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Quarantine Activity Calculator

Created by Joanna Michałowska, PhD candidate
Reviewed by Dominik Czernia, PhD and Jack Bowater
Last updated: Jun 05, 2023

The quarantine life has tied millions of us to our homes with no or low level of activity. It is well-known that physical activity is one of the most important things we can do for our health as it boosts our immune system and can prevent us from many diseases. But can we still stay in shape when we are stuck in our homes?

The good news is that yes, we can! Our calculator is here to help you. It allows you to find out how your total daily energy expenditure has changed due to self-quarantine, and tells you what you can do to make up for this change. It also estimates your recommended daily calorie intake to maintain your current weight, so you know how many calories to eat.

Read the article below to find out how to remain active during quarantine and stay healthy.

Why weight maintenance?

It is not common to see weight maintenance advice, as you are more likely to find tips on how to be skinny and lose weight. So, why are we presenting a different approach? Well, a pandemic is simply not a good time to lose weight. Most people are currently experiencing a decrease in their level of physical activity, while also experiencing more stress.

Right now, we need to care about our physical and mental health, and the journey through weight loss can be stressful in and of itself. This is why we have decided to focus on physical activity and preventing weight gain (yes, even if your BMI isn't perfect).

Energy expenditure = energy intake

First of all, this quarantine weight maintenance calculator will calculate your energy expenditure to show you how many calories you need to eat daily to maintain your current weight.

  1. Provide some details about yourself: sex, height, weight, and age. This information will be used to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body needs to function at rest. You may find out more on the subject with our BMR calculator or the RMR calculator.
  2. Answer the questions regarding your current level of activity: work, household chores, and exercise. This information will be used to estimate your physical activity level (PAL). This is a way of expressing a person's daily physical activity. Different PAL values have been derived by researchers by assessing total daily energy expenditure using laboratory methods, and have been validated in many studies. Typical adult PAL values range from 1.20 to 2.40.

Once you have provided the calculator with your information, it will calculate your total daily energy expenditure using the following formula:

TDEE (kcal/day) = BMR × PAL

This is the number of calories your body burns every day during quarantine, and is your recommended daily calorie intake to maintain your present weight.

Why do I now burn a different amount of calories?

Research shows that a little less than half of American adults claim that this pandemic has changed their lives in a major way. Most people now spend all day at home, interrupted only by a single walk to the grocery store once a week. Gyms are closed, walks and running is forbidden in some parts of the world, and even little bursts of energy, like running to the bus stop, have disappeared. Unfortunately, most of us are currently experiencing a decrease in our physical activity level.

This calculator will help you to realize how your energy expenditure has changed due to the pandemic. Choose activities from the list that you were performing almost every day, but you had to give up, and the amount of time you used to spend on them. This will allow you to estimate how many fewer calories you need.

Have you started yoga recently? Don't worry, we take into account activities that have just appeared in your life too. The rule is still the same - choose your new activity from the list and provide the time you spend on it every day. The calculator will compare the difference between your old exercise regime and your new one to tell you the overall change in your total daily energy expenditure - how many calories less (or more) you need to maintain your weight.

Do I have to count all of the calories I eat?

Not necessarily. This calculator is supposed to help you to realize how many calories your body needs, and how your energy requirements have changed due to the pandemic.

Here are some tips on how you can use the information provided by the quarantine maintenance calculator:

  • You now know how much energy your body needs to maintain your current weight. If you're not moving around much now (so your lifestyle could be described as sedentary), your total energy expenditure is likely below 1800-2000 kcal. A takeaway or a tub of ice cream can easily have more than a thousand kcal. Carefully look to see that a single meal is not exceeding your total energy intake allowance. You can also check the nutritional labels of your food so you are more aware of the number of calories you're consuming.
  • Remember that drinks have calories too - a bottle of semi-sweet wine has approx. 750 kcal. It can cover 30-50% of your total calorie allowance!
  • Our tool helps you realize what is the overall change in the calories you were burning before the lockdown and now. Look at the table below to picture what this change means in terms of food. Practical example? Let's say that you had to give up 60 minutes of walking, as you used to travel to and from work on foot for 30 minutes each way. You haven't compensated for this change by taking up new activities at home, so your energy expenditure decreased for about 280 kcal (assuming you're 70 kg/155 lbs). Looking at the table should help you realize that saying no to a donut makes up for this change.
Calories in popular snacks

Physical activity - the key to success!

Should we just sit and accept that we are burning less energy now? Not at all! Feel free to play around with this calculator by:

  • checking how your total energy expenditure will change if you do more household chores or exercise; and
  • finding out how you can compensate for activities that you have given up.

You can also check our calories deficit calculator to compare different activities.

Here is some advice on how you can easily increase your physical activity level, even when you're stuck at home:

  • move around a lot - try to get up for 5 minutes after every 30 minutes of sitting.
  • appreciate household chores - do a big clean-up, catch up with gardening, etc. You will be pleased with yourself when the job is done, and your body mass will benefit from it too!
  • for parents - think of active games to play with children. They will be calmer at the end of the day if they burn more energy - doesn't that sound appealing?
  • home workouts - you have literally limitless resources: online gyms, training plans, dance classes, and many many more. A lot of them are for free, so try to find something you really enjoy. Moreover, if you ever considered buying a stationary bike or a cross-trainer, maybe now it's a good time? What about running in the garden? Why not, it is possible!
Running in the garden can be fun too!

It doesn't need to be difficult

We all have many things to worry about now, so why worry about our looks and weight? This tool was created to give you some guidance and should help you to identify critical points in the quarantine weight gain struggle. Knowing is half the battle.
Below you will find the 5 most important things you should keep in mind:

  1. Be aware that (most likely) you need less energy now - even if you're going to eat exactly the same things as before, you can still put on weight;
  2. One light workout will increase your energy expenditure a bit, but it won't compensate for all activities you gave up - don't use it as an excuse to eat more;
  3. Be careful with unhealthy snacks - they are high in calories, and they won't keep you full for long;
  4. If you experience stress eating, try to find other ways to relax. Perfect example - exercises that you enjoy, e.g., dance workouts. If you feel like the food is taking over control - seek professional advice; and
  5. Move as much as you can - physical activity will help you to not only increase your energy expenditure, but also improve, both your mental and physical health.

If you are looking for more extensive advice, visit the WHO's Food and nutrition tips
during self-quarantine

What about a challenge?

Is it easy to implement all of those rules and tips when you're a physically active nutrition expert? Believe it or not, I also have my personal struggles! Example? If I'm working in front of the computer for the whole day without breaks, I usually end up with a headache that becomes an excuse to skip my workout.
Identify your own struggles - only then you can implement corrective action that will help you to stay on track.

Do you need more encouragement? Let's start a challenge! Here are some ideas to increase your motivation:

  • workout challenge - use one created by a fitness expert, or make your own if you already have some favorite exercises;
  • dry quarantine challenge - abstain from alcohol; and
  • no sweets challenge - if you don't buy them during your weekly shop, you won't have them at home. Can you think of a better moment for fighting sugar addiction?

Contact your family and friends and create your own health-related challenges! Think of prizes that winners will get once the quarantine is over! Let's stay safe, healthy, and don't forget about our physical and mental health.

Joanna Michałowska, PhD candidate
Personal information
Current physical activity
Home office
Basic stuff (e.g. cooking, cleaning)
Light (e.g. yoga, stretching)
🏃‍♂️ PAL
🔥 Calories to maintain weight
Everyday activities you had to give up (you can add up to 3 activities)
🏃 running
Everyday activities you added to your routine (you can add up to 3 activities)
New activity
🌇 yoga
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