How many calories does a sedentary woman burn a day?

Quick Answer

The number of calories a sedentary woman burns per day depends on her age, size, and activity level, but on average, an adult sedentary woman burns between 1,200-1,600 calories per day. A more precise daily calorie burn estimate can be calculated using the Mifflin St-Jeor equation, which factors in age, weight, height, and sex.

How Many Calories Does the Average Sedentary Woman Burn Per Day?

On average, a sedentary woman burns between 1,200-1,600 calories per day. However, calorie needs can vary significantly based on factors like:

  • Age – Metabolism slows as we age, so calorie needs decline.
  • Weight – Heavier individuals burn more calories at rest than lighter individuals.
  • Height – Taller individuals have greater calorie needs.
  • Muscle mass – Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue.

Given these variabilities, the best way to estimate your daily calorie burn is to use the Mifflin St-Jeor equation, which accounts for age, sex, weight, height, and activity level.

According to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, sedentary activity is defined as only light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life, such as standing, walking slowly, and lifting lightweight objects. Sedentary women get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate activity on top of their light activity.

Calorie Burn Based on Age

Age impacts daily calorie needs. Below is an overview of estimated calorie burn per day for sedentary women by age group:

Age Estimated Calories Burned Per Day
19-30 years 1,600-2,400 calories
31-50 years 1,600-2,200 calories
51-70 years 1,400-2,000 calories
Over 70 years 1,200-1,800 calories

As shown, daily calorie needs decline with age due to reductions in muscle mass and metabolism that occur over time. Older adults need fewer calories to maintain their body weight than younger adults.

Calorie Burn Based on Weight

Body weight is another key factor determining calorie burn. Heavier individuals need more calories per day than lighter individuals. Here’s an overview of estimated daily calorie burn for sedentary women based on weight status:

Weight Status Estimated Calories Burned Per Day
Underweight (BMI under 18.5) 1,200-1,600 calories
Normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9) 1,400-1,800 calories
Overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9) 1,600-2,000 calories
Obese (BMI over 30) 1,800-2,400 calories

In general, the more a person weighs, the more calories their body needs to sustain itself each day. This is because heavier bodies require more energy (calories) at rest than lighter bodies.

Using the Mifflin St-Jeor Equation

While the averages above provide general calorie burn estimates, the most accurate way to determine your personal daily calorie needs is to use the Mifflin St-Jeor equation:

For women:
Daily Calorie Need = (9.99 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (4.92 x age) – 161

This equation calculates your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the minimum number of calories your body needs to perform essential functions like breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and more.

Your total daily calorie burn is higher than your BMR once the energy needed for daily living is factored in. To estimate total daily energy expenditure, multiply your BMR by an activity factor:

Sedentary activity level: BMR x 1.2
Light activity level: BMR x 1.375
Moderate activity level: BMR x 1.55
Very active: BMR x 1.725
Extremely active: BMR x 1.9

So for example, a 35 year old sedentary woman who is 5’4″ (162.5 cm) and weighs 150 lbs (68 kg) would calculate her calorie needs as follows:

BMR = (9.99 x 68 kg) + (6.25 x 162.5 cm) – (4.92 x 35 years) – 161
= 677 + 1,016 – 171 – 161
= 1,361 calories

Daily Calorie Need
= BMR x Activity Factor
= 1,361 x 1.2 (sedentary activity factor)
= Approximately 1,600 calories per day

Using the Mifflin St-Jeor equation accounts for individual age, height, weight, and activity levels to provide a personalized daily calorie burn estimate.

Factors That Impact Daily Calorie Burn

Many factors influence the number of calories burned at rest and during activity, including:

Muscle Mass

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue – about 35-50 more calories per pound of muscle each day. Individuals with more muscle mass have higher metabolic rates and burn more calories around the clock. Resistance training is a way to build and maintain calorie-burning muscle.

Body Size and Composition

Larger individuals burn more calories than smaller individuals at rest. This also applies to overweight vs normal weight individuals with the same height/frame size. Total daily energy expenditure is also higher in those with a lower body fat percentage compared to a higher percentage.

Age and Sex

Younger adults tend to have faster metabolisms and burn more calories than older adults. Men naturally have less body fat and more muscle than women, burning about 100 more calories per day than women at rest.


Some people inherit a naturally faster or slower metabolism. Resting metabolic rate can vary up to 400-500 calories between people of the same age/sex/body size due to genetic factors.

Environmental Temperature

The body burns more calories when exposed to cold environments to produce heat via shivering and heat production. Warm environments can decrease calorie burn slightly.

Pregnancy and Lactation

During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, pregnant women need around 300 extra calories per day. Lactating women require 500 extra calories per day to make milk.

Medical Conditions

Certain conditions like hyperthyroidism and cancer increase calorie burn, while other conditions like hypothyroidism slow metabolism.

Food Intake

The thermic effect of food – the calories burned digesting and processing food – makes up about 10% of total daily calorie expenditure. Large meals require more energy to digest.


Some medications, like steroids, can increase calorie burn and metabolic rate. Others, like beta blockers, may decrease metabolism.

Tips for Estimating Total Daily Calorie Needs

Here are some tips for determining your estimated daily calorie burn as a sedentary woman:

  • Use the Mifflin St-Jeor equation to calculate your basal metabolic rate and activity level multiplier for the most accurate estimate.
  • Aim for the lower end of the general calorie burn estimate ranges if you are shorter or trying to lose weight.
  • Aim for the higher end of the general estimate ranges if you are younger or trying to maintain your weight.
  • Adjust your calories based on your appetite, weight changes, and activity level over time.
  • Speak with your healthcare provider if you have a medical condition impacting metabolism or are on any medications affecting weight.
  • Consider investing in a fitness tracker to get data on your total daily calorie burn.

Tracking your calorie intake alongside your estimated daily calorie burn can help inform your diet and weight goals. As a sedentary woman, focusing on your BMR is key for determining calorie balance.

The Role of Exercise

While this article focuses on calories burned at rest (sedentary), exercise plays a key role in elevating daily calorie expenditure. Adding regular physical activity can help create a calorie deficit for weight loss.

Here’s a look at how different exercise types typically impact calorie burn per hour for a 155 lb (70 kg) woman:

Exercise Type Calories Burned Per Hour
Walking (3 mph) 240 calories
Light cycling (10-12 mph) 260 calories
Water aerobics 240 calories
Hiking 370 calories
Jogging (5 mph) 475 calories
High intensity interval training 450 calories
Cardio/aerobic dance class 400 calories

As shown, more vigorous exercises like jogging, hiking, and dance burn significantly more calories per hour. Building activity into your daily routine can create an added calorie deficit.

The Bottom Line

Determining your total daily calorie burn as a sedentary woman requires taking multiple factors into account, including your BMR, activity levels, age, height, and weight status. While averages provide a general guideline, using the Mifflin St-Jeor equation offers the most accurate estimate of how many calories you need to maintain your body weight as a sedentary woman. Tracking your intake alongside your estimated expenditure can help inform your diet and weight loss or maintenance goals.

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