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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 10, 2012

Why You Shouldn’t Burn More Than 4,000 Calories a Week Through Exercise

By Mark Sisson
229 Comments

Everyone agrees that being sedentary is bad and unhealthy and that being active is good and healthy. The research agrees, too; regular physical activity leads to good health, longer lives, and an improved ability to function throughout normal life. When you’re able to walk to the store, carry your groceries home, take the stairs, get out of bed without struggling, pack enough lean mass to survive a stay in the hospital, and ride your bike when you want to, you’re a functional human being, and remaining active on a regular basis helps maintain this state so crucial to basic health and happiness.

But what’s often hidden amidst the blanket pro-exercise sentiment is that too much exercise can have the opposite effect on health – people can really take physical activity too far. I talk about this all the time, so much that you’ve probably got “Chronic Cardio” emblazoned across your brain and shake your head when you see some hapless soul in spandex and the latest runners heaving himself down the street, heel first. I know just how bad that stuff can be, because I did it for a large part of my life. You’ve all heard that story before, though, about how even though training cardio hard gets you “fitter” in one sense of the word, it’s actually counterproductive for a healthy long life (doubly so if you want to have some lean muscle mass and pain-free joints in your later years).

We’ve seen hints in studies over the years:

One recent study found that in overweight sedentary subjects, moderate exercise was more efficient at helping them burn body fat – including a reduction that was far greater than what could be explained by the caloric expenditure – while intense exercise induced a “compensatory” response that hampered fat loss.

Another study examined weekly caloric expenditure via aerobic exercise in a group of former athletes and non-athletes and plotted it against mortality, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Death rate was highest in groups 1 and 2, the ones with the least amount of caloric expenditure, but group 6 (along with 1), which expended 2,500+ calories per week, had the highest rates of heart disease and high blood pressure. Those who exercised moderately lived the longest and were healthiest.

In a study on the exercise habits of college alumni and their impact on mortality, researchers found that up to 3,500 calories expended per week conferred a survival benefit, but at calorie expenditures greater than that, mortality began to tick upwards.

And in a pair of recent studies, researchers found that moderate exercise – jogging up to 20 miles a week at an 11 minute mile pace – offered the most protection against early mortality. Running more than 20 miles a week, or running at a 7 minute mile pace, offered fewer mortality benefits. In the second paper, Danish scientists found that people who spent one to two and a half hours jogging at a “slow or average pace” lived longer than those who didn’t run at all or who ran at a faster pace. James O’Keefe, a cardiologist and presenter at the Ancestral Health Symposium, was quoted as saying that “after about 45 to 60 minutes a day, you reach a point of diminishing returns.”

It’s pretty clear that once exercise gets to be “too much,” the benefits are reduced, or even reversed, and it becomes a chronic stressor that reduces overall wellness.

And so I thought it’d be helpful to give you guys a guideline for determining just how much is too much. This is a guideline I’ve had great success with, whether I’m training myself or clients: no more than 4,000 calories expended through focused exercise per week.

Is this a hard and fast rule? No, not exactly. Going somewhat above is probably okay.

Is it concretely established in numerous studies? There are hints toward its veracity in the literature, but nothing explicit. This is mostly stuff gleaned through experience (but the research does bear it out).

Does it apply to everyone, everywhere, whatever their goals may be? No. Someone training for the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon is going to require more if they hope to compete.

But as a general rule for the general population, it really does work well as a guideline. Burning 4,000 calories through focused exercise appears to be the cut off point (yeah, you could go a bit under or over, but the point is that we need to draw the line somewhere) after which health – including immune function and oxidative stress load – and quality of life – including free time, energy levels, and productivity – begin to take hits. Your performance may increase, and this might be worth it to you if your goals are primarily performance-oriented, but there’s a trade off. Keith Norris often writes about this idea, calling it the health-performance curve. I’m inclined to agree with him.

So – what does 4,000 calories worth of expenditure in a week look like, exactly?

Well, the simplest way I’ve found to describe it is in terms of road miles. If you’re doing 40 miles a week running or 80 miles a week cycling, you’re hitting roughly 4,000 calories. We don’t just run or bike, of course. We lift weights, we circuit train, we engage in metabolic conditioning, we row, we wrestle, we hike, we sprint, we box, we swim.

You could use an online calculator like FitDay or ExRx to get a better idea. For a 185 pound, 6 foot tall person to burn just around 4,000 calories a week, he could get away with:

  • Running six miles.
  • Lifting weights intensely for two hours total.
  • Biking 13 miles.
  • Playing an hour and a half of field sports (soccer, rugby, football, Ultimate).

That’s a pretty solid week of activity, I’d say, but it certainly isn’t excessive, and it would provide a far more well-rounded sense of fitness than just pounding away at the road for 40 miles. Feel free to use the (admittedly imperfect) tools linked above to figure out what your regular caloric expenditure looks like.

Not all activity “counts” toward your caloric expenditure. Taking a 30-minute stroll to the store doesn’t count as focused work. Taking a 60-minute hike up in the hills does. Going for a nice relaxing ride on the bike around the neighborhood doesn’t count, but doing twenty miles in a single day does. Carrying the groceries from the car to the house doesn’t count; carrying the groceries from the store to the house just might, though. “You know it when you see it” applies here, so use your better judgment.

