What Exercise Burns the Most Calories?

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Daniel Pavlik Sr DC

Apr 21, 2020

While cardiovascular exercise has a wide range of health benefits, many people look to it as a way of burning calories. Cardio exercises indeed tend to burn the most calories while you’re undertaking them, while muscle-building exercises offer a longer-term calorie burn. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective calorie-burning activities for the weight-conscious fitness fan.

Running

Running is a popular and versatile calorie-busting activity. Aside from a good pair of shoes and a safe track to run on, running requires no special equipment. You can run indoors on a treadmill or outdoors on a path. Best of all, running burns a very healthy 570-840 calories per hour, depending on your weight and the speed. Running has a range of health benefits aside from weight loss: it strengthens your muscles, opens your airways, and helps lower your resting heart rate.

Indoor cycling

Outdoor cycling is a great way to get from A to B, but the constant stopping and starting required as you negotiate traffic can impact your workout. If you want to go for the burn, try a stationary bike set at 200 watts or above. If you’re a fast cyclist and you set the resistance sufficiently high, this exercise alone can burn over 950 calories per hour.

Jumping rope

Remember this school-yard favorite? The grown-up version is just as much fun and a great way to shed pounds. Jumping rope can burn over 800 calories per hour if you pick up the pace. Aim for about 100 skips per minute to keep your heart rate high and burn off that energy. Skipping is a great way to exercise your lower body while still engaging your arms and shoulders a little. There’s a reason it’s such an iconic exercise for boxers.

Rowing machine

If you want to get your upper body in the game while you’re burning those calories, a rowing machine is ideal. You need to set the resistance high — at least 200 watts — to reap the full benefits. If your machine doesn’t list watts, there may be a setting for ‘vigorous effort,’ which amounts to the same thing. Your trainer should be able to help you. An hour-long session of rowing at this setting can burn over 810 calories per hour. The best thing about a session on the rowing machine is that it’s also great for your arm, shoulders, and those tough-to-engage muscles in your back.

Burpees

If you want a whole-body workout that blazes through calories, a set of burpees may fit the bill. This classic exercise is designed to engage all your muscles, while also boosting your heart rate. Burpees can burn through anything from 600 to 900 calories in an hour, although 8-to-12 rep sets are recommended rather than marathon sessions.

Swimming

While the casual swimmer might not shed much weight, a more intense approach can burn off a lot of calories. If you aim for at least 75 yards per minute, you could burn off 680 calories or more in the pool. Switch from freestyle to a butterfly stroke if you want to burn energy and work out your muscles. Swimming is an excellent option if your goal is to burn calories without stressing your joints. Just remember that swimming can leave you hungrier than other exercises and watch those post-pool snacks. Don’t overlook weight-lifting exercises, too. While the question ‘how many calories do you burn lifting weights?’ might yield a disappointing answer, the magic of these exercises is that they create an ongoing demand for energy as your body works to strengthen the muscles you’ve been using.

As with any significant change to your lifestyle, you should speak to a medical professional before you start a new exercise program. A health check-up might be necessary to ensure that there are no underlying health issues that could be exacerbated by exercise. Your doctor can also advise you on other aspects of weight loss, such as healthy eating.

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