Determining energy expenditure

energy expenditure
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Professor Kjell Hausken at the University of Stavanger discusses his research into energy expenditure through combining different types of exercise classes

To determine the energy expenditure from different types of exercise classes, a 75-minute class instructed at SiS Sports Center at the University of Stavanger was analysed. The class consisted of a warmup, three alternate step aerobics and weightlifting parts, an aerobics part, abdominals and lower back training, and stretching. Step aerobics includes moving choreo-graphically up, down and around a step bench or platform. The weightlifting parts consist of squats, lunges, bench press, back training through rowing and clean and press, triceps, biceps, deltoids, and shoulder training.

The participants’ heart rates were measured with heart rate monitors throughout the class. A variety of hypotheses were tested, such as whether heart rates and thus energy expenditures are higher during aerobics than weightlifting, how the energy expenditures of the various parts compare with running, and the time efficiency of combining different exercise forms within one exercise class.

Assessing such hypotheses is useful for participants choosing forms of exercise, trainers designing work-out plans and instructing participants, and the fitness industry, in general, when determining how to promote, advertise and facilitate various forms of exercise to reach various objectives. For participants, the commonly available choices are whether or not to train at a sports centre. If joining a sports centre, choices usually include:

  • Deciding between a plethora of classes.
  • Training individually or with friends.
  • Whether to focus on cardiovascular training or weightlifting.
  • Whether to hire a personal trainer.

If not joining a sports centre, examples of choices usually are:

  • Training indoors or outdoors.
  • Whether to buy exercise equipment.
  • Training individually or with friends.
  • Whether to consult professionals, literature or media outlets for guidance on how to train.

The ten participants were women aged 29.8±9.30 years, with weight 62.4± 8.78 kg, and height 164.7±5.72 cm. Polar E600 heart rate monitors were used to measure the participants’ heart rates. Conventional formulas for determining energy expenditure from heart rate, weight and age were used (Hausken and Tomasgaard 2010).


The analysis revealed three especially interesting results. Firstly, the 75-minute class had an overall energy expenditure of 8.56±1.16 kcal.min-1, which is comparable to running at 8.05 km.hour-1. Secondly, the three-step aerobics parts and the aerobics part have a significantly higher energy expenditure of 9.95±1.27 kcal.min-1, compared with the three weightlifting parts and balance which have energy expenditure 8.93±1.20 kcal.min-1. Thirdly, the first and second step aerobics parts have energy expenditure 10.05±1.30 kcal.min-1, which is 12.1±5.4% higher than for the first and second weightlifting parts which have energy expenditure 8.97±1.19 kcal.min-1. The participants’ heart rates were found to increase throughout each step aerobics part and decrease at the beginning of each weightlifting part. The participants thus used weight-lifting to recover from the step aerobics, using time efficiently by building muscle. A supplement to this insight is that weightlifting is usually associated with more so-called afterburn of calories than aerobics during the 0-48 hours afterwards, due to the need for expending energy for muscle recovery, e.g., repairing the common miniature ruptures and damaged myofibers which occur within muscles during weightlifting.

Participants responded by finding the 75-minute class enjoyable due to its variation, in addition to it involving aspects of interval training. Thus, we may envision the 75-minute class as positioned in the middle of a continuum from one extreme, for example, monotone running at constant speed and heart rate, to another extreme, for example, 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by ten seconds of rest, repeated continuously for four minutes (so-called Tabata exercise).

An interesting and perhaps ignored aspect of the 75-minute class is the challenging coordination during step aerobics. Complex choreography trains the eye-muscle response which requires brain power and is challenging and expends energy when the heart rate is high. Eye-muscle coordination is useful in daily life, e.g., when cycling, driving, or moving in crowded areas.

To monitor one’s heart rate, energy expenditure, and number of steps made, wristwatch-type heart rate monitors and accelerometers (commonly attached to one’s hip) are easily available. Such devices enable each user, coach and trainer to design and compare exercise forms to work towards a variety of objectives.

A distinction may be made between fitness exercise exemplified with the 75-minute class and specialised sports training. Specialised sports training requires patience and time and involves basic training plus targeted training to reach specified goals. Fitness exercise involves a plethora of ingredients with a short attention span and limited time, to reach a variety of objectives. Some examples of specialised objectives are to:

  • Lose weight.
  • Increase aerobic capacity and stamina.
  • Build and tone muscles.
  • Recreation.
  • Improve sleep.
  • Improved physical health.

One useful more general objective is to develop human potential. Users and trainers apply their insight to design exercise forms, such as the 75-minute class, to enable individuals to succeed in daily life, e.g., to move efficiently up stairs, play with children, move light and heavy objects with ease, keep up with one’s dog’s walking speed, clean one’s house or apartment, and shop in crowded centres.


Hausken, K and Tomasgaard, A. (2010). Evaluating Performance Training and Step Aerobics in Intervals. International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport, 10(3), pp. 279-294. Available at:

Dyrstad, S.M. and Hausken, K. (2013). Using Accelerometer to Estimate Energy Expenditures with Four Equations in Four Training Sessions. International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences, 25(2), pp. 91-101. Available at:

Hausken, K. and Dyrstad, S.M. (2013). Heart Rate, Accelerometer Measurements, Experience and Rating of Perceived Exertion in Zumba, Interval Running, Spinning, and Pyramid Running. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, 16(6), pp. 39-50. Available at:

Dyrstad, S.M. and Hausken, K. (2014). Comparing Accelerometer and Heart Rate Monitor in Interval Running, Interval Spinning and Zumba. International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences, 26(2), pp. 89-98. Available at:

Hausken, K. and Dyrstad, S.M. (2014). Determining Activity Energy Expenditure from Heart Rate and Physiological Characteristics. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 54(1), pp. 124-128. Available at:

Hausken, K. and Dyrstad, S.M. (2016). Using Heart Rate Monitors to Assess Energy Expenditure in Four Training Types. Gazzetta Medica Italiana, 175(3), pp. 49-58. Available at:

Hausken, K. (2017), “Exhaustive Classification and Review of Techniques and Research Program for Techniques for Skate Skiing, Classical Skiing, and Ski Mountaineering,” The Open Sports Sciences Journal 10, 160-178,

Hausken, K. (2019), “Evolutions in the Physiology of Skiing, Skating and Running in the Olympics,” Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 59, 7, 1175-1194,


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