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Burn, Baby, Burn: Fun and Unexpected Calorie Melters

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Maybe the fancy gym membership was the first casualty when it came time to cut the fat from your budget. Maybe you’re looking for ways to coax a reluctant exerciser off the couch. Or maybe you’re just in a rut. (I would like to meet the person who sincerely looks forward to getting on an elliptical machine every day.) We could all use fresh ideas for fun calorie burners that don’t have to cost a nicely toned arm and leg.

Most of us don’t have the metabolism of Michael Phelps, whose pre-Olympics exercise regimen allowed him to consume 12,000 calories a day and still flaunt washboard abs. But switch up or supplement your current workout regimen with some of the activities below and you could indulge in a few extra treats and still make it through bathing suit season with your head held high. Some of them might surprise you:

Solo
Not having an exercise buddy is no longer an excuse; there are plenty of activities you can do on your own. If you’re working out by yourself, you can squeeze in activity when your day allows. No one needs to know you hula hoop in your office (with the door closed, hopefully) at lunch.

Hacky sack: 263 calories an hour, or a McDonald’s hamburger
Sledding: 461 calories an hour, or a Subway footlong ham and turkey sub
Tai Chi: 263 calories an hour, or a 20-ounce Angel Food skinny smoothie from Smoothie King
Hula-hooping with a weighted hoop: Up to 600 calories an hour, or eighteen Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets

With a Partner
Kill two birds with one stone and get face time with a friend while working out. On a recent episode of Dancing with the Stars, doctors estimated NFL star Lawrence Taylor burned a whopping 15,000 calories a week practicing with his dance partner.

Playing catch: 164 calories an hour, or two apples
Ping pong: 263 calories an hour, or ten Hershey’s dark chocolate Kisses
Fast dancing (ballet, modern, salsa): 316 calories an hour, or a tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino
Slow dancing (waltz, foxtrot, tango): 197 calories an hour, or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Sex: 104 calories an hour, or a banana

With a Group
There’s a reason team sports are so popular. Not only are they a great way to meet people, but in the heat of competition, you’ll forget you’re sweating like Richard Simmons to the oldies.

Ultimate Frisbee: 527 calories an hour, or a Wendy’s baked potato with bacon, cheese, and sour cream
Water volleyball: 197 calories an hour, or five Oreos
Kickball: 460 calories an hour, or large onion rings from Burger King

Requires Equipment or Instruction
These don’t fall under the inexpensive category, but they do fall under “fun.” If you can afford to splurge, mix things up by taking a class or trying one of these extreme sports.

Belly dancing: 296 calories an hour, or three light beers
Hang gliding or sky diving: 230 calories an hour, or a 20-ounce Coke
Archery: 230 calories an hour, or half a bag of peanut M&Ms
Kayaking: 329 calories an hour, or a small bag of Cheetos
Scuba Diving: 461 calories an hour, or two medium pieces of Domino’s cheese and pepperoni pizza
Wii Fit: 500 calories an hour, or five Buffalo wings

You’re Already Doing It
Congratulations! You’re already exercising. These around-the-house activities and everyday chores might burn more calories than you think.

Gardening: 263 calories an hour, or a bag of Skittles
Raking the lawn: 283 calories an hour, or a milk chocolate chip cookie from Mrs. Field’s
Painting: 296 calories an hour, or a frozen margarita
Mowing the lawn: 362 calories an hour, or an Auntie Anne’s soft pretzel
Grocery shopping: 151 calories an hour, or a small bag of Lay’s potato chips

How many calories we burn varies according to factors like weight, age, and level of exertion. (We’ve estimated here for a 145-pound person.) Rarely is life one calorie in, one calorie out. The point of these exercises isn’t to be scientific; it’s to get moving and have fun. No pain and no gain.

Activity and food calorie counts estimated from The Daily Plate, The Fitness Jumpsite, Calorie Count, and Health Status.

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