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10 unusual ways to burn 500 calories

Jane Murphy / 06 January 2022

Don't fancy joining a gym or jogging round the park? There are plenty more ways to burn 500 calories – and losing weight isn't the only benefit you'll see.

Man playing guitar
Playing guitar burns around 140 calories an hour if you're sitting down, but 200 calories an hour if you play standing up.

Everyday activities and hobbies can help shed the pounds, so if you're looking for a way to lose a bit of weight but can't stand the gym read on for inspiration. Bear in mind these figures are estimates, as the actual calories you lose will depend on your current weight, age and the intensity of your movements.

Play guitar for a few hours

Stay seated throughout your guitar practice and you'll burn around 140 calories per hour – so you'll need to keep playing for more than three hours to reach that '500' target. Stand up, however, and you'll burn off 200 calories in an hour – even more if you move around while you play. Either way, you'll boost your musical skills while you burn those calories. Another benefit? Learning to play a musical instrument may lower dementia risk, according to a University of California study. Other instruments can also help you burn calories, with an hour of violin burning around 175 calories and the drums or trombone a whopping 280 calories.

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Clean the house for two hours

A two-hour cleaning blitz can help you burn up to 600 calories, according to research by the Good Housekeeping Institute.

The most effective task? Forty minutes of dusting burns off nearly 200 calories, while 20 minutes of vacuuming or mopping sees off a further 100. The added benefit? You'll have a squeaky-clean house at the end of it, obviously. Ironing can also burn calories, and you can put your favourite television show on to make it more interesting.

How to turn your cleaning session into a workout

Ride a horse for two hours

Riding a horse at a walk, trot or canter can burn up to 500 calories in a couple of hours. Galloping burns even more, estimated to be between 550 and 700 calories an hour. You'll also experience the mood-lifting benefits of being outdoors and interacting with nature. More than 80 per cent of regular riders say their hobby makes them feel 'quite a lot' or 'extremely' cheerful, relaxed, happy or active, University of Brighton researchers have found.

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Get gardening for an hour or so

Tackle that heavy landscaping work and you'll have burned off at least 500 calories after an hour.

Raking and bagging leaves for just over an hour will burn off a similar amount. Or you could spend two hours digging, shovelling or mowing the lawn, which all burn between 200-400 calories an hour.

As well as having a tidy garden at the end of it, you'll improve your mental health, brain function and hand dexterity, says a recent study by the American Society for Horticultural Science.

How gardening keeps you fit

Spend the afternoon shopping

You'll have burned off around 500 calories after three hours of walking round the shops at a leisurely pace – but you can boost that amount by using the stairs instead of the lift or walking up the escalator.

Carrying bags, especially if they're on the heavier side, will burn more calories than walking without being weighed down. In fact 'rucking', or exercising with a rucksack, is a popular way soldiers train and build endurance.

Try belly-dancing for two hours

As well as burning off at least 500 calories, you'll have toned your stomach, given your confidence a boost, had fun and probably made new friends.

Belly-dancing not for you? You'll get similar benefits from other dance forms. A 30-minute street, swing or contemporary dance class burns more calories than running, cycling or swimming, according to a University of Brighton study.

Your easy guide to getting into dancing

Walk and talk

While a cuppa and a biscuit while you're catching up with friends and family on the phone might seem more enticing you'll burn through more calories if you're actively moving around. Walking burns between 210 and 360 calories an hour, so a couple of hour long phone calls as you walk around the house, garden or on the street will have you building your fitness while you talk. Safely incorporating some steps or uphill sections will give you a further boost and build endurance - and there's no shame in stopping to admire the view halfway up while you get your breath back.

Go kayaking or canoeing for 90 minutes

It may not an activity you've considered before – but paddling is a low-impact exercise that's suitable for all ages. Aside from burning calories, you'll boost your upper body strength, cardiovascular fitness and mental health.

In an Australian study, people who'd completed a 12-week kayaking course experienced enhanced feelings of self-worth, confidence and adequacy.

Many coastal towns have kayaks available to rent.

Go bowling for two hours

A couple of hours spent crown green or ten pin bowling will burn around 500 calories – as well as give you a low-impact, full-body workout and improve your hand-eye coordination. Try crown green bowling and you'll also make new friends and reap the benefits of exercising in the open air, of course. Find a club near you at

Sing for three hours

Joining a choir - or simply singing to yourself at home - can help you burn calories, as singing while standing up can burn about 150 calories an hour. What's more, singing has a lot of other health benefits such as improving your mood, relieving stress and improving your posture.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.