The general consensus on weight loss comes down to a simple four-word commandment:
“Eat less, move more.”
What to eat is its own complex question, but we’re going to focus on the other half of that equation and get you moving more.
The challenge here isn’t just finding an exercise that burns calories; it’s finding one you enjoy enough to do week in and week out.
Let’s face it…
If your exercise regimen feels like a joyless slog, you’re going to use any reason you can to skip it in favor of binge-watching a favorite show and filling your face with some filthy popcorn.
Your best calorie-burning activity is the one that makes you want to get off the couch and do it.
Here’s how to discover what you love for its own sake, not only because it helps you burn calories.
Find your favorites first, then branch out and try some of these other fat-fighting activities. After all, how do you know if you like squash until you’ve tried it?
Working out at the gym can sometimes be hard and boring, so switch things up. Try some activities that are fun and you actually want to do, like a bootcamp in the park or even a dance class. Because it’s enjoyable, it won’t feel like a workout, yet you’re still burning tons of calories.
Difficulty: Low impact
Take a look at Olympic swimmers’ flawless physiques and their heavy-duty meal plans, and you’ll learn just about everything you need to know about the calorie-burning power of this intense but invigorating exercise.
If you’re looking for a calorie burning workout that’s low-impact and doesn’t leave you a sweaty mess, then swimming is your jam.
Swimmers in pools burn anywhere from 350 calories an hour at a leisurely pace to a blazing 900 calories an hour for vigorous laps.
For people with a lot of weight to lose, swimming has another outstanding benefit: It leaves you feeling nearly weightless, which makes even a high-effort workout easy on joints and tendons.
Ramp up the difficulty of your swims by moving into open waters; waves provide an extra challenge in the same way that an incline makes a treadmill session more intense.
Most people actually don’t know how to swim correctly. But if you can master swimming, you’ll not only burn more calories, you’ll get better times. Here’s an example of a graceful swimming technique.
If you could pick a single five-letter word to help you on your weight loss journey, that word might be “squash.” It’s a low-calorie, high-energy food, but it’s also one of the most exciting calorie-burning workouts you can do.
A vigorous squash session burns as much as 1,000 calories per hour and hones your hand-eye coordination as it reshapes your body.
Many calorie burning activities help you lose fat and build muscle, but moderately high-impact workouts such as squash also help improve bone density, building stronger bones for improved health in the long term.
You’ll need a partner for squash, but this sport doesn’t require a hefty investment in equipment; a ball, a racket and a squash court are all you need to get a heart-pounding workout.
Do you have a fiercely competitive nature, good coordination and a workout plan that involves your whole body?
Tennis could be the sport for you. Play a few sets with friends, and you’re burning 500 to 700 calories an hour, depending on your current weight.
Step it up with a more competitive match, and you could top out at 1,000 calories in an hour of intense effort. Like squash, tennis is an excellent bone-builder; you’re feeling the impact with every step and lunge.
Tennis superstars’ sculpted physiques come from hours of rigorous practice, but even novices to tennis will find their new sport reshapes their bodies as well as burning fat.
Improve flexibility and balance when you incorporate tennis into your fat-burning regimen, and you’ll enjoy better health while slimming down.
Sometimes seen as tennis’ scaled-down cousin, badminton is a good workout in its own right. Because the court’s smaller, so are the calorie-burning benefits; however, an hour of badminton still burns a respectable 400 to 600 calories an hour.
Lighter, smaller rackets and a featherweight shuttlecock make badminton less tiring for longer exercise sessions. Like tennis, badminton can be played in singles or doubles.
5. Indoor Rowing
Low- and no-impact exercises are a huge benefit to anyone who wants to burn calories without putting undue stress on ankles, knees and hips.
Indoor rowing machines let you get a vigorous, whole-body workout without giving your joints a pounding.
Everyone from pro athletes recovering from injuries to significantly overweight people with a lot of excess fat to burn can benefit from indoor rowing, which can burn 700 to 900 calories an hour.
