Pounds can be slow to melt away, but burning some extra calories may be easier than you think. Take the activities on this page, each of which burns 50 of a 2,500-calorie daily intake.
Hoop it up
How long: 8 minutes
The skinny: Hooping—the exercise-oriented incarnation of the 1950s Hula-Hoop craze—gives you a good cardiovascular workout, builds stamina, and improves agility and strength.
Bonus: It’s cool and likely to be even cooler, now that an avid hooper, first lady Michelle Obama, is in the White House.
Conduct an imaginary orchestra
How long: 14 minutes
The skinny: The gestures and body movements of conducting (think Arturo Toscanini, not Lawrence Welk) significantly boost your pulse rate and, over time, strengthen your heart.
Bonus: “Nobody knows why many orchestra conductors live longer than people in other professions,” says Gabe Mirkin, M.D., “but the very act of conducting may be the reason.”
How long: 19-20 minutes
The skinny: While this may strike you as a sedentary activity, keep in mind that a typist burns up to twice as many calories as a couch potato.
Bonus: Keep in touch with your friends and family.
Pick up litter
How long: 8 minutes
The skinny: Walking is good exercise, but some bending, stretching, and lifting make it even better.
Bonus: Cleaning up trash and collecting recyclables (cans, bottles, etc.) rank way up there in the feel-good department and sets a terrific example for others.
Be a clean freak
How long: 10 minutes
The skinny: Vacuuming gives muscles in your upper body a gentle workout and, if stairs are involved, helps tone the lower body.
Bonus: A cleaner house helps control such asthma and allergy triggers as pet dander, dust mites, and pollen.
Work out your funny bone
How long: 10-15 minutes
The skinny: Laughing out loud can boost your metabolism by 20 percent, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., found.
Bonus: Laughing also increases blood flow and may reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a study by doctors at the University of Maryland.
How long: 4 1/2 hours
The skinny: Working out your jaw muscles in this way can raise your metabolic rate by 20 percent, researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found.
Bonus: Xylitol, the sugar substitute used in many sugar-free chewing gums, reduces dental plaque and helps prevent cavities.
Rub someone the right way
How long: 8-9 minutes
The skinny: When it comes to massages as a calorie-burning activity, it’s definitely better to give than to receive.
Bonus: Massage, researchers have found, reduces pain and stress throughout the body; it may also lower blood pressure and boost immunity. But that’s only if your massage partner returns the favor.
Now for the Disclaimer
These are averages based on a weight of 180 pounds. For a more accurate estimate, find a “calories burned calculator” on the Web (such as http://aarp.smarttrainingsystems.com/calculators/).