Not too long ago, a report published on the AsiaOne website claimed that you can lose weight by burning off calories via crying during the period between 7 pm to 10 pm. You might have heard of this, or you may not have. However, you are also probably here because you want enough facts to support or refute the claim that crying can burn calories. That’s exactly what you will see here.
First, let’s look at the physiology of crying
What exactly is crying?
Crying is a physiological response to intense emotionsThe neurobiology of human crying – PMC. It is often characterised by the shedding of tears, and/or making of noises that suggest pain, hurt, regret, joy, happiness, etc. Intense emotions can be on either side of the extremes – the happy or the sad, and it is usual to cry in any given instance of such emotions.
Shedding tears does not always equate with crying. Several other things can make you shed tears and they need to be identified separately. Dust and smoke can reflexively make you shed tears. Some toxic aerosolized chemicals when in contact with the eyes can also induce tears. Excessive tearing can also be a side effect of some medications like Docetaxel.
As mentioned, crying is activated by intense and overwhelming emotions. Tears are normally produced in small quantities by the tear glands to keep the eyes moist but during crying, the amounts of tears produced become increased.
From these, we arrive at three types of tears not directly related to crying – basal tears produced in normal amounts by the eyes; reflex tears related to dust, smoke and chemicals; and drug-induced tears or epiphora. Tears related to crying or intense emotions are referred to as psychic tears.
Does crying burn calories?
The short answer is yes but crying does not burn enough calories to cause noticeable weight loss. Crying, as an emotional response, is thought to burn roughly the same amount of calories as laughing – 1.3 calories per minute, according to one study. This is likely due to the release of cortisol by crying.
According to Harvard University, a 155-pound person will burn between 298-372 calories in 30 minutes depending on the speed of cycling and whether it is a stationary bike or outdoor biking. The amounts of calories burnt will also depend on the person’s weight – could be more, or less for higher or lower weight, respectively.
Crying expends 1.3 calories per minute, right? That means, crying for 30 minutes will consume 39 calories. This is just a very small amount of calorie expenditure compared to cycling or other forms of moderate exercise.
Secondly, as noted, crying is a physiological response to intense emotions like pain. When you cry for slightly extended periods of time, your body produces hormones like oxytocin and endorphins which are natural chemicals that gives your brain the soothing feeling you experience when you cry for that long.
Oxytocin is also known as the love hormone because of the feeling of euphoria it produces. This together with the endorphins not only make you feel calm when you are crying but also numb physical and psychological painUnderstanding Endorphins and Their Importance in Pain Management – PMC. This can explain why you always need to cry when you have been physically hurt.
How crying burns calories
In response to the report that crying between 7 pm and 10 pm in the evening burns calories, crying is considered a form of a stressful situation. And just like other stressful situations, cortisol is released in higher amounts during crying. Cortisol is said to enhance metabolism by regulating fats and carbohydrates metabolism in the body.Physiology, Cortisol – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf
Every activity can potentially produce some stress to the body, including eating and drinking, but these stressors may not be able to raise body cortisol up to levels that other stressors can achieve. Also, some stressors like feeding produce a net gain effect – that is, calories input is greater than calories expenditure, and therefore not enough stressors to make them effective at raising cortisol levels significantly.
The inference from this is that crying burns 1.3 calories per minute because it raises body levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. And, coupled with the fact that the amount of calories burnt via crying is too small to be considered effective for weight loss, it is also often difficult to initiate crying without any intense emotions.
You might need to feel pain, or extreme joy to be able to cry a cry that will significantly raise cortisol levels. And if you consider crying in the evening as your new method of burning body fat, you might need to really experience the emotion before it can be effective. Inducing tears using any chemical, smoke or dust is not going to be effective. So, instead of wasting the 30 minutes that you would have used to chat with your lover on crying, consider other forms of exercise.
Home exercises for effectively burning calories
Considering how ineffective crying is in burning calories and inducing weight loss, here are some better alternative exercises that can help you burn calories more effectively.
Aerobic exercises like cycling, jogging and running.
Of note, body exercises for effectively burning calories and inducing weight loss must be coupled with other behavioural and dietary modifications. You need to be consistent in your exercises and also avoid eating unhealthy, oversized meals.
Crying burns calories but not effectively (just as low as 1.3 calories per minute). Crying also requires some emotional conditions or triggers like pain, and the small calorie loss it can induce might not compare to the pain you might inflict on yourself if you try to induce crying.
Therefore, despite the claims, caring is not recommended as an effective way of burning fat or losing calories. Other effective ways to burn calories are listed above and they include aerobic exercises like cycling, jogging and running; and so on.
When next you are asked if crying burns calories, be quick to respond with a yes but also state that the calorie loss is insignificant. it is also important to note that almost all human activity on a daily basis burns calories as well. Crying is not in any way special.
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