I’d also suggest that expending your calories through a variety of activities is “better” than expending them through a single activity. As shown above, lifting weights, going for a run, biking a bit, and playing sports is more fun and probably less stressful than expending all your calories through running, which is veering into Chronic Cardio territory. A calorie (expended) is not a calorie (expended).

Look – exercise as often and as intensely as it pleases you. Just be aware that, in my opinion (having looked at the literature and drawn from my own experience training myself and others), 4,000 calories of focused work per week is the cut off point after which health and happiness begin to suffer for most people. If you’re an athlete whose only job is to train, and you’re privy to massages and cutting edge recovery techniques and everything else, then you’ll be able to handle more work. You’ll be far fitter than the average person and thus better equipped to mitigate the oxidative fallout from excessive exercise. But for members of the general population who have to contend with the day-to-day stress of living in this world, getting up early to feed the kids and beat traffic, balancing exercise time with work time with family time with personal time, sneaking peeks at the latest blog post, hoping to get enough sleep to make it through the next day? You’re going to have a harder time recovering from the stress of a 4,000+ caloric expenditure to make it worth your while.

That’s it for today, folks. Let me hear what you have to say about this 4,000 calories a week guideline. Do you agree? Disagree? Wholeheartedly forsake everything that I henceforth write? Let me hear all about it!

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229 Comments on "Why You Shouldn’t Burn More Than 4,000 Calories a Week Through Exercise"

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Kevin C
Kevin C
3 years 11 months ago

I know the action of (tabata) sprinting doesn’t in and of itself burn many calories, but you’re supposed to continue burning through calories at a quicker pace than normal all the way through recovery.

Mark/anyone else, any insight on how sprinting should be accounted for in here? (eg. 8 sprints of 20 seconds followed by 10 second rests)

Clark
Clark
3 years 11 months ago

Hard to say. I think the calories expended during afterburn from things like Tabada protocol or interval workouts should fall in the “recovery” bucket instead of the “exercise” bucket.

Robin
3 years 11 months ago

The duration of a sprint workout should be regarded much the same as the duration of a weight training workout, high intensity with periods of rest, so the half hour spent on sprint workout is like half hour of intense training in the gym. Provided you really put effort into the sprints and don’t rest too long.

David D
David D
3 years 11 months ago

Just remember Aristotle–moderation in all things. He was ahead of his time! (By a few thousand years). Yet we still see the wisdom.

Ben Hirshberg
3 years 11 months ago

Moderation in all things…….including moderation!!

Sam
Sam
3 years 11 months ago

Re: “Moderation in all things…….including moderation!!”

Please, no “clever” sophistry.

Jeff
Jeff
3 years 11 months ago

I don’t really like that saying because it’s so easily misused.

Hey, how about a moderate amount of Doritos every day? Or could somebody smoke in moderation? How much is a moderate amount of cocaine?

Hmm, I don’t think so.

S. Else
S. Else
3 years 11 months ago

I think you’re looking at it backwards. ie. not to say “do a little of everything,” rather, “moderate the things you DO.”

If you’re going to smoke, better be it in moderation than excess!

Danielle Thalman
Danielle Thalman
3 years 11 months ago

I agree , people often use that saying as an excuse for poor health choices or as a way to diminish people who are trying to be mindful of their health.

NotApplicable
NotApplicable
3 years 11 months ago

You seem to be forgetting that “moderate” amounts include ZERO amounts.

In this case, to moderate, is to govern things within acceptable levels. For some things, that number is zero.

Like DavidD said, it’s pure wisdom.

Mr. Payne
Mr. Payne
2 years 4 months ago

It’s easy to take Aristotle out of context because moderation was not a virtue itself; it is a mode of his virtues like temperance and courage. In this case you would be talking about temperance.

Each virtue becomes a vice if it is exhibited in excess or deficiency.

katherine
katherine
7 months 28 days ago

Chewing coca leaves could well be considered a moderate amount of cocaine.

adam mansfield
4 months 3 days ago

the more i do the better i feel, the better my results, and the better my attitude is towards others and the outlook on my own life. i believe if u can do it do it.a fish is only as big as its environment. have to expand to grow

diablo135
diablo135
3 years 11 months ago

I don’t think the EPOC of Tabatas is nearly as high as you think. Yes, you will burn a few extra calories for a while when you are done, but it’s not like you are going to burn 4,000 more

James
James
3 years 11 months ago

The extra 2/3 of a 1/2 calorie burned through intervals are negligable compared to steady state aerobics. Any new fad has to be the opposite of the mainstream fad to gain a foothold. Three meals became six. Six meals became “intermittent fasting”. High volume, no! Low volume! Low fat, blah blah blah… low carb, blah organic blah paleo blah blah gluten free blah BLAH BLAH… each “expert” chiming in, or more accurately, cashing in. Hilarious. Alan Aragon must be pissing himself in amusement. Get out the popcorn… oh wait…

George
George
3 years 11 months ago

This makes my daily 16-mile round trip commuting through London bad for me then?

Damn!

