Harvard Health Letter

A Web-based way of tracking your physical activity level

If you want to keep tabs on your activity level and how many calories you're burning without buying a gadget, check out this government Web site:

www.choosemyplate.gov

It's run by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Why is the USDA in the exercise business? Because the department promulgates nutrition guidelines, and good nutrition necessarily involves energy balance, which means making sure that the amount of calories you're taking in should match the number you're burning — and be less if you are trying to lose weight. So although you can't eat physical activity, it's part of the USDA food pyramid.

If you go to www.choosemyplate.gov you'll see that there is "assess your physical activity" heading in lower half of the page. Click on that and you'll get to the physical activity calculators. Newcomers have to register, but it doesn't take long and doesn't require revealing any confidential information — even entering your email address is optional. You are asked to enter your age, weight, and height. That's so the calculator can translate the activities you list into the calories you've burned.

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