Do You Burn Calories During Meditation?

Young woman meditating outdoors.

Figuring out how many calories are going into and out of the body is a key method of regulating diet and health. The science behind how humans gain and burn energy is both simple and complex at the same time, so figuring out something like the number of calories burned during meditation can have more factors to consider than expected. For every moment that you are alive, your body is constantly using and burning calories.

That includes sleep, meditation, and any passive activity that you can imagine. An exact amount of calories burned is more difficult due to the numerous factors that go into how humans consume energy, but the basic fact of always needing the energy to survive holds true across all living people.

How many calories do you burn while meditating?

Meditating class at gym indoors.

While the basal metabolic rate varies from person to person, known metabolic averages based on weight help to paint an idea of the relative intensity of different activities. At the bottom of the list is sleeping, burning just 36 to 52 calories per hour on average. Going on a cleaning spree with rigorous scrubbing or washing can burn up to 378 calories per hour, several times over the sleeping metabolic rate.

Walking for an hour pushes that to a maximum average of 504 calories, and high-speed running or cycling can push well above 1,000 calories burned per hour. Looking at the rates, it becomes clear that caloric burn increases with higher intensity activities. Sitting for an hour with only minimal activity burns between 89 and 140 calories per hour.

Meditation is even lower intensity than sitting while doing office work, as the brain consumes calories when you are focusing on a difficult task. With a successful meditation session where your body is slowed to a restful state, you might burn less than 90 calories – barely double that of being entirely asleep.

Should you try to burn more calories while meditating?

Trying to mix your workout with your meditation is not the best route for your overall mental and physical health. Exercise that raises your heart rate can be meditative in its own way, but it’s not hitting the same notes as a passive mediation session. That limits the reasonable ways to up your caloric burn while in a true meditative state.

For some people, exercise can induce a trance-like state that feels similar to running. It’s harder to think when your entire focus is on keeping up the pace, breathing at a steady rate, and watching out for obstacles if not running on a track. That strong fixation on the task at hand pushes away intrusive thoughts and worries, so pushing your body might be a real solution for those who are struggling with more passive meditation.

Should you schedule exercise near your meditation?

Friends doing yoga meditation exercises beside the sea shore.

Even if you aren’t trying to turn your meditating into exercising, you might worry about placing your exercise time block too close to the meditation on your schedule. The good news is that meditation and exercise can help each other, and making a regular habit of doing both will improve overall health in the vast majority of people. Before exercise, meditation will give you a moment of mental and physical rest.

The relaxation will help your muscles and ligaments loosen up a bit before stretching, helping you avoid pulling muscles. The refresher for your mind and body can add an extra spark of enthusiasm for the workout, leading to better overall results from both your training and meditating. There are two small concerns with pre-workout meditation.

The first is training your body to think that meditation is a precursor to strenuous activity. If the act of getting into a meditative pose starts your heart pounding, it can weaken the benefits. Second, getting into a restful state might make you more reluctant to get up and start moving again.

If the pre-workout meditation is killing your drive to get moving, it might be better at another point in the day. Post-exercise meditation is a fantastic way to drop your heart rate after pushing it higher. You don’t need to jump right into the meditation, so you might want to give it a few minutes to at least not have your heart pounding out of your chest.

It’s also fine to plop right down into the meditation if you really want, riding the endorphins from the exercise into your meditative trance. Unlike pre-exercise meditation, going from high activity to meditation will condition your mind and body to associate meditating with bringing down the heart rate, stopping the mind’s activity, and coming to a restful state. Those are all features that most of us want in our meditation, so the psychological benefits make post-exercise meditation the more beneficial choice.

How can you burn more calories while meditating?

Although sloughing away a few calories is not the true intent of meditation, it’s understandable to want every potential gain in a serious training regimen. There are a couple ways that you can increase the calories burned while meditating without ruining the restful, cleansing feeling.

Ambient Temperature

One of the key jobs of human metabolism is regulating our internal temperature. We burn energy to both heat and cool the body, maintaining a core temperature that’s usually within a degree or two of normal. While staying within acceptable temperatures for living, both raising and lowering the temperature can increase the amount of calories burned by as much as 50%.

To change the ambient temperature by a significant amount, saunas are the preferred method. The heat is contained, so you don’t have to burn up the whole house for a half-hour of meditating. Cold rooms are rarer than saunas, but you might consider going outside on particularly cold days.

Walk-in freezers will blast you with a chill, but that means meditating at work for most people without one at home. Sitting in a hot or cold environment is still relatively passive, so that puts it at an expected average of about 140 calories burned per hour. While not as substantial as an actual round of exercise, the extra batch of missing calories can help when on a strict training regimen or just to help you feel more cleansed.

Although the calories burned are minimal, sitting too long in extreme heat or cold is dangerous for your health.

Posture

Meditation yoga posture at a high level.

How you sit influences which muscles are activated to support the lifted portions of your body. The lowest caloric burn from posture is, intuitively, completely lying down. Sitting is a more common posture for meditating, and it burns significantly more calories than lying down – when looking at the percentage.

Even if you meditate for a full hour, it won’t make as much of a difference as going for a ten-minute walk. By switching up your posture, you can passively engage more muscles or different muscle groups. Yoga is commonly seen as both a rigorous exercise and a valid form of meditation, making both the mind and body more malleable.

You don’t have to go through a whole Yoga routine, but picking a posture or two to try while meditating is a great starting point if you want to burn a few extra calories.

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