Betorq
3 years 11 months ago

I disagree that daily leisurely walks don’t count. Whether its up a hill on a trail or up & down the paved streets, I sleep better & feel better when I walk daily. But I do other stuff too 4-5 days a week & “try” to take 2-3 days a week time off too to rest & restore my body. Sometimes I only get in 1-2 days of rest coz I’m busy/productive

Shary
Shary
3 years 11 months ago

It seems that more and more fitness buffs are turning up their noses at walking–erroneously so, IMO. Walking is excellent exercise, particularly if done in hilly areas. It gently moves almost every muscle in the body without much risk of injury. It’s also pleasant, relaxing, and promotes better health. On it’s own it might not make you an Olympics-caliber athlete, but it’s so much better than being a couch potato.

Willem
Willem
3 years 11 months ago

No, Mark’s not saying easy walking isn’t good for you; quit the oppositie. It’s a key part of the Primal Fitness Blueprint approach. He’s saying don’t worry about it counting towards “chronic cardio”.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 11 months ago

Speaking from plenty of personal experience, the farmer’s carry accomplishes wonders. I suspect especially so when you adjust the position of your arm to keep it feeling proper. The benefits include increased muscle tone and development and better arm mobility.

Alison Golden
3 years 11 months ago

Wow. That’s impressive. Hope the air quality’s okay.

Tom B-D
Tom B-D
3 years 11 months ago

Depends on if it’s swimming up the Thames, biking, or running headlong through the streets…

Barry
Barry
3 years 11 months ago

“Avoid trauma”…. Bloody hell, that’s a daily occurrence on that journey.
🙂 🙂

JMH
JMH
3 years 11 months ago

If you’re doing it every (work) day, your body will come to a homeostasis with it, eventually. As long as you’re not getting to work panting from exertion, it’s not hurting you, I shouldn’t think. If it doesn’t feel like work, count it like a walk. It’s great, but it’s not really work.

cis
cis
3 years 11 months ago

Yes, if nothing else because it’s in London! (hardly fresh, unpolluted air…)

Dr Jason
3 years 11 months ago

Don’t fret, I doubt you’re bursting into full sprints around town and you likely have to pause a great deal in the city. Mark is just saying that high mileage running, biking and swimming may not be healthy. It’s stressful. 16 miles of hard pushing it biking would be worse.

Colin
Colin
3 years 11 months ago

Great post Mark. I know that in the past I could tell when I had exceeded healthy amounts of exercise just by how my body reacted. For example, I used to play intense sports for several hours several hours a day, and I would inevitably reach a point where one day I just wouldn’t fully recover and knew a few days of rest were needed.

It’s amazing how much we can learn just from listening to our bodies, but this post is great for a more concrete outline.

Agnes
3 years 11 months ago
This is one aspect of the PB that I just can’t get on board with. I’m an athlete and have been training pretty hard since high school. Right now, I train for triathlon and play volleyball. I usually do one workout a day, either biking, swimming, or running, and some bodyweight strength training. And I always feel amazing afterwards! I feel even better on the days when I do two workouts, and I’m at my best when I’m cycle touring, doing anywhere from 70-100+ miles per day. I feel like when I’m working out, and working out hard, all other… Read more »
rob
rob
3 years 11 months ago

Same here, when I’ve been healthy I’ve always gone at it like a rabid wolverine, I figure I average 800 calories a day.

Only problem I have is over time it does tend to mess with my immune system, but other than that it’s the best part of my life, it’s the absolute last thing that I would cut back on.

Mimulus
Mimulus
3 years 11 months ago

I’m curious how old you are. i used to feel that way about training in my 20’s but now that I am in my 50s less is more. I am happy with a 35 mile ride biweekly.

Agnes
3 years 11 months ago

I’m 28. So maybe that’s why!

rob
rob
3 years 11 months ago

I am 50, I can’t push myself as mercilessly as I did when I was in my 20’s and 30’s but I can get in a morning run and weights in the afternoon.

I find I need to take a few days off every three months or so.

Shane
3 years 11 months ago

Do you think this could be a result of the stress relief associated with exercise? I have had quite a few clients who say exercise is a great stress reliever and they feel great but when it comes down to strength and energy system conditioning progress, they have stalled out.

Agnes
3 years 11 months ago
Yeah, I think it has a lot to do with that. The exercise just calms my mind and gives me this amazing life-is-so-awesome kind of feeling. It allows me to better focus on my work, I think partly because it seems to give life meaning for me. I know that sounds so cheesy, but that’s how I feel! I think part of it may also be that I don’t have any hard and fast goals when it comes to strength and conditioning. I mean, I want to be a faster swimmer, cyclist and runner, and I want to be a… Read more »
NotApplicable
NotApplicable
3 years 11 months ago

I notice that in all of the positives you list, longevity is not included. Sure you feel better today, but once you’ve burned up all of your youth, what will you have left to rely on?

It’s really just a matter of time preference and economics. Your perspectives all seem “now” oriented, so you’ve little reason to consider the benefits of economizing exercise to retain their benefits over a longer period of time.

Of course, this is merely my opinion based upon two brief posts of yours, so please don’t take offense.

cis
cis
3 years 11 months ago

Let’s talk again when you hit 50…

kem
kem
3 years 11 months ago

Talk again when you’re 60 like me. I think I’ll use this 4000 as a guideline, even if I have to convert it metric and SI…

Dr Jason
3 years 11 months ago

Remember as well, the life differences we’re talking about here may not be more than 5-8 years. If you bike all the time and love it and it takes you from 90 to 85 years life end, does it really matter in the long run?

