Does Reading Burn Calories?

Published: 29 July 2023 | Last updated: 3 September 2023
Written by Penny Somerset

Have you ever wondered if engaging your mind with a good book could also help you burn calories and lose weight? I've had this thought too - after all, reading is an activity and activities require energy.

In fact, research shows that an average person can burn up to 70 calories per hour while immersed in a riveting story! This blog will not only answer your curiosity about whether reading burns calories but also share tips on how to maximize calorie-burning potential during your reading sessions.

A comfortable armchair in a beautiful reading nook surrounded by books on shelves. There are trees visible through the window.

Table of Contents

• Does Reading Burn Calories?
• Ways to Burn More Calories While Reading
• Tips for Incorporating Reading into a Healthy Lifestyle
• Conclusion

Frequently Asked Questions
• Can reading help with weight loss?
• Are there any benefits to reading for physical health?
• How can I incorporate exercise while enjoying my love for reading?
• Does reading burn more calories than watching TV?

• Related Posts
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Ready for some enlightening facts? Let's dive right in!

Key Takeaways

  • Reading burns calories, but at a relatively low rate compared to physical activities.

  • On average, a person burns around 50 to 60 calories per hour while reading.

  • Incorporating physical activity into your reading routine can help burn more calories.

  • Combining exercise with reading is an effective way to maximize calorie burn and enjoy a good book.

Does Reading Burn Calories?

Reading does indeed burn calories, albeit at a relatively low rate compared to other physical activities.

The calorie-burning process

Your body is a constant calorie-burning machine. Even when you're just sitting and reading, your system uses energy to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and your brain functioning.

Reading requires an adequate amount of mental effort which in return leads to additional calories being burned. Your eyes pore over the page, whilst synapses fire in the brain to process each word's meaning, and your brain burns calories to do so.

This mental workout increases the metabolic rate leading to more caloric consumption than at rest state. So yes, even leisure activities like reading can help burn extra calories off!

How many calories are burned while reading?

As a bibliophile with a keen interest in health, I often wonder about burning calories during my reading sessions. Well, scientific studies support the fact that reading does burn calories, though not as many as physical exertion. The number of calories burned while reading can vary depending on factors such as how much you weigh and your reading posture.

Below is a table that provides an approximation of calories burned per hour while reading, based on different weight categories.

Weight Calories Burned per Hour (Reading Lying Down)

140 pounds

63.5 kg

50 calories

160 pounds

72.5 kg

67 calories

On average, a person burns around 50 to 60 calories per hour while reading. This means that if you read for a couple hours a day, you will burn an average of 95 calories. However, it's important to note that while reading does burn some calories, the rate is not enough to cause significant weight loss on its own.

Impact on weight loss or maintenance

Reading a book can burn around 95 calories in an hour, but the rate at which these calories are consumed doesn't significantly contribute to weight loss. The energy expenditure from mental activities is minimal and insufficient for noticeable fat reduction.

However, it's important to keep in mind that managing your weight isn't just about burning more calories; balancing calorie intake also plays a crucial role. Keeping the number of ingested calories consistent aids in maintaining healthy body mass.

Muscle mass expends more energy than fat tissue even while resting, meaning it burns more calories throughout the day. So engaging muscles occasionally as you read might be beneficial for boosting metabolism and contributing marginally towards weight management efforts. Remember that your brain is not a muscle, it's an organ.

That said, reading alone won't make you lose pounds quickly or help maintain your current weight without factoring other aspects like diet and physical exercise into your routine.

Ways to Burn More Calories While Reading

One way to burn more calories while reading is by reading standing up.

Reading standing up

A young woman reading while standing in a library filled with books

When I discovered that reading standing up can actually help burn more calories compared to sitting, it was a game-changer. Several studies have shown that when we stand, our bodies often burn more calories than when we are in a seated position.

So now, whenever I'm engrossed in a good book, I make it a point to do so while standing. Not only does it give me an opportunity to stretch my legs and improve my posture, but it also helps me stay active and burn some extra calories at the same time.

It's a simple yet effective way to incorporate physical activity into my reading routine without even realizing it.

Making reading a more physically active experience

To make reading a more physically active experience, I like to incorporate small movements while I'm enjoying my book. For example, I might do some light stretches or engage in simple exercises like leg lifts or arm circles.

Sometimes I even grab a stationary bike or treadmill and read while getting in some cardio exercise. These extra physical activities not only help me burn a few more calories but also keep my body feeling energized and prevent stiffness from sitting for too long.

So the next time you settle down with a good book, try incorporating some gentle movement into your reading routine to make it a more active and enjoyable experience.

