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Do Short People Burn More Calories?

When you run, does the amount of calories your body uses depend on your height? A recent study has answered the question and it turns out that a shorter person will burn off more calories than a tall person when running the same distance. This actually makes sense when you think about it; a shorter person requires more strides to cover the same distance, so it stands to reason that they would use more calories to do so. This conclusion is borne out by a study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.


It was already known that shorter people expend more energy per pound of their body weight when they walk and the same turns out to be true for running on a treadmill. Subjects of heights from four to six feet walked on treadmills at speeds ranging from one mph to more than four mph. The subjects' oxygen use and strides were measured to determine their metabolic rates and, as the researchers had expected, subjects expended roughly the same amount of energy for each step.

Calorie Counters

In the course of the study, the researchers derived an equation which included the subject's weight to determine the amount of energy used while walking. There are many applications for this equation. One of these is calorie counters on exercise machines, since being able to include weight in the calorie calculation allows higher accuracy. Exercise machines have made calorie calculation for many years. However, since manufacturers of exercise machines generally do not publish their formulas, and no one outside of these companies know how the old formulas work, we can only assume that using the new formula should resbe more accurate. The military may also be able to use this data in order to determine how much energy (and how many calories) soldiers need while performing different duties.

At one time, being tall was probably more of a survival advantage than it is now. Taller people may have generally required less energy to do the same amount of work as a shorter person, but of course now we don't generally need to hunt for our food on foot and many of us want to lose weight. In the long run, perhaps short people will turn out to be the winners; they need to expend less exercise to lose weight.

The study also gives one possible explanation for why it is that children get tired more quickly than do adults when walking or engaging in other exercise. Another fact which came out of the study is that, regardless of height, people walk the same way, so that the difference in energy expenditure is due to height, not that they somehow walk differently.



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