Displaying Exercise Needed to Burn Off Foods Helps People Cut Calories Consumed, New Study Finds

Exercise-cost of Food Calories for a 150-pound person (graphic by CTV News)A new study by researchers at Texas Christian University (TCU) has found that out of a group of 300 study participants, those ordering from a menu that displayed the amount of exercise needed to burn off the calories in each food, ordered and ate significantly fewer calories than those ordering from a menu not showing either calories or exercise-costs.

The study, conducted by Ashlei James, a graduate student at TCU, and a team of researchers under the supervision of Dr. Meena Shah of TCU, was presented at the annual Experimental Biology 2013 conference held in Boston from April 20 to 24, 2013, and published in the April issue of the FASEB Journal, a journal of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology.

As background to the study, a news release issued by the Experimental Biology 2013 conference (EB 2013) indicated that, with the goal of encouraging consumers to make healthier and more informed food choices, “by law, retail food establishments that are part of a chain with twenty or more locations nationwide must disclose the calorie content of each menu item.”

“The majority of studies, however, show that providing information on calorie content does not lead to fewer calories ordered or consumed,” according to the release.

“We need a more effective strategy to encourage people to order and consume fewer calories from restaurant menus,” the release quoted senior researcher Dr. Meena Shah as saying.

“This is the first study to look at the effects of displaying minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories on the calories ordered and consumed,” according to Dr. Shah.

The Study; Method

The researchers randomly assigned 300 men and women (aged 18 to 30 years) to three groups:

  • Group One ordered lunch from a menu without calorie or exercise labels (“No-Calories-Listed Group;” 99 participants);
  • Group Two ordered lunch from a menu with calorie labels only (“Calories-Listed Group;” 99 participants); and
  • Group Three ordered lunch from a menu with labels as to the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn the calories of each food (“Exercise-Listed Group;” 102 participants).

All of the menus listed the same food and beverage options.


The researchers found that the Exercise-Listed Group ordered and consumed significantly fewer calories than the No-Calories-Listed Group.

Specifically, they found that the No-Calories-Listed Group, on average, ordered 902 calories (kcal) and consumed 763 kcal, while the Exercise-Listed Group ordered an average of 770 kcal and consumed an average of 673 kcal.

On the other hand, the researchers reported that “The CL [Calories-Listed] and the NCL [No-Calories-Listed] groups did not differ significantly in the food calories ordered or consumed.”

The researchers also found that “Post-lunch calorie intake did not differ by menu condition.”

“In conclusion, EL [Exercise-Listed] menu led to fewer calories ordered and consumed compared to the NCL [No-Calories-Listed] menu condition,” the researchers wrote.

“This study suggests there are benefits to displaying exercise minutes to a group of young men and women. We can’t generalize to a population over age 30, so we will further investigate this in an older and more diverse group,” Dr. Shah said in the news release issued by EB 2013.

“The study was eye-opening for many of the subjects,” according to the release. “For example, a female would have to walk briskly for approximately 2 hours to burn the calories in a quarter-pound double cheeseburger,” Dr. Shah said.

“Brisk walking is something nearly everyone can relate to, which is why we displayed on the menu the minutes of brisk walking needed to burn food calories,” added lead researcher Ashlei James.

How Much Exercise is Needed to Burn Off Calories?

To give an idea of the amount of moderate exercise of various types that is required to burn off calories, following is a chart provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

“Calories Used per Hour in Common Physical Activities
Moderate Physical Activity
Approximate Calories/30 Minutes for a 154 lb Person1
Approximate Calories/Hr for a 154 lb Person1
Light gardening/yard work
Golf (walking and carrying clubs)
Bicycling (<10 mph)
Walking (3.5 mph)
Weight lifting (general light workout)

1. Calories burned per hour will be higher for persons who weigh more than 154 lbs (70 kg) and lower for persons who weigh less.

Further information is provided on the CDC’s resource page on Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight.

More Information

See a report about the new study by CTV News, a Canadian news organization, including a video in which Registered dietician Leslie Beck presents more examples of the calories contained in various meals and the amount of exercise needed to burn them off.

For more information on maintaining a healthy weight, healthy diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors that promote wellness and prevent diseases, see the HelpingYouCare® resource pages on Wellness/ Healthy Living for Seniors & Caregivers, including:


Copyright © 2013 Care-Help LLC, publisher of HelpingYouCare®. All rights reserved.


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