mercy of your daily physical activity. Don’t worry; there is still hope! Daily physical activity actually accounted for a whopping 95% of the difference in daily energy expenditure between people of the same size. The truth is that the difference between two individuals’ daily energy expenditure can be up to 2000 kcal, which is equal to the number of kilocalories found in four Big Mac hamburgers!

For an individual, it may be easier to start a physically active lifestyle with light intensity daily activities, than to engage in running exercise regularly.

Here is an example: household chores accounted for 20 % and 33 % of the differences between men’s and women’s daily energy expenditure, respectively. Some Dutch researchers gathered a number of studies together in which daily activity and expenditure were measured with accurate measurement devices. The researchers found that low-intensity activity accounted for the vast majority of energy expenditure in a large population while high-intensity exercise barely had an effect on energy expenditure in the same population. Mopping the floors and vacuuming may have a greater importance in the energy hamburger than actual exercise. Has something happened in our level of daily physical activity in the last decades?

Do not get me wrong: recreational exercise is probably the most important thing you can do for your health. However, at the population level many people don’t exercise. The daily physical activity, that is sitting versus moving around, form the basis for population level energy expenditure. For an individual, it may be easier to start a physically active lifestyle with light intensity daily activities, than to engage in running exercise regularly.

Arto Pesola
Arto Pesola

Everyday Activity Scientist

Partner

Fibion Inc.

PhD in Exercise Physiology, Author of the 'Revolution of Natural Exercise' book

Some years ago, I was asked about my future plans. Without much of thinking I replied: “I want to make the world a better place where people don’t need to sit so much”. This spontaneous answer was the leading light to finish my PhD degree and forward to new business opportunities in health technology aiming at making life healthier - with less sitting. For my blog posts, I have used material from my book "Luomuliikunnan vallankumous" (engl. The revolution of everyday activity) (Fitra 2014).



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