5 Cardio Activities That Burn the Most Calories


Tabata-style training burns about 15 calories per minute. Photo: iStock/kupicoo

Cardiovascular exercise – you know you need to do it to stay healthy and manage your weight, but you can never seem to find enough time between work, family and social obligations. The good news is you don’t need to spend hours plodding away on the treadmill – you just need to choose the right workout. Activities that use more muscle mass and that involve some sort of resistance will be more taxing and burn a greater amount of calories. In addition, the higher the intensity, the more calories you’ll burn. Take a look at our top 5 picks for cardiovascular exercises that give you the most bang for your buck.

1. Tabata Training
Tabata training is a high-intensity exercise modality that burns a lot of calories in a short period of time. The protocol consists of doing 20 seconds of work at an all-out pace, followed by 10 seconds of recovery. You repeat this eight times. Almost any activity can be done in a Tabata-training style. A typical Tabata workout might include four exercises – for example, push-ups, squats, jumping rope and crunches.

Related: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try

Although the first round might seem easy, just wait. By round eight, your muscles will be screaming! A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise determined that a typical Tabata workout can burn an average of 15 calories per minute, or 450 calories per half hour (workouts usually don’t last longer than 20 to 30 minutes).

2. Sprint Intervals
Running, biking or swimming at a steady state is enough to burn some serious calories, especially if you’re just starting out. But if you up your pace for periods of time during your workout and you’ll increase the burn even more. “Sprinting burns a massive amount of calories, but it can only be kept up for a certain amount of time,” explains American College of Sports Medicine spokesperson Jim White.

A 155-pound person who runs at a pace of 7.5 miles per hour can burn 465 calories in 30 minutes. Try alternating between two minutes at an all-out pace (or the fastest you can sustain for that long), and then recover with one minute of jogging, White recommends.

3. Swimming
Your whole body works while you’re swimming. Your legs kick, your arms stroke, your core contracts to keep you afloat. With that much muscle recruitment, it ranks as one of the top calorie-burning cardio exercises you can do. But your stroke choice can make a difference. A 155-pound person burns 372 calories in 30 minutes doing the breast stroke – an impressive number. But that same person doing the butterfly for 30 minutes will burn 409 calories. Where you swim makes a difference too. “Swimming in the ocean where you’re going against the current – that would be a really, really intense workout,” says White.

4. Hill Workouts
Whether you’re biking or running, throw some resistance in the mix to significantly boost your calorie burn. “Running up a steep hill recruits more muscle fibers,” says White. “It’s going to be taxing, and it’s going to definitely burn more calories.” In fact, you’ll burn about 10 percent more calories for each degree of incline versus running on a flat surface.

Related: A 10-Minute Workout for Flat Abs

That means a 155-pound person running at a five-mph pace will burn 373 calories every half hour at a five-percent grade versus 298 calories at the same speed on a flat surface. Get those glutes firing even more and up your calorie burn at the same time by incorporating more hills into your workout.

5. Rowing
“Rowing is one of the biggest calorie burners,” according to White. “You’re using your legs, which is a huge muscle; you’re using your shoulders, your back. It’s continuous; it’s one of the chart toppers.” In fact, rowing uses nine major muscle groups, including the hamstrings, quads, glutes, core, lats, shoulders, back, triceps and biceps. Of course, it all depends on the intensity at which you row and the conditions. Rowing inside on an ergometer, where conditions are controlled, may be less challenging than rowing on a lake on a windy day. A 155-pound person rowing on an ergometer at a vigorous pace can burn about 316 calories per 30 minutes.

The original article “What Cardio Workouts Burn the Most Calories?“ appeared on LIVESTRONG.COM.

By Jody Braverman


A Cardio Kettlebell Workout That Will Crush Calories

Kayla Itsines’ 14-Minute Workout That Will Torch 200 Calories

5 Most Overrated Exercises & What to Do Instead