Importance of balancing Food and Physical Activity

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 13, 2013

What is Energy Balance?

Energy is another word for "calories." Your energy balance is the balance of calories consumed through eating and drinking compared to calories burned through physical activity. What you eat and drink is ENERGY IN. What you burn through physical activity is ENERGY OUT.

You burn a certain number of calories just by breathing air and digesting food. You also burn a certain number of calories (ENERGY OUT) through your daily routine. For example, children burn calories just being students—walking to their lockers, carrying books, etc.- and adults burn calories walking to the bus stop, going shopping, etc. A chart of estimated calorie requirements for children and adults is available at the link below; this chart can help you maintain a healthy calorie balance.

An important part of maintaining energy balance is the amount of ENERGY OUT (physical activity) that you do. People who are more physically active burn more calories than those who are not as physically active.

The same amount of ENERGY IN (calories consumed) and ENERGY OUT

(calories burned) over time = weight stays the same


More IN than OUT over time = weight gain


More OUT than IN over time = weight loss

Your ENERGY IN and OUT don't have to balance every day. It's having a balance over time that will help you stay at a healthy weight for the long term. Children need to balance their energy, too, but they’re also growing and that should be considered as well. Energy balance in children happens when the amount of ENERGY IN and ENERGY OUT supports natural growth without promoting excess weight gain.

That’s why you should take a look at the Estimated Calorie Requirement chart, to get a sense of how many calories (ENERGY IN) you and your family need on a daily basis.


Estimated Calorie Requirements

This calorie requirement chart presents estimated amounts of calories needed to maintain energy balance (and a healthy body weight) for various gender and age groups at three different levels of physical activity. The estimates are rounded to the nearest 200 calories and were determined using an equation from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).



Estimated Calorie Requirements (in kilocalories) for Each Gender and Age Group at Three Levels of Physical Activity.

Gender Age (years) Activity Level
Sedentary Moderately Active Active




1,000 - 1,400

1,000 - 1,400


4 - 8


1,400 - 1,600

1,400 - 1,800





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