Clark
Clark
3 years 11 months ago

I think you mean “does it really matter in the long bike?”, right? I’m just assuming.

NotApplicable
NotApplicable
3 years 11 months ago

Don’t forget about quality of life. If you die sooner from ill health, it will start affecting you long before it kills you. That 5-8 years of less living might equate to 20-30 MORE years of needless suffering.

Sofie
Sofie
3 years 11 months ago

“There’s no such thing as overexercise, just undereating and undersleeping.”

palo
palo
3 years 11 months ago

If 4,000 weekly exercise calories is the maximum recommended, what would be the minimum weekly exercise calories?

Amy
Amy
3 years 11 months ago

that was the 1st Question in my head when I read this article! 4000 cals a week? no way! minimum effort for maximum results, that’s my motto. lol

My guess is that the PB workout schedule Mark describes in his book is the bare minimum for good results, whatever calorie expenditure that gets you to. that is my working assumption. Tim Ferris also has some interesting ideas on the subject of less is more.

Kevin
Kevin
3 years 11 months ago

Funny you should mention Ferriss. I just finished the 4 Hour Workweek, and his suggested application of the 80/20 principle alone made it worth the read.

In terms of exercise, I’ve decreased the volume of workouts while fine tuning some lifestyle/dietary habits, and wow, my schedule is suddenly open and I no longer find myself lugging around the psychic baggage of anticipating a difficult workout all day long.

Alison Golden
3 years 11 months ago

Every day, I see this heavy guy slapping his feet down on the road, with this slow, rhythmic sound. Round and round the block he goes. One day, I’m going out there, push him in the chest to stop and shout ‘Dude, you’re doing it all wrong!”

rob
rob
3 years 11 months ago

Have you considered that he might enjoy this activity?

Mark
3 years 11 months ago

I assure you he doesn’t. He does it cus he thinks it will burn the fat away.

rob
rob
3 years 11 months ago

And you know this how?

It is impossible for a human to enjoy physical activity for its own sake?

Nothing inherently rewarding from it?

Boy people here sure know a lot of stuff.

Shane
3 years 11 months ago

Hey may enjoy it, but his joints won’t.

KG
KG
3 years 11 months ago

If he feels good about himself about doing it, who are you to judge? He’s out there trying hard to make himself a healthier person–at least he’s not sitting on his keester in front of a television. Cut the guy some slack, you have to start somewhere.

rob
rob
3 years 11 months ago

For all we know that morning jog is the best part of his life, the thing he looks forward to every single day and makes everything else worthwhile.

He runs around the block, I run along the waterfront, not everyone has a scenic vista available to him.

Mike
Mike
3 years 11 months ago

If he enjoyed it, he’d be better at it (no slapping feet).
I see that all the time, people running out of a sense of obligation. They look uncomfortable at any pace. Then there are others who make it look a lot more effortless and probably do enjoy it.

rob
rob
3 years 11 months ago

Thank you for telling the people of the world how they should run, really coming from you it means a great deal.

sarahemily
sarahemily
3 years 11 months ago

you should ask him how the running is going for him and then suggest he visits marksdailyapple 😛

rob
rob
3 years 11 months ago

Yes because it is impossible for him to enjoy physical activity for its own sake, impossible for a human to take joy in physical activity.

Kitty =^..^=
Kitty =^..^=
3 years 11 months ago

Alison – take a plate full of bacon out for the poor guy!

David
David
3 years 11 months ago

Alison you can push my chest… but I make sure to arch my feet and have some running form … actually as a heavy guy I swim and lift and spin alot more than run… when I am lighter I will get back to running… right now walking hills at a good pace sounds good…. already calculated my 4k Cals in my daily routines .. thanks Mark for the guidelines … I like them and good reasoning for the limitations… quality material … thanks !

Nickie
3 years 11 months ago

Very informative and helpful, thanks! I’ll be sharing with my running/workout friends. (Already did once!)

Jason B.
Jason B.
3 years 11 months ago

Mark, you should offer a class or figure out a way to get a “Primal Fitness” Certification program started. I follow your work to the letter of the law, and all of your blog posts are incredibly informative. I’d be one of the first people to sign up to be a Primal Fitness/Lifestyle Certified Instructor. Great post!

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 11 months ago

I partially emulate Mark’s plan. If you want similar results as someone it’s probably wise to model some of their behavior.
I usually start the day with as much coffee as I feel like (sometimes none) and occasionally sweeten it. I prefer to use blackstrap molasses. That way I get a dose of minerals including potassium with the coffee and sugar. I think it helps maintain a good electrolyte balance.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 11 months ago

When I sweeten coffee I usually use cinnamon to reduce blood sugar spikes and get more antioxidants.

Jeremy
Jeremy
3 years 11 months ago

If you want to tip-toe through life and play it safe, never reaching for greatness, and are more comfortable with the rewards of low risk, then this is the plan for you.

Jenny
Jenny
3 years 11 months ago

Not everybody has maximum athletic “greatness” as a primary goal. There’s no reason to be so smug about it.

