What exercise burns the most calories

What exercise burns the most calories

When people are starting on their weight loss journey, we often get asked ‘what are the most effective calorie-burning exercises?

While nothing will beat a balanced routine of fitness and healthy eating, we’ve created a list of a few of our favourite calorie-burning exercises. With each of these exercises, it’s important to remember that other factors will affect how many calories you burn each time. Factors such as intensity, time spent, pace, and your height and weight will contribute to the number of calories that you burn in a training session.

To get you started, we’ve listed on our top 5 cardio calorie-burning exercises below.

Women burning calories by running a half marathon
Photographer: Peter Boccia


Running is one of the best calorie-burning exercises, significantly increasing endurance, and it also improves flexibility. There’s no specialist equipment needed for running, and so it’s easily accessible for many. However, the flexibility that surrounds running can also make it a little challenging to get going. Especially for people starting out on their fitness journey, it can take a lot of motivation to start. It may well be that taking part in an exercise class that features an element of running is an easier and more accessible way to start. A gym will also have running machines that can make the impact slightly easier on joints than a hard pavement. If you’re not comfortable with going straight for running, start with jogging and work your way up over time to a faster pace.

Rowing machine

Rowing is another fantastic way of achieving an all-body cardio workout. If you’re concerned about your joints, using a rowing machine is another way of ensuring a low impact workout, while strengthening your arms, back, legs and core. To ensure that the maximum calories are burned, the workout needs to be at a suitable intensity, and duration. Speak to your personal trainer to find the best setting for you.

Swimming is an excellent calorie-burning exercise - Man swimming
Photographer: Gentrit Sylejmani


Swimming is another excellent way of burning calories, and it’s brilliant for your core strength too. The fact that you’re submerged in water means that it’s much more comfortable on the joints than any impact exercise. As with the other exercises, the rate which you’ll burn through calories can vary significantly depending on which stroke you’re using (butterfly burns more calories than other strokes), and also on the speed and distance that you swim.

Hill workouts

Many cardio exercises increase their calories burning potential when an incline is added into the mix. This can be done on the running machine, stationary bike, or carefully selected locations if you’d prefer to get outside. According to some studies, you’ll be able to burn 10% more calories for every degree of incline that you add to your workout, increasing the impact of many calorie-burning exercises. Adding an incline not only is great for calorie burning, it’s a sure-fire way of toning your legs and also buttocks.

Skipping Rope

Skipping rope

This exercise method is a highly effective method of burning calories. Not to be left in the playground, the humble skipping rope has earnt it’s place firmly in our top 5 exercises that burn the most calories. To give yourself the best chance of maximum calorie burn, the general advice is to aim for 2 rope jumps per second.

Target heart rate

Irrespective of the exercise, there’s one thing you can bear in mind to help any exercise burn calories, and that is a raised heart rate. It’s generally advised that if you maintain a heart rate of 70% – 80% of your maximum heart rate, then you’ll be in the calories burning zone. This is not to be taken lightly though and would be better under the guidance of a personal trainer, particularly if you are new to exercising. We advocate a guided introduction to reaching the necessary heart rates.

Combine cardio with weights

To maximise your calorie-burning, it’s good to include a combination of cardio exercise and weight training. The cardio exercises will help burn the calories effectively while you‘re exercising, but the more muscle you have, the better you will burn calories when you’re away from the gym. Our team are on hand to provide advice on this. We also advocate using high-intensity workouts as these increase your heart rate for short intervals, and further aiding the calories burnt, we will cover these in a later blog.

Effective exercise routines

While we advocate that the more effective weight loss is a regular pattern of exercise and healthy eating, some activities will burn more calories than others. If you’re keen to make use of these, remember to start with realistic targets, and don’t try to do everything at once. A period of following a sustained exercise routine is going to have a more long-lasting effect than an infrequent one. If you’d like to know more- contact one of the BIG Health and Fitness team today. Our team are on hand to advise you on the best approach for your fitness goals and body type, and how our classes will best help you burn the calories, you’re keen to say goodbye to.

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