Burning more calories can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight.
Exercising and eating the right foods are two effective ways to do this.
However, there are also some more unusual ways to boost the number of calories you burn.
Here are six unconventional ways to burn calories.
1. Cold Exposure
Exposure to cold temperatures may help boost your metabolic rate by stimulating brown fat activity in your body ().
In addition to mainly white fat, your fat stores are also made up of small amounts of brown fat. These two types of body fat have very different effects.
White fat promotes inflammation, insulin resistance and fat storage. By contrast, brown fat increases calorie burning and may be helpful for losing weight and controlling diabetes (, ).
Brown fat's calorie-burning effect has been shown to vary among individuals. In general, obese people seem to have less active brown fat than lean people do ().
Based on early animal research, chronic exposure to cold is believed to lead to the "browning" of white fat. However, this is still being studied ().
Human studies have shown that exposure to cold temperatures may significantly increase calorie burning, depending on the amount of active brown fat in the body (, , , , , ).
What's more, you don't need to endure freezing temperatures to reap this benefit.
In one study, healthy young men with similar body compositions remained in a 66°F (19°C) environment for two hours. Although calorie burning increased in all men, the effect was three times greater in men with the highest brown fat activity ().
In another study, when 10 lean young men were regularly exposed to a temperature of 62°F (17°C) for two hours, they burned an additional 164 calories per day, on average ().
A few ways to obtain the benefits of cold exposure include slightly lowering the temperature in your home, taking cold showers and walking outside in cold weather.
Bottom Line: Exposure to cold temperatures has been shown to stimulate brown fat activity, which increases the number of calories you burn.
2. Drink Cold Water
Water is the best beverage choice for quenching thirst and staying well hydrated.
Drinking water has also been shown to temporarily boost metabolism in studies of normal and overweight adults and children. What's more, some studies suggest that you may be able to maximize this effect by drinking cold water (, , , , ).
One group of researchers reported that 40% of this increase in metabolic rate is a result of your body warming up the water to body temperature ().
Two of their studies in young adults found that drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of cold water increased calorie burning by 24–30% for 90 minutes (, ).
However, the number of people studied was fairly small, and additional research suggests that water's effect on metabolic rate may vary from person to person.
For instance, another study in healthy young adults found that drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of cold water increased calorie expenditure by only 4.5% for 60 minutes ().
Bottom Line: Drinking cold water has been shown to temporarily boost calorie burning. However, the strength of this effect may vary by individual.
3. Chew Gum
Chewing gum has been shown to promote feelings of fullness and reduce calorie intake at snacks ().
There's also some evidence that it may help speed up your metabolism (, , , ).
In a small study, normal-weight men consumed meals on four separate occasions. They burned significantly more calories after meals when they chewed gum after eating ().
In another study, when 30 young men and women chewed gum for 20 minutes after each meal, their metabolic rate was higher than when they did not chew gum. In addition, it remained higher after an overnight fast ().
Make sure to choose sugar-free gum in order to get these beneficial effects on metabolism and protect the health of your teeth.
Bottom Line: Chewing gum appears to increase metabolic rate when consumed after meals or between meals.
4. Donate Blood
Donating blood may save the life of someone in need.
In addition, having your blood drawn increases the number of calories you burn, at least temporarily.
According to online sources, researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that donating one pint of blood burned 650 calories, on average.
While the study isn't available to verify this figure, a substantial increase in calorie expenditure would make sense.
When you donate blood, your body uses energy to synthesize new proteins, red blood cells and other blood components to replace what has been lost.
Of course, donating blood isn't something you can do every day. In general, you need to wait at least eight weeks between blood draws in order to replenish your blood supply.
Also, research suggests that donating blood may offer several health benefits, including lowering inflammatory markers, increasing antioxidant activity and reducing the risk of heart disease (, ).
But most importantly, whenever you donate blood, you are potentially saving lives.
Bottom Line: In addition to helping save lives, donating blood temporarily increases the number of calories you burn and provides other health benefits.
5. Fidget More
Exercising burns calories and helps you stay fit.
However, more subtle forms of physical activity can also boost your metabolic rate. This concept is known as (NEAT), which includes fidgeting.
Fidgeting involves moving body parts in a restless manner. Examples include repeatedly bouncing a leg, tapping fingers on a table and playing with rings.
In one study, people who fidgeted while seated or standing were shown to burn five to six times more calories, on average, than when they sat or stood still ().
Another study found that people with the highest body weights experienced the greatest increase in metabolic rate in response to fidgeting and other types of non-exercise activity ().
In some cases, NEAT can make a significant contribution to daily calorie expenditure.
For instance, one group of researchers suggested that a combination of fidgeting, walking and standing could burn up to 2,000 additional calories daily, depending on a person's weight and activity level ().
Based on its ability to burn calories and prevent weight gain, some experts are calling for people to incorporate fidgeting and other forms of non-exercise activity into their daily lives (, ).
Other ways to benefit from NEAT include taking the stairs, using a standing desk and cleaning.
Bottom Line: Fidgeting has been shown to increase the number of calories burned while sitting and standing, especially in those who are overweight.
6. Laugh Often
They say laughter is the best medicine.
Indeed, research has confirmed that laughter may improve many aspects of mental and physical health, including memory, immunity and arterial function (, , ).
In addition, laughing also burns calories.
In one study, 45 couples watched movies that were either humorous or serious. When they laughed during the funny movies, their metabolic rate increased by 10–20% ().
Although this isn’t very much, laughing on a regular basis is still a great way to improve your overall health and make you happier as well.