Joy Beer
Joy Beer
3 years 11 months ago
AGREE. I deeply appreciated what Mark pointed out about normal lives: the waking early to feed the kids, rush to work, etc. My life is jam-packed with single motherhood to a small child and a 50+ hour/week job. It has been a sweet relief to not have professional athlete standards for basic fitness and health since there are no massages or doctors to help me. My greatness is achieved by the fact that I manage all of this taking care of others and yet keeping myself basically together. I love the common sense and kindness to self available to my… Read more »
Rella
Rella
3 years 11 months ago

Joy, beautifully said. +1
Mark stressed repeatedly that this is an approach for the average Grok/Grokette.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 11 months ago

Jeremy’s comment sounded smug to me as well but it reads logically.

NotApplicable
NotApplicable
3 years 11 months ago

Well, except for the “greatness” part (a wholly subjective standard of measure).

Myself, I’ll feel pretty great outliving all of the smug athletes who would trade their most precious commodity (time) for a bit of athletic glory.

Mark
Mark
2 years 7 months ago

I think people are greatly overestimating the decrease in life expectancy, especially as applied to any specific person. If I run 50 miles a week, will I really die 5-10 years earlier?

I don’t think so, but you can believe that if it makes you feel superior to me for enjoying some longer runs.

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Sara in Brooklyn
Sara in Brooklyn
3 years 11 months ago

Any hints for adjusting this – I weigh about 2/3 what your theoretical 185lb. fella does… Should I be thinking in terms of 2/3 the time, the ‘calories’, the road miles….? Will it basically adjust automatically because it ‘costs’ me fewer calories to haul myself around?

Oy, I’m talking about calories.

Also – when you say stuff like walking around doesn’t count – you mean it doesn’t count for purposes of this cutoff, right? It still ‘counts’ toward making us generally happier, perkier, etc…. right?

Idamonster
Idamonster
3 years 5 months ago

This is what I would like to know too. For me (36yrs, 120lbs, female), I would need to do 11 hours of intense weightlifting to burn around 4000kcals.

If it’s 4000 for 185lb, that’s about 2600 for 120lb… not allowing for gender or age.

E
E
3 years 11 months ago

Did those studies control for food in? I would imagine the average person at super high levels of activity is eating more and likely eating more higher carb foods, including all of those nasty in-activity gels, blocks and other forms of corn syrup.

I’m curious if a sample exercising at 4,000+ calories/week but making it up with high quality fat and protein would see the same ill effects.

DenverD
DenverD
3 years 11 months ago

I am also curious about this. In the summer, I bike a lot but I don’t eat a ton of carb-y foods.

Mark Cruden
Mark Cruden
3 years 11 months ago
Good post. More isn’t always better. I’m in much better shape now (at 52) than I was at 30 when I used to run 10km almost every day. Now I sprint twice per week and lift weights three times per week. Love all my walks, the occasional bike ride, kayaking, skiing, etc. I used to stress-out if I missed a run, now I just “go with the flow”. Having said that, you have to do what makes you happy. I know guys and gals who go to the gym 6 or 7 days per week for an hour plus and… Read more »
Deanna
3 years 11 months ago

I understand that for the example given above, 4,000 calories isn’t a lie of activity, but for a 120 pound woman, burning that much takes more work. Does that mean women need more activity, or does it mean that we should be more on the “lower or under” side of 4,000?

Katie
Katie
3 years 11 months ago

I was wondering the same thing. I’m 5’4 and under 110, and it would take considerably more effort for me to burn that much vs a somewhat overweight man. Is the 4000 calories scaled down in my case or is it static?

pam
pam
3 years 7 months ago

i’m wondering the same thing.

cause i have no idea what 4000 is for a woman. 161 cm, 47.5 kg -> 5’3″, 105 lb.

fitday says brisk walk or slow run 250 – 350 cal/hr.

if we use the avg. (300 cal/hr) for moderate exercise,

=> 13.3 hr/week, yes?

Margaret
Margaret
3 years 11 months ago
I totally agree with this article. In fact, I think that less is more. I used to run 5 or 6 miles 6 to 7 days each week and became worn down and low energy. My immune system and energy levels were also depleted and I was constantly craving sugar and carbs. Now I exercise about 4-5 times a week doing a combination of things from gym work outs, running and hiking. I am already starting to feel much better and actually weigh a couple lbs, less because I am not constantly binging on sugar and carbs to make up… Read more »
Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 11 months ago
Watching squirrels has contributed to my agreement with this mindset. Sometimes they sprint; sometimes they almost hobble. I think some of them enjoy entertaining people. I was meditatively sitting on a log above a steep forested incline this past week when a very muscled fit looking squirrel scurried near and clung to a tree trunk on the side exposed to me. It looked at me and looked happy. It moved its head. Then faster than I could see clearly it jumped backwards, turned, vaulted over a dead stick that seemed very precarious, passed some brush somehow, got to another tree… Read more »
Farmgal
Farmgal
3 years 11 months ago
Wow, this is really food for thought. I am in my late 50’s and don’t think I burn anything close to 4000 calories per week. I don’t do any formal exercise, but I farm on a small place and do a lot of walking and hauling. I am the most muscular I have ever been in my life, and for the first time in more than 25 years, feel like my weight is under control and stable. I’m not sure what to do with this post since my life seems to be working as it is, but I don’t want… Read more »
Heather
Heather
3 years 11 months ago