If you’re also looking to add muscle mass and strengthen your upper body, rowing’s a good choice.
If you are, then you should consider getting yourself an indoor water rowing machine. They are designed to replicate water rowing and will give you an incredibly hard workout.
6. Water Rowing
The benefits of indoor rowing are also a part of water rowing, but you’ll also enjoy more interesting scenery.
Using your own strength to guide you and your craft through the water is its own special pleasure, giving you a sense of accomplishment that an indoor workout may not always supply.
Like its indoor counterpart, outdoor rowing is a low-impact cardio workout that burns about 700 to 900 calories an hour while building upper body strength.
If you like indoor rowing, why not take your workout to the great outdoors with recreational or even competitive rowing?
The world is big and beautiful, yet for too many of us, our only views are from offices or car windshields. If the last time you saw nature’s splendor was on your computer’s desktop background, you’re overdue for a hike.
The beauty of hiking is that you can tailor the length and intensity of your workout to your current level of fitness or even your mood.
Whether it’s a six-mile jaunt along a mostly level trail to enjoy fall foliage or an all-day trek through rugged back country, hiking is easy to fit into almost any schedule and requires only a good pair of boots and a way to get to the trail.
Hiking at a moderate pace burns about 500 to 600 calories an hour, depending on your weight. Add a backpack or pick a more challenging trail, and you could burn 700 to 800 calories an hour.
When you were a kid, you probably knew the joys of running. As we get older, we tend to forget what it was like, but it’s never too late to rediscover that thrill.
When you want an exhilarating workout that’s a pure calorie burner with no frills or distractions, make running your sport of choice.
A 10-minute mile will clock about 600 calories for a 125-pound person and 900 for someone weighing in at 185 pounds, according to the Harvard Health Center.
Increase your speed, and the calorie burning workout gets even hotter. Running is a high-impact workout, and like other high-impact activities, it’s a good bone-builder.
Before you start, though, check with your doctor; not everyone’s knees are ready to go straight from the couch to a 10K run.
9. Indoor Cycling
Not all climates or seasons are suited to hiking and running. A Boston winter or the noonday heat of a Las Vegas summer would crush anyone’s desire to go out and burn off some calories. Indoor cycling is the perfect solution for many.
From spin classes to individual workouts on a stationary cycle, indoor cycling is an outstanding calorie-burner, consuming anywhere from 650 to more than 1,200 calories hourly, depending on your pace, your cycle’s resistance and your size.
Cycling is a low-impact aerobic alternative to jogging and running. Choose a standard stationary cycle for your standard workout or switch it up with a recumbent bike, which is also great for people with a longer fat-burning journey ahead of them.
If you don’t like group spinning classes, then you should buy yourself a pro spinner bike. They are well worth the investment if you use them regularly and will give you a workout like no other cardio machine.
10. Outdoor Cycling
Take your show on the road with outdoor cycling that gives you all the benefits of indoor cycling in an appealing environment. Like indoor cycling, bicycling outside gives you a low-impact workout that’s as intense as you want it to be.
Another advantage of cycling is that you’ll actually get somewhere at the end of your exercise session, making it easier to incorporate into a busy lifestyle.
Swap to running your errands on a bike, and you can burn 700 to 900 calories an hour. Amp up the intensity and keep your pace above 20 miles per hour, and you’re burning as much as 1,400 calories.
Don’t forget to heed road rules and wear safety equipment, though, especially if you’re sharing the street with car and truck drivers.
11. Mountain Biking
Cycling enthusiasts who want to take their workouts to a higher level might try mountain biking.
The sport of outdoorsy types who don’t want to be confined to well-traveled roads, mountain biking lets you combine a love of natural beauty with fast-paced excitement.
Customize your workout by choosing the incline of your path and the length of your trip. Expect to burn anywhere from 500 to 800 calories an hour as you cycle through the countryside.
Like other types of cycling, mountain biking is great for toning and adding definition to the lower half of your body as well as improving balance. Keep at your mountain bike workout, and the only thing fat about you will be your set of all-terrain wheels.
