Coca-Cola's UK website is offering a new calorie calculator that not only tells you how many calories are in some of their drinks, but also offers an approximate amount of exercise you'd have to do to shed those same calories.
Want to drink a can of Coke? That's 17 minutes of basketball or 32 minutes of yoga for you (and by "you," Coca-Cola is referring to a woman who weighs 60 kilograms -- or about 133 pounds). Or, if you aren't the gym- or studio-going type, you can work it off with a 29-minute dog walk, 45 minutes of ballroom dancing or ironing for 70 minutes.
"Making sure there isn't an imbalance between the amount of calories you take in each day and the amount you burn can help you to maintain a healthy weight," explains the website. "And the best way to ensure energy balance is by eating a well-balanced diet and enjoying regular physical activity."
This type of labeling isn't entirely new: Research shows that describing calories in terms of their exercise "costs" is effective, when compared to labels that just list calories -- or to no labels at all. One study of teenage soft drink purchasing habits found that when sodas were accompanied by in-store labels that described how much exercise would be needed to "work them off," sales for sugar-sweetened beverages dropped and sales for non-sweetened drinks, like water and seltzer doubled.
So will this new initiative help lower rates of sugary drink consumption? The fact that Coca-Cola is in the business of selling drinks suggests perhaps not. Of note, the drinks for which the exercise calculator exists are on the lower end of the sugar and calorie spectrum: a 12-ounce can of Cherry or original Coke is about as caloric as they get. Larger portions like the 20-ounce bottles are nowhere to be found. And most of the other drinks listed -- things like Powerade and VitaminWater -- only include the low- or zero-calorie versions. That's not bad, but it means the company isn't copping to their diet-busting options.
What's more, it's important to note that not all calories are created equal. While the U.S. government recommends that the average adult eat about 2,000 calories per day, they say that a very minimal number of those of those should come from "empty" sources. Soda's calories are considered empty because they do not offer any other nutrients.
Further, there is some evidence that drinking rather than eating calories can create a different effect on the body.
In other words, the best way to avoid the calories that come in a sugary drink isn't to do 60 minutes of yard work -- it's simply to drink water in the first place.