You’ve heard people say it before, working is not regular exercise. Tell that to your aching body at the end of the day!

What should be said is that work should not be your only exercise, since the truth is that working burns calories, too, and the heavier the work, the more calories burned.

The number of calories someone needs a day varies based on their age, gender and activity level. On average, the body needs about 12 calories per pound of body weight every day to keep the organs functioning and maintain normal body temperature. That means, if you weigh 200 lbs, you should eat 2,400 calories (12 x 200 lbs) per day just to stay alive.

Additional calories are needed to fuel every other activity, including work activities.

Using the chart below, you can figure out about how many calories you burn during a work shift, based on the activity and how long you perform it. For more information and to modify the calories burned based on your weight and length of time you’re performing the task for, visit

TaskCalories burned in 1 hour by a 150 pound person
Traffic guard, flagger129
Sharpening tools143
Masonry, light effort179
Operating heavy duty equipment, automated, not driving179
Hammering nails215
Construction, outside, remodeling, new structures286
Masonry, moderate effort308
Sanding floors322
Hanging sheetrock358
Building road, driving heavy machinery430
Shoveling, digging ditches558
Carrying heavy loads573
Using heavy tools (not power)573

When balancing the calories you take in with the calories burned, include work activities, but remember that the road to a healthier body should also include regular recreational exercise, too. Both activities burn calories; one is just a lot more fun.

For more information about physical activity, check out the Nutrition & Fitness page on our website.

Updated: September 2022, Emily Smith