How much exercise does it take to burn off a slice of pizza?

We’ve all been there – you’ve had a long, hard day and you just want to take the easy option for dinner. So you jump online or pick up the phone and treat yourself to a few slices of pizza. But once you’ve finished eating, that feeling of dread and guilt washes over you, just like the barbeque sauce that covered your meat lovers supreme, or whatever. So, now you wonder: How much exercise is it going to take to burn off this pizza?

We’ve crunched some data to try and figure out how much exercise you’ll have to do to justify that final slice of pizza pleasure. And if you’ve gone ahead an eaten the lot, we’ll also tell you how to burn the whole thing off. Spoiler alert: It isn’t pretty!

Please note (a) these are rough figures, and the exact calories burnt will differ depending on your weight and the intensity of the exercise you do, and (b) most foods are fine in moderation anyway, so don’t feel too guilty about treating yourself!

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The average calorie count of a slice of pizza

On FatSecret.com.au, there is a database of food brands to help you make healthier eating choices. Detailed under each brand is a list of products, the standard serving size of each product, and the calorie count (commonly known as kCal) for each product. We looked at several takeaway pizza brands in this database, and endeavoured to include product entries with a single serving size, or entries under 100g (typically a large single serving).

  • Number of pizzas compared: 50, from Dominos, Pizza Hut, Eagle Boys, Pizza Capers, Crust
  • Average serving size: 84.66 grams
  • Average calories per serving: 206.88 calories (commonly known as kCal)

When we entered the same serving size into CalorieKing.com.au for a standard piece of pizza (75g), it returned a result of 239 calories. A third source stated a certain brand’s slice had a calorie count of 198. It’s safe to assume then that we’re pretty close to the mark with our reckoning of about 207 calories.

How long it may take to work off that pizza

Michael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine previously detailed how many calories we burn per minute (on average) when performing various types of exercise. We divided the average calorie count of a slice of pizza by the ‘calories burnt per minute’ figure, to determine an answer to our question.

Exercise Calories burnt per minute How long to work off the average piece of pizza
Walking at a relaxed pace 3.5 kcals per minute Roughly 59 minutes
Bicycling at a relaxed pace
Swimming slowly
Slow stretching
Doing chores, sweeping
4 kcals per minute Roughly 52 minutes
Raking or mopping
Power walking
4-5 kcals per minute Roughly 41 to 52 minutes
Painting, repairing things around your home
Mowing the lawn
4.5 kcals per minute Roughly 46 minutes
Table tennis, doubles tennis 5 kcals per minute Roughly 41 minutes
Golf, in conjunction with carrying clubs 5.5 kcals per minute Roughly 38 minutes
General resistance calisthenics 6 kcals per minute Roughly 34 minutes
Ice or roller skating
Soccer/football
7 kcals per minute Roughly 29 minutes
Moving furniture
Stair stepper, ski machine
More than 7 kcals per minute Roughly 29 minutes or less
Singles tennis 7-8 kcals per minute Roughly 26 and a half  to 29 minutes
Running
Basketball game
8 kcals per minute Roughly 26 minutes
Fast/racing cycling 10 or more kcals per minute Roughly 21 minutes or less
Squash
Canoeing or rowing in competition
12 kcals per minute Roughly 17 minutes

Again, we should stress that this is not an expert study, but rather a rough estimate. The short answer is that it takes a long time to burn off those yummy slices of pizza, but there are lots of ways to mitigate your intake. For example, you could ask for no cheese on your pizza and the calorie count will drop dramatically. Alternatively, there should be several healthy eating options at your pizza store, so think about trying some of these options the next time you order. HOWEVER, if you’re gone ahead and eaten an entire pizza, you’re going to need to work extremely hard to burn it off.

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Burning off a whole pizza

So, we know how long it takes to burn off a single slice of delicious pizza, but what about the whole thing? Well, by multiplying our pizza slice figure (207 calories) by eight (the typical number of slices in a pizza), this gives us a total of 1,656 calories, or over 6,900 kilojoules of energy in an average pizza.

To put that in perspective, the recommended daily energy intake for most adults is 8,700kJ – so one pizza can potentially give you over three-quarters of your daily energy. Whilst this figure is an estimate and depends greatly on what toppings you get, which store you buy from and so on, even the most lightweight pizzas typically contain 3,000 – 4,000kJ each – still a huge amount of energy for one meal.

So, what sort of activities would you have to undertake to burn that much energy? Let’s take a look!

Ride in the Tour de France

Elite cyclists in the Tour de France will typically burn 3,500 to 4,500 calories on a single stage (i.e. on a single day) – that’s a ridiculous 14,600 kJ on top of the roughly 8,700kJ a day they need to maintain their body weight. So if you’ve just downed a tasty pepperoni pizza, an hour or so riding in the Tour de France peloton should soon have that energy well and truly burned up.

Play a game of footy (or two)

Whether your favourite code is rugby, football, league or Aussie rules, a game of football is a long and demanding experience, which involves a combination of cardiovascular and muscular endurance, and burns a lot of energy. According to LiveStrong, 30 minutes of competitive football burns between 260-310 calories – so a 90 minute game will burn 3,300 to 3,900kJ, depending on which position you play and how intense the game is. Even the highest estimate doesn’t burn up all the calories in a typical pizza though, so you’ll have to play at least another half a game, or possibly a whole other game, to achieve that.

Go climb up a cliff

Whether it’s scaling a sheer cliff or just the artificial wall at your local gym, rock climbing is a serious workout no matter the setting. The combination of upper and lower-body strength, in conjunction with the constant stress on your body to grip the surface, means a lot of energy is burned during a climbing session – an ABC article estimates 2,950kJ per hour for women and 3,700kJ per hour for men. Whilst this is a seriously intense workout, even a muscular man would still need to climb for at least an hour and a half to burn off the energy from most pizzas.

In conclusion

The ‘takeaway’ from this report isn’t that pizza is bad, of course. It’s just that you need to be aware of how much energy is in your food, because it’s easy to eat too much of something delicious! Just remember, it’s almost impossible to out-exercise a bad diet, so be conscious of what you’re putting in your body and enjoy all foods in moderation.

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