I’m with you farmgal!
I have a small farm, in my fifties, and walk everywhere, using a wheel barrow instead of a ute and mustering stock on foot instead of a motor bike. I hate formal exercising, hate jogging, but love to look for functional exercise, the above, digging in the garden, working around the farm. Horses for courses, reading this article made me feel a bit glum, as 4,000 calories on all that stuff a week is just a pipe dream for me!
Cheers

Greg
Greg
3 years 11 months ago
Don’t sell yourselves short, Ladies. I have no doubt at all that if you are working the way you say you are, you are burning way over 4000 cals/week. Do a little Googling when you’re not busy hauling crap around and feeding animals. I’m sure you’ll find you are putting out tons of calories because your heart rate is constantly moderately elevated, and sometimes quite elevated. Lifting things and moving them around, for example, is surprisingly effective at raising one’s heart rate. Just for context, My RHR is about 64, and I regularly get it over 175 when I do… Read more »
Idamonster
Idamonster
3 years 5 months ago

It’s still not 4000 or anywhere near though. I calculated that I would need to do 11 hours of intense weightlifting to burn 4000 calories.

NJ Paleo
NJ Paleo
3 years 11 months ago
I think the “4000 calories” limit is just a guideline. Obviously, an 185 pound guy is going to burn more calories doing the same activity as I, a 125 lb woman, would do. For me to burn 4,000 calories a week I would have to run quite a bit farther than our 185 lb guy. Anyway, I find that I feel at my best, and get sick less often, when I do CrossFit 3 times a week and run 4 days a week (20-30 miles per week total). It’s a better balance for my body than running 40-50 miles per… Read more »
Steve Borek
3 years 11 months ago

Interesting. Since I mostly run, I’ll need to see what 4K calories looks like.

Jen H
Jen H
3 years 11 months ago
I’ve gone primal since Jan 2012 – lost over 61 lbs (started at 308lbs), started at size 26 – shrunk to a 16 and I LOVE this way of life! I bike 15-20 miles a day 5 times a week…I couldn’t bike more than 2 mins when I first started. I’ve also started leisurely lap swimming for 20 minutes 3 times a week…I couldn’t even go down to the other side of the pool when I first started. I do about 15 mins of strength training 3 times a week…I started everything on 10lbs and went up from there. I… Read more »
Clark
Clark
3 years 11 months ago
Good for you. Very admirable on the weight loss. It sounds like it’s too much to me, regardless of whether you’re overweight or not. 60 minutes of leisurely swimming + 6 hours of biking every week is a little high, even if you’re at low intensity. PB fitness recommends 3-5 hrs per week of low intensity movement (55-75% max heart rate). I’d dial back those rides. But keep the swimming! The strength training is great as long as it’s full body functional movements! Modified pullups, pushups, squats, situps, stuff like that. Not bicep curls or stuff that’s too specific to… Read more »
Animanarchy
Animanarchy
3 years 11 months ago

Sprinting makes the difference between ogres and trolls.

Julie
3 years 9 months ago

Undeniably believe that which you steatd. Your favorite reason appeared to be at the internet the simplest thing to remember of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while folks consider concerns that they plainly do not understand about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the entire thing without having side-effects , other folks could take a signal. Will likely be again to get more. Thanks!

Ninaneil
Ninaneil
3 years 11 months ago

Sprint training is my preferred ‘running’ modality. It embraces both the moderation and hard-work principles.

I’m not a runner but the sprint intervals I do helped me a) lose fat and b) gain and maintain muscle all through my bod the past 5 years.

I recommend it especially for those of us that hate the thought of running for hours and miles on end. Marathons aren’t for everyone or for everyone’s personality.

And sprinting has saved my knees…just be sure to warm up. Quad and ham tears if you’re stupid!!

Tracy
Tracy
3 years 11 months ago

Isnt a leisurely ride round the neighbourhood and a stroll to the store moving frequently at a slow pace? No mention again of “natural” exercise, working in the garden, chopping wood etc as well as taking the stairs instead of the lift etc and just trying to incorporate more natural movement and exertion into your daily life.

Wildrose
Wildrose
3 years 11 months ago

Sounds sensible. Of course, at the moment I’m quite sedentary due to a foot injury. Oh well, c’est la vie!

Lizzy
Lizzy
3 years 11 months ago

I see the validity of this argument. You’re certainly not encouraging a couch potato mentality – just explaining that trying to train like a full time athlete while balancing other responsibilities can just cause unecessary wear and tear. If the body likes moderate amounts of just about everything else, why would immoderation suddenly apply to exercise?

MadMav
MadMav
3 years 11 months ago

While the wife trains for her 2nd Ironman,I will train for my 2nd Ironman spectator race.

My goal of sprints to the hotel to grab another handful of primal trail mix and an apple are progressing at an amazingly moderate pace.

Shauna
3 years 11 months ago

This made me giggle. I hope you both kick butt, respectively 🙂

steadFAST
steadFAST
3 years 11 months ago

X2!

Lauren
3 years 11 months ago

Haha, yeah, being kinda small anyway, I don’t think I would burn 4000 calories of exercise a week, just because I wouldn’t care enough to do all that!

