Can you lose weight by doing puzzles?

Can you lose weight by doing puzzles?


We all know that the human brain, while accounting for only 5 percent of the body’s mass, uses a whole quarter of its energy. But can mental exercise be as effective as physical exercise to help you lose weight?

Puzzles are great fun for some quality alone time. You don’t need expensive equipment like games on a console or PC; and a difficult crossword can keep you occupied for hours or even days. Plus, there’s the added bonus that you expand your knowledge and skills while you’re working out the answers. Crosswords make you cleverer but can they make you fitter, too?

The satisfaction of completing is 5km run is nothing compared to the satisfaction of completing every grid in a sudoku book. Ticking every box and marking the date it was completed. The pile of used puzzle books in the corner of the room grows ever higher as does your understanding of math and the placement of numbers in a grid. But how much extra energy did you use by completing them.

An active body can burn a lot of calories

We all know that the amount of calories your body uses depends on the type of exercise you’re doing.

A stroll down to the store will use less energy than running to get your latest fix of Puzzle Weekly. A 200 meter  sprint will burn xxx more calories than a gentle jog over the same distance.

To give you an idea of the actual figures and number of calories burned, here are a few comparisons based on a body weight of 150 lbs carrying out a given exercise for 30 minutes.

Standing still, doing nothing burns 70 calories

Sleeping: 30 calories

Having sex: 46 calories

Yoga : 90 calories

Walking slowly burns 105 calories.

Walking quickly: 136 calories

Fast cycling : 357 calories

Jump rope: 457 calories.

There are some shockers in there. Who knew that sexual activity burned so few calories. Considering how hot and sweaty most people get, it’s is surprisingly low number expending roughly a tenth of the energy we’d use if we’d have jumped rope for an equivalent time.

It’s also surprising that fast cycling is only ten times as effective at using calories than sleeping – implying that five hours of sleep is as good as half an hour of cycling in weight loss terms.

How many calories is your brain using?

Of course, it isn’t that simple. In addition to the burning of calories, vigorous exercise has the benefit of tuning up muscle tone,¬† improving cardiovascular health and making you more attractive to the opposite (or same sex), so you can efficiently burn 46 calories on a regular basis.

But you’re not going to be indulging in hard exercise all day every day. Very few people would even be able to stand still for 24 hours.

But you’re brain is always going and always active – even when you’re asleep. During a 24 hour period, your brain will consume around 350 calories.

What’s it doing with the energy? It’s keeping you alive; it’s processing inputs from your senses, it’s regulating your nervous system and keeping your hormones in the background – and that’s just the stuff you don’t even realize it’s doing. Add in conscious thought, memory archival and access, and that’s a lot.

Does thinking burn calories.

The short answer is yes. But it’s not as much as you might hope. Even the most demanding of tasks only increase energy use by the brain by around 5%. That’s about 17 calories per day.

If a really hard puzzle takes 30 minutes to complete, you’ll have burned around half a calorie more than you otherwise would have.

It’s not nothing but it certainly won’t help you to shed those holiday pounds!


August Jones

Hi. My name's August Jones - I'm a fantastic amateur chef and a self-proclaimed food expert. I spend most of my life in kitchens cooking and preparing wholesome meals for anywhere between two and 20 people. If you need a banquet or an intimate meal, I can help you out! I plan on using the pages at to share my decades of culinary expertise, and excellence