Skip to content

Which Exercises Burn Most CaloriesBet we got your attention with that headline. Virtually everyone wants to maximize their workout time to get the best results – which often are measured by calories burned. Bear in mind that exercise delivers a ton of other valuable health benefits aside from torching calories, so your workouts shouldn’t solely be dictated by how many calories you can blast.

However, some exercises and workouts are more productive when it comes to calorie consumption. Note that the biggest returns come to those who maximize their efforts. You won’t burn a lot of calories if you’re dogging it most of the time.

Calorie burn also is affected by the duration of your workout, as well as your weight, age, metabolism and genetics. Generally, the more you weigh, the more calories you burn during exercise because you’re moving more body mass.

Which Exercises Burn the Most Calories?

So, which exercises burn the most calories? A top contender is cross country skiing, but we’re not including that here because it’s seasonal and dependent on where you are. While there can be some difference of opinion, the following exercises are calorie torchers.

  1. Running – No big surprise. Running or jogging require you to move your body over the ground, with continual impact, which elevates your heart rate and boosts your calorie burn. In other words, it’s hard, especially if you’re older, a beginning exerciser, overweight, or dealing with a bad knee or foot. One way to run much more comfortably is with Octane Fitness’ Zero Runner, which replicates the motion without all the pounding.
  2. Swimming – This total-body workout works a lot of muscles but with the support of the water, so it’s much less stressful to the body than running. You also benefit because you don’t get as hot and sweaty in the cool water. Note that caloric expenditure depends on the stroke you use (butterfly is much more demanding than side stroke, for instance), as well as your pace. If you move very slowly or take a lot of breaks, you’ll burn fewer calories.
  3. Rowing – You’ve got to love the rowing machine. You’re seated but you can really work hard and the entire body is engaged. Research indicates that you engage 86% of your muscles when rowing. Plus, there’s something compelling about the rhythm of repeated strokes that can keep you enduring through 30 minutes or more.
  4. Jumping Rope – This is a biggie also, as you’re lifting your body weight against gravity, but it’s pretty tough to sustain for 30 minutes to one hour. Mix intervals of jumping rope with high-intensity calisthenics, like jogging in place, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees and more, for a longer routine.
  5. Bicycling – This is definitely not paging through a magazine on a recumbent bike – this is outdoor cycling where you are pedaling fast, potentially facing the wind and incorporating some hills or taking on mountainous terrain. For indoor rides, to get the same calorie burn, you need to incorporate HIIT (see below). Or perform interval training on the AirdyneX, a total-body fan bike that offers virtually unlimited resistance for progression – along with a refreshing breeze!
  6. HIIT – High-intensity interval training maximizes effort for brief intervals and then allows short recovery periods. It can be all cardio, such as Spinning, where you sprint, recover and repeat. Or HIIT can be done on an exercise machine, such as Octane’s Max Trainer, using the rigorous 14-minute Max Interval program. HIIT can include cardio and strength intervals as well in functional or boot camp classes. The key to big-time calorie burn is working as hard as possible and being able to tolerate some discomfort.