By finding creative ways to make reading more physically active, we can turn it into an opportunity to add some additional calorie burn to our day. Whether it's standing up and pacing around the room as we read, doing squats during page breaks, or simply using resistance bands while holding our books - every little bit of movement counts! Plus, by combining the mental stimulation of reading with physical activity, we can enhance both our mind and body's well-being simultaneously.

Tips for Incorporating Reading into a Healthy Lifestyle

Read during exercise to maximize your time and enjoy a good book at the same time.

Reading during exercise

A woman reading on an exercise bike in a sunlit room

I love incorporating reading into my exercise routine. It's a great way to multitask and make the most of my time. Whether I'm on the treadmill or riding a stationary bike, I find that reading helps me stay focused and motivated.

Plus, it adds an extra level of enjoyment to my workout. By combining exercise with reading, I can burn calories while immersing myself in a good book at the same time. It's a win-win situation!

Creating a reading routine

To create a reading routine, I like to set aside a specific time each day dedicated solely to reading. This helps me make reading a regular habit and ensures that I prioritize this activity in my daily schedule.

I find that incorporating reading into my routine not only allows me to relax and unwind but also helps me improve my mental focus and expand my knowledge on various subjects. By making reading a consistent part of my day, I am able to fully immerse myself in the books I love and reap the many benefits that come with it.

So if you're looking to enhance your reading experience, consider establishing a regular reading routine - it's an enjoyable way to engage your mind while creating time for yourself.


In conclusion, reading does burn calories, although the amount may not be significant enough for weight loss. The act of reading requires energy and can contribute to overall calorie burning throughout the day.

However, incorporating more physical activity into your reading routine or combining it with exercise is a more effective way to burn calories and maintain a healthy lifestyle. So go ahead and enjoy your favorite book while staying active!


Can reading help with weight loss?

While reading alone may not directly contribute to weight loss, it can be a helpful tool in promoting overall wellness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Reading can provide relaxation, stress relief, and mental stimulation, which can indirectly support weight management goals.

Are there any benefits to reading for physical health?

Although reading is primarily associated with cognitive function benefits, such as improved focus and enhanced vocabulary, it can also have positive effects on physical health. Reading regularly has been linked to reduced stress levels, improved sleep quality, and increased empathy and emotional intelligence.

How can I incorporate exercise while enjoying my love for reading?

If you want to combine your passion for reading with physical activity, consider incorporating light exercises such as walking or cycling while listening to audiobooks or using an e-reader on a stationary bike or treadmill. This allows you to engage in both activities simultaneously and promote a more active lifestyle without sacrificing your reading time.

Does reading burn more calories than watching TV?

Absolutely! Contrary to what you might believe, reading does indeed burn more calories than watching TV. If you're hunkered down with a whodunit or a thrilling mystery, your body burns calories at an increased rate, between 50 and 60 calories per hour to be exact. On the other hand, your calorie expenditure during a TV binge? It sits rather modestly between 20 and 33 calories per hour.

It's no secret that our brains are not muscles. However, like every part of our body, they demand energy to perform their basic functions. You see, our grey matter may not be able to bench press a barbell, but it's pretty adept at lifting the weight of thoughts, decoding symbols, and churning through complex plots, all while quietly torching calories in the process.

Now, why is reading more physically demanding than watching TV, you ask? The answer lies within our energetic brain. Television watching is a passive activity. Sure, we react, we laugh, we cry, but our brains aren't given much to chew on. On the contrary, reading demands active participation. It calls for visual processing, comprehension, and imagination, all of which require that extra bit of cognitive fuel. The more actively your brain works, the more calories it burns.

But don't for a moment think that trading your remote for a novel is a surefire way to losing weight. Remember, these are small figures we're talking about. The increase in burned calories won't have you ditching your jeans for a smaller size overnight. However, think of it as bonus brain workouts that subtly contribute to maintaining your overall health, perhaps even staving off age-related cognitive decline.

So, the next time you pick up a book, remember not only are you feeding your mind, but also you're gently nudging your body's metabolic rate upward. Reading, then, can be a small but smart step in a healthier direction, complementing the body's basic functions and making every calorie count!

You may also be interested in our look into why reading makes you tired.

Portrait of the article author, Penny Somerset
Penny Somerset

I'm an avid reader and bibliophile. With an unquenchable thirst for stories, I love nothing more than burying my nose in a good book - whether it's curled up on the sofa or out in nature. My deep curiosity and appreciation of diverse writing means that there's no one genre that I prefer, but I'm especially keen on books full of adventure and vivid imagination.
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