If you’ve ever been lying out in mid-July, with the warm sun penetrating your skin and you wonder to yourself, “Do you burn calories suntanning?” you aren’t alone. Many people associate sweat with burning calories, since you sweat when you work out.
However, unfortunately, the sweat involved with exercise occurs because of the physical labor involved, not because you’re burning calories.
So, if you’re outside getting bronzed, trying to get your perfect beach body ready and you want to kill two birds with one stone, I will regretfully inform you, you’re going to need a different strategy.
Does Suntanning Burn Calories?
While practically everything we do burns calories; from sleeping to drinking coffee, we’d assume by this logic that suntanning does in fact burn calories. You would be right, however the amount of calories burned while you’re basking in the sun’s rays aren’t nearly enough to promote any sort of weight loss.
When the human body is warm and at rest, our metabolic rate drops. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the level of energy our body needs at a particular moment to maintain the bare minimum bodily functions. So, when you’re relaxing in the sun, our body’s BMR rate drops to a low level.
Therefore the body isn’t burning nearly as many calories to keep itself functioning. Hence, why sunbathing is not an efficient way to lose a few pounds. The only way one could say sunbathing burns calories is with the idea that virtually everything we do burns calories, but that’s about it.
How Many Calories Do You Burn Sunbathing?
As with any other type of activity, the amount of calories you’ll burn depends on your unique body type. Age, body mass index, overall health and your activity level will all play a role in how many calories you’re actually burning.
While there is evidence you burn more while sitting rather than laying in the sun, it’s still a minimal amount. In order to calculate exactly how many calories you would burn laying in the sun, you first need to find your body mass index (BMI).
There are many websites and apps online you can use to find this number out. This is the one I personally used. Once you have your BMI, divide this number by 24. 24 is the standard amount of calories burned laying down in one hour.
Your number will reflect how many calories your body specifically will be burning by sunbathing. If you want to take it a step further, you can divide this number by 4, to see in 15 minute intervals.
For example, I calculated my basal metabolic rate as 1553.3. Once I found this number I then divided that by 24. This gave me 64 calories an hour.
Does Suntanning Burn Fat?
As with the rest of this topic, this is a bit of a complicated answer. While science is ever-changing, we can’t definitively say either way just yet—however evidence is leading a particular direction (very slightly).
One thing to take note of, is, just because you’re burning calories does not mean you’re burning fat. When we burn calories, our bodies are burning the carbohydrates in our system, rather than the fat stored in our cells.
So, in order for someone to burn fat while sunbathing they would have to spend an extensive amount of time in the sun, which poses many other health risks.
While there is very little research done on this topic, there is some. Research was done at the University of Alberta, Canada back in 2018 that investigated the unfortunate problem of “winter weight gain.” They posed the question, is there a link between sunlight and weight loss during the summer months?
What scientists found was that the fat cells that lie just below the surface of our skin shrink when exposed to UV rays from the sun. Therefore, during the winter months, the fat cells aren’t exposed to nearly as much sunlight, giving them a chance to grow, leading to those dreaded extra pounds we end up blaming on the holidays.
By this train of thought, in the summer when our bodies are exposed to sunlight and these fat cells begin to shrink, the fat we accumulated over the winter theoretically will shrink with them. While this seems like an interesting idea, there currently isn’t any other scientific data or research to back it up just yet.
Does Tanning Help Metabolism?
Fortunately, we do have enough science to back up the claim that both indoor and/or outdoor tanning do, in fact, boost metabolism. UV rays emitted from the sun (or tanning bed) activate our thyroid gland. When our thyroid gland becomes stimulated our metabolism increases.
When we’re in a down mood, our metabolism slows down. This can be why when some people experience depression, they find themselves packing on a few extra pounds in a short period of time. Sunlight naturally boosts both our energy and mood, helping kick start our metabolism.
Final Thoughts: Do You Burn Calories Suntanning?
No, sunbathing isn’t the best idea if you’re looking for major—or even moderate weight loss. While yes, technically it burns calories, and yes, exposing your body to UV rays does burn fat, it’s not nearly enough to promote any noticeable effects.
If you want to sunbathe while burning calories, getting active while in the sun may be the best of both worlds. Beach volleyball, swimming or jogging along a seashore are just a few ways to kick outdoor fat burning up a notch.
The hotter our bodies get, the harder our blood needs to pump in order to get rid of the heat. When this happens, our hearts are working overtime to compensate for the hotter temperatures. In return, the amount of calories and fat we burn is increased.
Just remember, there are substantial health risks to spending prolonged periods in the sun, so while your bronzed glow may seem worth it in the moment, remember to always take proper precautions beforehand.