For many people driving a vehicle is a part of their daily life. An interesting fact is that it can also help you burn a few extra calories.
Driving involves slightly more intense movements than just sitting still. In turn, this burns a few extra calories. As you can expect this will be a small amount.
The average person can expect to burn around 74 – 127+ calories per 30 minutes of driving a regular car. This number will vary from individual to individual due to a variety of factors.
For example, a 125-pound (56 kg) individual will burn around 74 calories during 30 minutes of driving a regular car.
On the other hand, a 215-pound (97 kg) individual will burn around 127 calories while driving for 30 minutes at the same intensity.
These are definitely not the most impressive amounts. Especially because you are likely already driving, these numbers will likely not cause any noticeable changes on the scale.
This article will also show you a more detailed chart that takes multiple factors into account, how driving compares to just sitting and fidgeting, differences between different types of driving, and more.
Biggest influences on calories burned
A fact that many people find annoying is that the number of calories you burn while doing something like driving is hard to predict and measure correctly.
This fact can make things like weight loss feel like a guessing game when you are trying to balance these numbers with the calories in food.
Even so, good estimations for the number of calories burned while driving can be a helpful starting point. By taking a few important factors into account you can make your estimations more accurate.
Some of the biggest factors that influence how many calories you burn while driving include:
- Weight: To move around your body needs energy, measured in calories. The more you weigh, the more energy your body needs to fuel its movements.
- Body composition: Body composition is how much of your body weight is made up of different tissue. Two people can weigh the same but for one individual most of the weight can come from fat while the second individual has a lot of muscle. The reason that is important is that the same weight of muscle requires more energy than that weight in fat.
- Vehicle: If you’re looking at calories burned per minute of driving this can vary a lot between different types of vehicles. Some are more challenging to handle than others.
- Purpose: Driving vehicles can be done on different road types for different purposes. Going in a straight line on the highway for hours will require less energy than endless turning, braking and lever pulling when operating heavy machinery.
Estimations calories burned while driving
The centers for disease control and prevention simplifies the number of calories burned while driving into between 3.5-7 calories per minute (1).
In reality, there are tools to make more precise estimations. To calculate calories burned during certain activities more specifically you can use a formula with MET values.
A MET value is an activity-specific value to indicate how intense a specific type of movement is. This number represents how many times more intense the activity is compared to sitting still.
You can use this in the following formula: METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories burned per minute
Estimations for METs while driving depend on the specific vehicle and situation and vary from 2 at driving a delivery truck, taxi, or school bus to 6 while driving heavy machinery (2).
The first table below will show estimations for the calories burned while driving a regular car or (semi) truck for different body weights and time intervals.
After that, you can find charts comparing the number of calories burned between regular sitting and driving and the differences between driving different types of vehicles in different types of situations.
To put these estimations into perspective, 100 grams of boiled potatoes contains about 87 calories (3).
Calories burned while driving
One of the most convenient ways to see how many calories you burned while driving a regular car or (semi) truck is by looking at how much time you spent doing it.
|1 Minute||15 Minutes||30 Minutes||45 Minutes||60 Minutes|
|125 Pounds (56 kg)||2 calories||37 calories||74 calories||111 calories||148 calories|
|155 Pounds (70 kg)||3 calories||46 calories||92 calories||137 calories||183 calories|
|185 Pounds (83 kg)||4 calories||55 calories||109 calories||164 calories||219 calories|
|215 Pounds (97 kg)||4 calories||63 calories||127 calories||190 calories||254 calories|
Calories burned driving vs sitting
At first, the numbers above may sound impressive but you have to keep in mind that just sitting still also burns calories. Below you can see the comparison in calories burned between 30 minutes of driving vs sitting.
|125 Pounds (56 kg)||74 calories||44 calories|
|155 Pounds (70 kg)||92 calories||55 calories|
|185 Pounds (83 kg)||109 calories||66 calories|
|215 Pounds (97 kg)||127 calories||76 calories|
Calories burned types of driving
You can drive a variety of vehicles for a variety of purposes. These different types have different intensity levels and will in turn burn different numbers of calories.
In the table below you can find estimations of calories burned while driving regular cars, (semi) trucks, heavy machinery, riding as a passenger, etc. when doing the activity for 30 minutes.
|155 Pounds (70 kg)||185 Pounds (83 kg)||215 Pounds (97 kg)|
|Riding Car As|
|48 calories||57 calories||66 calories|
|73 calories||87 calories||102 calories|
|92 calories||109 calories||127 calories|
|Driving Forklift||92 calories||109 calories||127 calories|
|Driving Tractor||103 calories||122 calories||142 calories|
|220 calories||262 calories||305 calories|
|Drag Racing||220 calories||262 calories||305 calories|
Ways to burn more calories while driving
The number of calories burned while driving is certainly not something set in stone.
For an activity like driving, there are fewer options to change this compared to other options but there is still a safe way you can increase this amount per time interval.
As mentioned before, how much you weigh is something that influences the number of calories you burn during all activities, including driving.
That means that if you implement exercises to build extra muscle mass outside of your driving sessions, you can burn more calories while driving.
Can you lose weight from driving?
In theory, going from not driving to driving could put you over the calorie edge a tiny amount and temporarily help you lose a tiny amount of fat.
In practice, the extra calorie-burning will barely be noticeable. Even if you do lose some weight, this will soon reduce the number of calories you burn and in turn, you will reach a weight loss plateau.
That being said, you can definitely lose weight while driving but this will mainly be because of changes in other areas of your lifestyle.
You can even lose weight without exercising more so there are many factors besides how much you move throughout the day that influence this.
Muscles used while driving
While driving vehicles and shifting gears, you use muscles like your triceps, biceps, upper back, shoulders, and forearms.
That being said, even if you never do any resistance training, driving will likely not be enough to help you grow and strengthen these muscles.
Should you drive to burn calories?
Going from just sitting still for a certain amount of time to driving a car can help you burn a tiny amount of extra calories. That being said, this amount will be tiny, barely noticeable in weight/fat mass changes, and stop soon.
If you are serious about burning more calories you would choose one of the wide variety of other activities and workouts. Something else you can do to lose weight is focus on other areas of your lifestyle.
If burning calories is your main goal and you regularly have to drive, implementing some exercises in your schedule specifically for building muscle can be helpful.
The extra muscle mass will help you burn more calories day in, day out, including during your driving sessions.