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AICR HealthTalk

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, FAND
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: How long would I have to walk to burn off the calories in holiday treats?

A: It depends on the treats you choose and how fast you walk. Holiday cookies often have 60 to 140 calories each, and sweet desserts may contain from 200 to 600 calories or more per serving.

If you walk at a moderate 3 miles per hour pace and weigh 150 pounds, you would need about 24 minutes to burn the calories in a 100-calorie cookie, and well over an hour for other sweet desserts. If you can comfortably walk at a brisk pace of about 4 miles per hour, you could cut your walking time to 15 minutes to burn the same number of calories; or if you walk briskly for 24 minutes, you’ll burn almost 200 calories.

Looking at this math, it’s easy to see that although boosting physical activity at a time when there’s more high-calorie food around can help avoid weight gain, adding extra exercise can’t easily keep up with how quickly excess calories accumulate with overeating. However, don’t look at walking and other exercise simply as a way to balance calories you consume. Physical activity, independent of weight, links with numerous health benefits, including lower risk of several cancers. It also helps your body regulate blood sugar and keeps several hormones at healthy levels.

For many people, daily physical activity also helps handle stress, raise energy levels and improve sleep quality, which are all often challenges at busy times of year. So enjoy sweet treats of the season, choosing those that you enjoy most at times when you can truly taste and savor them.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed over $105 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF).

Published on 12/07/2015

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