By Dr Harry
The amount of calories you consume each day should be between 2,000 and 2,500 kcal on average. But these are average values based on average activity levels. We can judge our own Physical Activity Level (PAL) according to the kind of activity we do in our daily lives. From this we can get a more accurate guide to our daily calorie intake suited to our specific lifestyle.
What affects PAL?
Your PAL depends on several factors – like your line of work, your daily journey to work, and the amount of time you have to partake in exercise. Some of those you have a choice about and others you don’t.
Most of us can’t change our job. If you work behind a desk – answering phones, typing reports etc. – it is very difficult to burn extra calories during working hours. And most of us spend most of our time at work, so it’s a big problem. If you fall into this category your PAL would be classed as "sedentary" or your lifestyle would be described as “light activity”. You would also typically take the car to work, spend your leisure time reading, chatting, watching TV, listening to radio or computing. Does this sound like you? It sounds familiar to most people as that is the way of modern life in most modern cities.
Obviously if you are a job where you are on your feet all day, e.g. waiting tables, or doing light manual work, e.g. stacking shelves, your activity levels will be greater. Your PAL would be categorised as "active" or your lifestyle would be described as “moderately active”. You may not be obliged to be that physically active at work, but you may get your activity by cycling to work or walking part of the journey there. In your spare time you take the opportunity to exercise – at least one hour per day.
The people with the most active jobs – like dancers, swimmers, or in the developing world farmers who toil on the land – will be in the PAL category “vigorous” or their lifestyle would be called “vigorously active”. Vigorous physical exercise of 2 hours per day, or manual labour for several hours per day, or walking long distances carrying heavy loads, walking on rugged terrain (if you are in the developing world) would also classify as vigorous activity.
How does my PAL affect the amount of calories I eat every day?
There is a simple relationship between your PAL and your Basal metabolic Rate (BMR) and the total amount of calories you should eat per day to maintain a stable weight.
Use the PAL value below, which depends on your lifestyle:
In a previous blog we discussed basal metabolic rate (BMR), and how to calculate this based on your age, height, weight and sex. Once you have an estimate of your BMR you can use your PAL value to work out how much energy you should be consuming on a daily basis.
Let’s imagine we have calculated our BMR as 1560 kcal/day. And, let’s say that we are moderately active. This gives you a PAL value of 1.70 – 1.99. Let’s say 1.8. Knowing these two figures we can work out our recommended daily calorie intake:
1560 x 1.8 = 2809 kcal per day.
This means if I consume 2809 kcal per day I will maintain a stable weight.
This assumes that I don’t need any extra energy for growth, which is a safe assumption for adults but would be inaccurate for growing children and I keep my PAL as “active”. During the winter, when it’s colder and darker outside, I may become “sedentary” and therefore my recommended daily calorie intake should be modified – otherwise I will gain weight over the winter months!
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