Gorge Rider
Gorge Rider
3 years 11 months ago

I’m wondering how much of the increased mortality with quantity (i.e. calories) and intensity (like running pace) is due to the acute stress associated with mouth breathing? I’ve been experimenting with 100% nasal breathing, and have managed to exceed my PR on a local hill climb after an initial performance decline. The PR happened with lower heart rate, and lower breath rate (deeper breathing). I also recover way faster when 100% nasal.

Any thoughts on this, or nasal breathing in general?

Danni
Danni
3 years 11 months ago

I think this is one of those things where if running too many miles is your biggest health problem, you’re probably doing pretty well…

Pete k
Pete k
3 years 11 months ago
I do a 2 on 1 off exercise regime, 1 day high tempo weight circuit the next day 45 min hard cycle then one rest day on average according to my fat secret I burn 500 Cal’s per session That’s 3000 cals over an 8 day period I never feel over trained and have energy for my other activities At the age of 48 I have gone from about 205lbs to 167 in 5 months. See my post in the success stories forum photos etc. I am thinking of training every other day soon but I enjoy it and I… Read more »
Jo
Jo
3 years 11 months ago

Mark, I love you; and I do get the general idea and it’s good, but:
I do not have a good idea what 4000 kcals of exercise “looks like” from this. I don’t count calories of food, and I can’t count calories of exercise. At least give us another example, such as for an average woman. That would be helpful.

John R Morley
John R Morley
3 years 11 months ago

…Pleasant Good Day!…I would say that promedades do have some real benefits like: physic and physio. I do agree with you on the ‘4,000cal limit. Blessings!!!

Tony
Tony
3 years 11 months ago
I have the same question as others. Is there an adjustment for baseline caloric needs? As others have asked, the 185 pound man is going to need more calories than the 120 pound woman and less than the 220 pound man. So I’m wondering is their a rule of thumb based on daily caloric needs? Just a raw figure based on ratio of weights indicates the 120 pound woman would be about 2/3rds of the 4K or approximately 2600 calories, while the 220 pound man might be allowed 4750 calories in weekly exercise. According to my MyZone device, a 30-35… Read more »
Shari
Shari
3 years 11 months ago

Being the wife of a 50 year old cyclist that rides easly 40+ miles on a daily basis,and used to run 10 miles on a daily basis, I’ve always thought that his immune system gets compromised easily. He catches colds much easier than I do, and since he races/raced in both sports, he’s put it a lot of miles to be competitive. This helps my case!

Jeremy Creed
Jeremy Creed
3 years 11 months ago

I don’t think you needed this article to back up your theory. I’m sure all you have to do is look at him with his shirt off and know he’s in bad shape. My guess is you have more lean mass than him. Muscles aren’t a bad thing and mr bones needs to start realizing that.

TJ
3 years 11 months ago

Mark,

I have struggled all my life with my weight and i am at my wit’s end. I JUST did the math on my caloric burn per week last saturday and I just dont know what to do anymore. I am capable of burning 14cal/min for 50-60min. 11 cal/min if you include cool downtime, stretch time and shower time. Usually that takes another 40 minutes. If I total up the week, it usually adds up to about 6000 cal week. What am I doing wrong? I dont eat THAT excessively. I need advice.

Anon
3 years 11 months ago

Have you read any of the research done by Dr. Robert Lustig? Check out this video series (this is the link for the first of 7 short episodes).

http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.aspx?showID=23305

In terms of exercise, I believe that less is more. But being consistent with the “less” is the key. Go easy on our joint systems and focus on continually correcting/improving our bio-mechanics of movement as opposed to focusing on time or distance.

As a result of this approach my skills are constantly improving as is my speed; though I’m not even trying to go faster. It’s been a very interesting experiment.

Debbie
Debbie
3 years 11 months ago

What is your feeling about interval training, such as one minute intense, one minute relaxed, and so forth, for 20 minutes? I have read that this kind of workout a few times a week is extremely beneficial as opposed to “chronic cardiac.”

jim
jim
3 years 11 months ago

Doing High Intensity Interval Training about once per week is what Mark recommends, mixed with low intensity walks, biking, etc. It does work.

Brian
3 years 11 months ago

This is yet another study showing that we (Humans) were not built for constant stressful, strenuous activity. I am with Mark 100%. Even just a few years ago when these concepts were not in vogue, I decided to start weight training twice a week, instead of the usually recommended 3-6 days. I got better results as I was more recovered. And, I had a lot more time out of the gym. I was very happy to see Mark, and a few others preach this less is more concept.

Rory
Rory
3 years 11 months ago
I wonder if this isn’t misleading. Its not that I have any research to counteract the 4000 calories per week hypothesis, its just that there seems to be many endurance athletes who thrive when doing more. I personally know of ex pro cyclists who would have covered a lot of miles through their careers, and after retirement kept a fair amount per week, and at the age of 73/ 74 are in great shape. They could pass for 60. I wonder if its a case of just getting enough rest when you engage in high amounts of cardio ? I… Read more »
jim
jim
3 years 11 months ago

I am 63 yrs old and have practiced Mark’s exercise and nutritional plan for about 8 months. I have trained most of my life. Now, my workouts are shorter, but more productive. I have added muscle, reduced fat, lost inches from my waist and gained on my chest and arms. Do not let anyone suggest that age is a limiting factor in the results achievable using this program!

