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You do not need to give up all parties if you want to lose weight

Partying and losing weight have been considered mutually exclusive because alcohol with all its calories is one the worst enemies of anyone who wants to drop some pounds. So, if your goal is to get slim, do you have to give up parties completely and spend Saturday nights on a treadmill instead of a dance floor?

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The total sum of a night out

Drink-filled nights out are not generally considered to have many health benefits. From the weight watching point of view, the problem with the alcoholic drinks typically consumed in house parties, night clubs and summer parties are the calories.

One thing that you can do, of course, it to replace alcoholic drinks, or at least some of them, with non-alcoholic options to reduce the number of calories consumed over the night. Another thing that you can do—and you will have fun doing it—is to burn the calories by dancing. On the dance floor you get plenty of exercise at a time that you would otherwise maybe spend sound asleep in your bed.

“Even the dancing at an ordinary party can burn fat and at best pass for fitness training. When you dance, you work out your entire body and also stimulate your nervous system and your cognitive skills,” tells Jyrki Haapala, a dance artist and Master of Arts in Dance.

So, how many calories does dancing burn?

Very intensive dancing, for example at a techno party, rave or summer night in a traditional Finnish dance pavilion, can burn as many as 400 to 600 kilocalories per hour (source: calorie calculator at laihdutus.info). This means that when it comes to burning calories, an hour of dancing equals the same amount of time on an exercise bike or rowing on a lake.

“A great dance can get you into a kind of flow state that keeps you dancing even for hours. And why do we enjoy dancing at parties so much? Because it’s liberating! There are no predefined patterns of steps. Instead, we can produce improvised movement with our bodies,” explains Haapala.

Dance to your heart’s content but choose your refreshments carefully

Partying has beneficial effects because of its social aspects, but how will this weekend fun affect your aspirations to lose weight? Does your weight go up at parties?

A rule of thumb is that the stronger and the sweeter the spirits in a drink are, the more calories there are in it. This means that mixed drinks tend to be the worst for your waistline because not only do they contain strong spirits but often their mixers are rich in calories as well.

A lighter way to party is to choose drinks without alcohol, such as non-alcoholic beer. Or you can try mixing a drink for example with low-calorie vitamin-enhanced water.

To sum it up, if you want to lose weight, you can still go to parties, but you may need to choose more carefully what you drink.

Parties are activity peaks

Many people wear a smart watch or an activity tracker or carry a phone that among its many other handy features tracks its user’s activity.

Aliisa, 26 years, from Turku, and Mauri, 37 years, from Helsinki, had a look at their best parties last year, and the evidence is clear: The party hours appear as peaks in activity. Moreover, parties cause a huge increase in the number of steps taken. The Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare recommends walking at least 9,000 steps per day.

Aliisa’s favourite parties were the Sunday at the Flow Festival in Helsinki, the work Christmas party and the New Year’s party.

Aliisa’s data shows how on a casual day off, with no exercising like a gym workout or running, it is still possible to burn up to 3,000 calories — thanks to a party.

Mauri listed as his favourite parties the Friday at the Sideways Festival in Helsinki, his friend’s birthday party in Tampere and, like Aliisa, the New Year’s party.

Mauri’s data shows that on the days of those parties he exceeded the recommended number of steps per day by an impressive margin, taking as many as 17,000 steps on the best day.

So, you do not need to skip your favourite parties if you want to lose weight, because at best they offer excellent opportunities for aerobic exercise.


Sources of the drinks’ calorie data: Terveyskirjasto health library, Hartwall.