The surprisingly low number of calories you burn doing push-ups and whether it's worth it

Lia Tabackman,Joey Thurman
·4 min read
push ups working out
Push-ups can help you burn calories and build muscle. RossHelen/Getty Images

Push-ups are a popular exercise for burning calories and building muscle. Best of all, there's no equipment necessary to do them - just your own body weight.

How many calories do push-ups burn?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to how many calories you will burn while doing push-ups, but the CDC suggests a person will burn about seven calories per minute of vigorous push-ups.

The true number of calories burned will vary person-to-person based on multiple factors, including:

  • Weight: People who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories while working out and at rest than people who are lighter and have less muscle.

  • Age: As you age, muscle mass tends to decrease, which slows down calorie-burning.

  • Gender: Typically, men have less fat and more muscle than women of the same age and weight, which increases their calorie burning.

The intensity of your work-out session also influences how many calories you burn. For example, you will burn more calories if you do 50 push-ups in 60 seconds than doing 15 push-ups in the same amount of time.

Important: Other bodyweight exercises like planks, pull-ups, and squats burn about the same amount of calories as push-ups - about seven calories per minute.

How metabolism determines the calories you burn

If you're wondering why it's so tricky to predict how many calories you'll burn doing push-ups, look no further than the mysteries of metabolism, the chemical reactions in your body that break down the food you eat into energy.

"Metabolism varies a lot between people, and we don't exactly understand why," says Seema Sarin, MD, Director of Lifestyle Medicine at EHE Health. "There are so many factors playing into it, and it can change day-to-day like if you're fighting a cold, or on your menstrual cycle."

If your metabolism is faster, you'll burn calories at a quicker rate than someone with a slower metabolism. If your metabolism is slower, your body burns fewer calories - which means more calories get stored as body fat.

It's a commonly held belief that strength training exercises like push-ups can raise your metabolism and increase your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

Medical term: Basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body burns throughout the day while performing basic functions needed for survival, like breathing, staying warm, and contracting your heart.

While this is partially true, your metabolism is less susceptible to manipulation than you might think. Metabolism is mostly determined by genetics. According to the CDC, people who exercise regularly might gain a few pounds of muscle, but it's not enough to significantly change their BMR.

Still, Sarin says regularly partaking in strength training, like consistently doing push-ups, will help increase your muscle mass and slightly increase your resting metabolism.

"When you increase your muscle mass, it's true that your resting metabolism goes up because your muscles are using more calories in order to function," Sarin says. "That's why physicians will say adding weight training to an exercise program is important."

Benefits of push-ups

People often turn to push-ups to burn calories and increase strength, but it's lesser-known that strength exercises also build stronger bones.

Sarin says that increasing your muscle mass helps your bones become stronger. When you place weight on your bones, they are forced to withstand the load placed on them and become stronger over time.

What the research says: A 2007 review found postmenopausal women - at high risk for rapid bone loss - who performed resistance exercises like push-ups two to three times a week for one year saw their bone mineral density increase or remain the same.

Push-ups and similar strength exercises have additional mind and body benefits, including:

"Movement is so important in reducing the development of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity," Sarin says. "That's why it's so critically important to build muscle mass."

Insider's takeaway

Push-ups are a simple but powerful exercise to add to your workout routine. They can help you burn around seven calories per minute and increase muscle mass with just your own body weight.

Building muscle can help your body burn more calories over time, reduce stress and brain fog, and minimize your chances of developing serious chronic diseases like osteoporosis and diabetes.

Related articles from Health Reference:

Read the original article on Insider