There are a number of things to do to keep cool in the summer, though none are quite as enjoyable as eating a frosty ice cream or Popsicle.
But all those summery sweets add up in the calorie department. A harmless-looking treat, like a Magnum bar, can pack upwards of 200 calories, and over time that will result in not being able to get into your favourite jeans. (To put it in perspective, in order to lose one pound, you have to burn off or cut out 3,500 calories per week.)
“We often think of calories in and calories out for weight management, but that’s dangerous,” says Kathleen Trotter, Toronto-based fitness expert and author of Finding Your Fit. “The action that food plays on the body is more complex than that. Preservatives and sugar are harder for the liver to process, and that affects your insulin levels and cortisol.”
But the last thing Trotter wants to do is discourage people from working out.
“Do the workout because it’s healthy, but know that it’s not entirely about the calories in your food but the quality of your food,” she says.
If you’re looking for a rough estimate of how long you’ll need to workout in order to burn off that delicious Magnum bar, Trotter breaks it down simply: one mile of running burns approximately 100 calories.
“It all depends on how fit you are and how fast you’re running, though. For a marathon runner to go for a three-mile run, it would almost be equal to going for a walk. But for someone who has never run a mile, the intensity will make a difference,” she says.
That comes down to EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which keeps the body burning calories even after you’ve completed your workout. Oxygen consumption is elevated during the post-workout period because it helps restore the body, and because the body burns approximately five calories for every litre of oxygen consumed, you’ll burn more calories even while at rest.
Intense cardio, like running, skipping or high-intensity interval training, burns about 100 calories in 10 minutes; medium intensity activity like speed walking burns 100 calories in 12 to 15 minutes; and low-intensity exercise, like going for a casual stroll or a gentle bike ride, burns 100 calories in 15 minutes.
You may want to keep these figures in mind the next time you walk past an ice cream truck, although you shouldn’t let them thwart your summer indulgences altogether.
“Simply stay aware of the extra treats you eat and make the most of the sunshine in an active way,” personal trainer Aimée Victoria Long said to the Daily Mail. “There are plenty of fun ways to keep your summer treats and exercise in balance without feeling like you’re doing extra work, whether it’s a game of volleyball, swimming in the sea or a simple bike ride.”
And as with all physical activity, don’t push yourself too hard in an attempt to “repent” for indulging in a sweet treat.
“The best exercise is moot if you can’t make yourself do it,” Trotter says. “Don’t do something for one day if it’s going to mean you can’t exercise again for the rest of the summer.”
So, go ahead and enjoy your ice cream the same way you do any other indulgence in life — responsibly and guilt-free.