Learn to Burn Off Your Favorite Treats

Can You Make Up for That Weak Moment With Exercise?

By John Casey
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

The Italians have a saying about pasta: "A second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips." If the reality of exercise physiology isn't quite that simple, it's not far off, either.

Every calorie you eat that your body doesn't need for energy or to maintain bodily processes will likely be stored as fat. And those high-fat, high-sugar goodies we all love can pack a whole lot of calories into their tiny but tasty selves.

Consider the humble brownie, says Robyn Stuhr, an exercise physiologist and administrative director of the Women's Sports and Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

"A single brownie might easily have 300 calories," she says, sounding shocked. "To burn that many calories could mean an hour on an exercise bike. For one darn brownie!"

But she's realistic, adding that "every diet needs to allow for calorie-dense snacks here and there. You have to allow for the occasional cake or candy bar."

And of course, there are many ways to burn calories besides going to the gym. Some may find it less taxing -- if equally time-consuming -- to work exercise into their daily routines. While rates of calorie burning differ from person to person, for an average person weighing 150 pounds, that brownie might equal out to roughly:

  • An hour and 10 minutes of housecleaning (or, for that matter, playing Ping Pong)
  • One hour of washing the car
  • 35 minutes of playing touch football with the kids