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Active Calories vs. Total Calories

Here's What You Need to Know About the Calorie Counts on Your Apple Watch

There are few things more satisfying than getting in some steps or a tough workout and instantly finding out how many calories you burned. If you're obsessed with checking your Apple Watch, you know what I'm talking about — but you may have noticed that there are quite a few numbers to track, including active calories and total calories. If you're unsure of the difference, we've got answers.

Simply put, active calories are those you burn while walking, climbing, jogging — whatever you do for exercise. Total calories include active calories and resting calories, which are those your body burns naturally, even when you're just lounging on the couch.

"Both numbers are affected by a number of factors, including age, current weight, medical conditions, activity level, and sex," said personal trainer Chris Kelly, NASM, CPT, CF, LI. "The Apple Watch uses the heart rate monitor and other features to track activity and resting heart rate."

How to Boost Your Calorie Burn

The accuracy of fitness trackers (or lack thereof) has been a topic of discussion for years. From the treadmill to your Apple Watch, it's fair to say that the numbers probably aren't totally accurate. "Instead of looking for an exact number, these are great tools to show trends and track progress in the right direction," Kelly told POPSUGAR.

So, you might make it your goal to simply increase your average number of active calories burned each week. While these numbers are different for everyone, the key is to create a deficit between calories consumed and total calories burned. "One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories," Kelly said. "If an individual were able to create a calorie deficit of 500 and then 1,000 calories per day, they would lose between one and two pounds per week, which is safe and sustainable."

Fitness trackers may not be a perfect science, but they can certainly help keep you on the path to reaching your goals.

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