12. Martial Arts
Martial arts, including kickboxing, Muay Thai, Krav Maga, judo and karate, are more than calorie burning activities.
They can boost your balance, improve your coordination, and even help you move through the world with greater confidence.
Because martial arts are as varied as the names under which they’re taught, the range of calorie-burning power you’ll find is wider than most; you can expect to burn off anywhere from 600 to 1,400 calories an hour during a workout.
If you’re taking a class, be sure to count only your active sparring time and not the time you spend watching your instructor for a more accurate estimation of your calories burned.
If you want to get a supremely toned upper body, improve your agility and discover what your body’s capable of doing, boxing might be your sport.
At 500 to 800 calories burned per hour, boxing isn’t the fastest calorie-burner you’ll find, but it’s one of the most well-rounded workouts. Boxing builds muscle and increases bone density as it burns fat.
The sport has newfound cachet for men and women who want a grittier, tougher workout, so if you want to sweat and don’t care about looking dainty while you do it, get your inner “Rocky” on and start sparring.
Whether you’re working out at home, in a gym or with a trainer. You need to learn the basics of boxing, to reduce injuries and to get the most out of every session. Here’s the legend Freddie Roach giving you the basics.
14. Elliptical Machine
What do you get when you combine the natural motion of running with variable resistance and no impact? You get an elliptical machine, one of the most popular gut-busters in gyms today.
You’ll burn anywhere from 700 to 900 calories an hour with a vigorous elliptical workout, and because you aren’t jarring and jostling, your joints get a break even as your fat cells beg for mercy.
Elliptical machines give you a great cardio workout, so bring a towel and expect to work up a sweat.
Make no mistake: A kettle bell workout is extreme. You’re flinging a multi-pound weight around, using it and your own body to create resistance.
An intense workout with kettlebells burns calories so quickly that most trainers talk about calories per minute, not per hour.
You can potentially burn 1,400 calories an hour with kettle bells, but work up to that level of intensity slowly; you need plenty of raw power to control your workout session.
If you’re feeling brave, then you need to try this full body kettlebell workout. You will NOT be standing at the end of it… oh and it’s only 1m 26s long!
Difficulty: Low impact
Yoga has a reputation as the exercise of choice for people who don’t much like exercise. The reason for that is its astonishing flexibility.
Pick a yin yoga or hatha yoga session, and you’ll work up a modest sweat while getting your stretch on, expending about 300 to 400 calories an hour.
Choose a power yoga class such as vinyasa or hot yoga, and that zooms up to 700 to 800 calories an hour.
Possibly more than any other calorie burning workout, yoga’s fat-burning power is dependent on what you put into your sessions.
Listen to your body and ask it to do a little more each session, and you’ll be surprised at the powerful calorie-burning punch yoga can pack. Yoga’s also an excellent addition to other workouts, giving you increased flexibility and improving body symmetry.
17. Rope Workouts
Whether you skip it, climb it or pound it on the ground, rope can be your best calorie-burning friend. Jumping rope isn’t just for little kids; it’s a serious grown-up workout that can burn as many as 1,000 calories an hour.
Climbing exercises are great for upper-body strength and work off about 600 calories an hour, depending on your weight. Get a couple of thick, heavy ropes, and you have a strength-building activity that also burns up to 800 calories an hour in battling-rope exercises.
To get a great calorie-burning workout, you need to use the biggest muscle groups in your body. Skiing makes you use your quads, glutes and core constantly, leading to a burn of about 500 to 600 calories an hour for downhill skiing.
Cross-country skiing turns you into an even more efficient calorie furnace, burning off up to 900 calories an hour. It’s more aerobically intense than downhill skiing, but cross-country also moves at a slower pace.
If you’re not sure you’re ready to plummet down a mountainside, cross-country could be for you.
Mountains aren’t essential for a calorie-burning ski session, either. Water skiing is as close as your nearest body of water, and it offers the same fat-burning benefits as downhill skiing with more year-round accessibility.