Ben There
Ben There
3 years 11 months ago
Always nice to have something simplified and Mark does that for us. I don’t suspect it is intended to be taken literally for ALL individuals. “your individual result will vary”… I have been where Mark has been and at 60 + years know what it feels like when you ran or cross country skied for an hour a day for 30 plus years every day!! And averaged two to three hours a day doing hard effort work outs. Talk about Chronic! So I am paying a bit of a price for that past performance. Exercise is still important and “hard… Read more »
Marcia
Marcia
3 years 11 months ago

I’m not sure I’ve ever really come close to that number as a short female, even when training for a half marathon. My max mileage per week was probably 20 miles, so 2000 calories or so.

Now with an infant and a six year old, I do even less. Three days of strengthening (15-20 mins per day). Two days of intervals (15-20 min). One day of a spin class (40 min), and one day either walking or swimming.

Oliver
Oliver
3 years 11 months ago

Does this 4000 calories apply for athletic children and growing teenagers?

Karma
3 years 11 months ago

Mark, I know what you mean about overtraining. I used to burn well more than 4000/week. I would train 15 hours a day, 7 days a week for years. And all that did for me was land me in the hospital repeatedly. It takes me a while to learn. lol

rob
rob
3 years 11 months ago

15 hours a day of training?

That left you 9 hours for everything else, how did you manage it? Even if you only slept 4 hours per day, that leaves you with 5 hours for everything else.

Brian
Brian
3 years 11 months ago

The reason it’s counterproductive to burning fat because your body starts release cortisol. So if you are doing too much, your body stops burning fat. From a composiiton standpoint, you’re getting fatter and losing muscle.

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Jeff D
Jeff D
3 years 11 months ago

I think it makes sense, but how do you figure it for people significantly above the norm. I’m overweight now but when I’ve been in great shape I’m pushing 240 lbs (at 6’3)

My guess is 5000 would be a better guide for me doing the exact same activities Mark lists at the end of the article.

Eric James
3 years 11 months ago

Very sound advice – i believe way to many of us over train especially those not in “sport specific training – While not enough emphasis goes into proper eating lifestyle. I would also make the correlation that if loosing 2 lbs a week seems reasonable you could extrapolate that of that choloric adjustment appropriating about 50% to activity/exercise and 50% to caloric reduction that you would theoretically would come to the support of this 4K expenditure conclusion

Suze
3 years 11 months ago

I believe dancing should be included in any healthy activity. It is a time-honored remedy for ailments. (think traditional healers) Plus, if you are doing it with joy, it’s a whole lotta fun! It is my firm belief that any of these activities if done with joy have value added! Thanks Mark for bringing another thoughtful topic. Now let’s dance!!

Wayne
Wayne
3 years 11 months ago
hmmm. I tend to run four days out of the week. Of late they have been 3 mile runs paced around 6:30/mi. Being on a very physically active night crew schedule has left me wanting to spend less time on my feet; however, even when I run 5+ miles I tend to still push a 7:00/mi. I don’t like to take it easy. 7:30/mi is my relax pace. Can this, over a prolonged time, affect vascular or arterial health or elasticity/internal organs/heart rhythm or vigor? I am about 175lbs, 22 years of age, and generally have prehypertension during systole (avg… Read more »
Foxygodzi
Foxygodzi
3 years 11 months ago
Wow,I guess this is just what I needed to read…After years of chronic cardio (90 mins. plus most days, sometimes 3-4 hours), I’ve started cutting back as there are more and more signs that my immunity is suffering, including a low wbc count. I also used to crave sweets and nuts with the outmost intensity. There were days when I’d eat 3-4 lbs of nuts in the space of a few hours! Right now I do 45 mins. spinning twice a week, intense crosfit type training 3 times, weights 3 times. Apart from that I cycle arond 45-50 mins. 5… Read more »
Harpsinger
Harpsinger
3 years 11 months ago

I just left a 70-hour-work-week-job, to find more balance in my life… including to re-introduce a regular exercise program back in! (I’ve stayed on-board with a more primal way of eating, Thank God!) In light of this, I truly find it a comfort — and a relief! – to be reminded here that the opposite extreme (too Much hard exercise) is neither helpful nor productive for the 53 year old non-athlete that I’ve become! This is a Great time for me to hear Mark’s words on Exercise Moderation for the general public. Thanks, Mark!

Jim
Jim
3 years 11 months ago

I started the Primal workout back in early July and promptly snapped my Achilles tendon in the 2nd series of sprints. I used to fall into the Chronic Cardio zone, running 30+ miles a week, so I probably overdid it transitioning back to sprints (I was a 400M sprinter 34 years ago). I’ve had 2 Orthopedists tell me that sprints should be out due to a bad lower back and now the Achilles repair, so I guess I’ll be looking for alternatives to burn my 4K calories a week.

sher
sher
3 years 11 months ago
Most people generally over-estimate how many calories they are burning. I am fitness pro teaching 15 classes per week. I average 150 -400 calories per class depending on format which ranges from senior fitness to hard core cycle classes. Even at this level if I average 250/class this only takes me to 3750/wk. My point being, the average grok does not need to worry about this. I also have my own fitness plan going on which probably adds another 1000 calories per week. I rarely experience signs of over-training (repressed immune function, insomnia, joint pain) I am 52 and plan… Read more »
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