If you're hoping for the perfect beach party, working on your tan as you burn calories might seem like the perfect solution. While any activity -- even sleeping -- burns some calories, you won't burn enough calories sunbathing to lose weight, and the health dangers of lying out in the sun can make this a bad strategy for weight loss and long-term health.
Sunbathing and Calories
The number of calories you'll burn depends on your age, body mass and overall health, as well as your activity level in the sun. If you're walking in the sun or swimming rather than simply lying in the sun, you'll burn more calories. But simply lying around doesn't burn many calories. For example, if you read and sunbathe for 30 minutes, you'll burn about 34 calories if you weigh 125 pounds and about 50 calories if you weight 185 pounds, according to Harvard Health Publications.
You might think that sweating during sunbathing will help you burn some extra calories, but sweating is associated with burning more calories, not the cause of the calorie burn. For example, if you go for a run and start sweating, it generally means you're getting a more intense workout. But sweating is the result of this workout, not the cause, so sweating when you're sunbathing doesn't mean you're burning more calories.
Risks of Sunbathing
In addition to burning few calories, sunbathing poses serious health risks such as premature aging and developing skin cancer. Excessive sunbathing can also lead to organ damage and eye damage. There's no health benefit to lying in the sun for extended periods of time. You can get Vitamin D from the sun by going outside for brief periods, but simply lying in the sun won't improve your health.
Outdoor Calorie Burning
If you want to get a little sun you're better off wearing sunscreen and doing an outdoor activity that will help you burn calories. Beach volleyball, swimming in the ocean or a pool, cycling, running with your dog or playing tennis are all much more effective ways to burn calories, and don't require you to bake in the sun for hours.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.