For some athletes, results matter most. They want to attack their workout, not just exercise, and they aren’t satisfied until they sweat buckets.
If this sounds like you, you’re a good candidate for CrossFit. Designed as a total-body workout incorporating everything from high-intensity interval training to Olympic-style weightlifting to plyometrics, CrossFit is practically a religion to some of its fans.
Because a CrossFit workout is so intense, it typically lasts 20 minutes instead of a full hour, which is another reason busy type-A personalities gravitate to it, but a standard workout could average 900 to 1,200 calories an hour, or about 300 to 400 calories per session.
Surfers have amazing physiques, and it’s not because they live in the gym. Surfing itself is one of the most intense calorie burning exercises you’ll ever love.
Like skiing, surfing works your largest muscle groups; like swimming, it’s a low-impact, high-fun way to get a whole-body workout.
Clocking in at about 500 to 600 calories an hour for a 185-pound person, surfing may not be the fastest fat-burning workout on this list, but it’s definitely one of the coolest.
21. Rock Climbing
Most calorie burning exercises take place along a horizontal plane; rock climbing sends you vertical. Climbers love their sport for the full-body workout it offers, but they also enjoy the mental aspects of it.
Finding your next handle or toe-hold takes observation and experience, while overcoming uneasiness about heights is another challenge for rock climbers.
The rewards at the end of your climb are great too; look out over sweeping vistas and revel in your accomplishment. A recent boom in popularity of indoor climbing walls has made this calorie-burning workout more accessible.
Whether you’re climbing inside or in the great outdoors, you can potentially burn 1,000 calories or more.
Team sports give you much more than a workout, but they’re good at doing that too. Playing basketball will burn, on average, 1,000 calories an hour for someone in the 200-pound range.
Running, jumping and blocking make basketball a fairly high-impact sport; limber up before you hit the court to ensure you’re ready to play ball.
Don’t think you need to be as tall and coordinated as the pros to succeed, either; shorter players can actually get more of a workout as they’re taking more steps and jumping higher to sink baskets.
23. Soccer (Football)
Is it soccer or football – or maybe futbol? Do you play it with a round white ball or a funny-shaped brown one? When it comes to burning calories, it doesn’t matter.
Both American football and international football burn about 800 calories an hour for a 200-pound player.
If you’re part of the burly o-line and play every down, you’re going to burn even more. The kind of exercise you get depends a great deal on your role.
Some positions, including goalkeepers in soccer and kickers in American football, don’t move as much; others, such as wide receivers and running backs, are in constant motion.
Football’s Aussie cousin, rugby is enjoying a surge of popularity worldwide. It’s a high-impact sport in more ways than one, featuring players colliding into one another and tangling in rough scrums.
It’s also a sport rich in strategy, so if you want a workout that makes you think on your feet even as you’re burning up to 800 calories an hour, rugby might be your game.
Difficulty: Low impact
Lace up a pair of skates, and you’re ready for an exhilarating cardio workout that tones your lower body and improves balance.
Ice skating tends to be more popular in wintry climates while skaters in temperate zones reach for in-line or quad skates to get rolling.
Whether you’re on ice or concrete, skating burns the same number of calories, about 700 to 900 per hour. Skating is also a fairly low-impact workout – at least, it is unless you get wild and try roller derby.
Kayaking combines the upper-body workout of rowing with core strength and balance for a workout that’s as exciting as it is effective.
You can expect to burn 400 to 500 calories an hour under most kayaking conditions, but if you’re challenging yourself with whitewater runs, you could have bursts of activity that average even higher calorie burns.
No matter what your perfect exercise is today, use this list of top calorie-burners to explore new possibilities. You never know what you’re going to love until you try it, so get out and get moving.
Conclusion: What next?
So there you have it.
Now it’s up to you to pick an activity or exercise from above and start burning those calories. That flabby belly of yours is not going to magically flatten on its own.
What is your favourite high calorie burning exercise?