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Tom Morrison

New Physical Activity Data in Wolfram|Alpha

January 6, 2010 —
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When Wolfram|Alpha launched, we were able to estimate physiological energy expenditures for very basic exercise queries involving walking and running. But now we can answer much more detailed questions about a broader assortment of physical activities. For example, this query will compute the energy burned by running a specific distance in a given time:

Wolfram|Alpha calculates activity data for a 6mph, 40 minute run for a male, age 14.

You can also specify a running speed over a given distance:

Wolfram|Alpha calculates running data for a male running 4mph for 5 miles, age 14, and height of 5'11"

As an alternative to using running speed, you can instead specify a pace:

Wolfram|Alpha calculates running 8 minutes per mile for 40 minutes.

In addition to running and walking, we have also added data on many more daily physical activities—including not only many sports and exercise methods, but also a wide range of normal everyday activities. This data is based on the estimated metabolic requirement (METs) and conversion factors for energy consumption rates for given activities. These estimates have been used in various studies conducted by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to evaluate how much exercise an average person may get depending on activity level and general lifestyle.

If you want to find out the rate at which you could lose fat, the rate at which calories are burned, the amount of oxygen consumed, and the number of METs required for a task, just enter the name of the activity into Wolfram|Alpha—for example, “golf” or “mini golf”.

You can also ask about calorie or fat consumption while engaging in a particular activity, given a specific time and body weight:

Wolfram|Alpha calculates data for 70 minutes of field hockey for a player weighing 150 pounds.

How long will it take to burn 700 calories digging a ditch?

Wolfram|Alpha calculates how long it would take to burn 700 calories digging a ditch.

Fat loss carrying groceries upstairs for 1 minute:

Wolfram|Alpha calculates the amount of fat lost by carrying groceries upstairs for 1 minute.

More than 300 activities are currently working in Wolfram|Alpha, including outdoor activities like horseback riding and squirrel hunting; playing musical instruments (so you can find out if trombonists or trumpeters do more work); dancing in different styles, from swing to cha-cha; and common household chores, like ironing and washing dishes.

And for those who need a little more encouragement to get up and get some exercise:

Wolfram|Alpha calculates how long it will take to lose 5 pounds by watching TV.

We’re working to add data for as many sports and other activities as possible. As always, we encourage you to submit your suggestions, ideas, and feedback.


Wow, that is awesome! I didn’t even know people hunt squirrels!

I found ballet but no hip hop. Can we add hip hop?

Personally, I think Wolfram Alpha is changing the world. In two years it will be so highly used.

Also, what is really great about it is the design. It is easy to understand and read the information.

Thank you!

Posted by George January 6, 2010 at 10:02 am

Would you dare calculating Weight Watcher’s Activity Points too?

Posted by Arby January 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Great to see work in that area but perhaps it would be more useful if you could do less of the squirrel hunting and more of the push-ups, squats and crunches.

Posted by NeoTeo January 6, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Could you provide a list of activities that W|A is able to measure?

Posted by JC January 6, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Hi JC,

    Click on the link below and use the drop down feature in the activity pod. It provides a list of activities.

    Thank you for your comment!

    Posted by The PR Team January 6, 2010 at 10:30 pm

      That list is quite amazing – but it is so long its practically impossible to look through. Any way to maybe make it a little bit more user friendly? Sorted in to categories maybe?

      By the way, does Wolfram Alpha have a list of accepted symbols and terms or a comprehensive feature index anywhere?

      Posted by BCG January 9, 2010 at 11:35 am

      Oh, one glaring omission I noticed – no basketball! Anyway about the list, it would help if after you clicked the arrow the list would stay open so I could at least use the find function on my browser.

      Posted by BCG January 9, 2010 at 11:42 am

        Aside from the provided link, which was helpful. Is there an index of possible inputs, or a query word that will bring me to a list recognizable inputs, not only pertaining to activities, but other subjects as well?

        Posted by PaulCuth January 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm

No shagging? But it’s such an energy burner… maybe in the next update ;)

Posted by Shagga January 7, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Your use of the marathon as a de facto unit of length leads one to wonder if you might be pondering mining the beaucoup marathon data that exists and making it available via W|A. Given the number of them held each year and the number of people who take part (each of whom have splits available), it would be intriguing to see what the creative minds behind W|A could do with various runner times vs. weather information on the day of a given marathon, the hilliness of the course, etc.

Posted by Vermillion Popp January 8, 2010 at 11:24 am

This is incredible, although it would be nice to see more useful forms of exercise (such as crunches) and display information about muscle gained for strength activities.

Posted by Thomas January 17, 2010 at 4:51 pm

It doesn’t work for me. The engine says it isn’t computable.

my input: running 5 miles 50 minutes male age 19 5’11″

what am i doing wrong?

Posted by Neus January 22, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Try also inputting your weight, and move “male age 19″ to the end of your query. Sometimes the syntax can be tricky.

    Posted by PaulCuth January 22, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Is there a way to add elevation change into the query? I do mostly trail running with lots of cloning which effects the calories burned quite a bit.

Posted by Shad January 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

[...] Just in time to tackle a common New Year’s resolution, we released “New Physical Activity Data in Wolfram|Alpha”. [...]