What exercises burn the most calories? (TODAY)

Posted: Aug 30, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in TODAY on August 30, 2023.


What exercises burn the most calories?

By Stephanie Mansour

With the popularity of fitness trackers and at-home fitness equipment (like treadmills and stationary bikes), the number of calories you burn during each workout is front and center. But how important is this metric and is it something you should really be paying attention to?

People often ask me what exercises burn the most calories — and if it even matters how many calories they burn during a workout. I tell my clients that while calories are interesting to note, they are not the sole indicator of how effective a workout is.

I prefer that people focus on how they feel during a workout: Do you feel winded? Have you broken a sweat? Do you feel like you’re making progress in the long term with endurance or strength? These things are more indicative of how effective your workout is than the caloric burn. That being said, yes, there are certain exercises that are more effective at burning calories than others.

What exercises burn the most calories? 

Gone are the days of the strict “calories in, calories out” methodology. For weight loss, and specifically for women with hormonal issues or weight challenges, that school of thought does not always yield the desired results. That said, here is the approximate number of calories that someone who weighs 150 pounds can expect to burn doing the following exercises:

Jumping Rope

  • 30 minutes of jump rope (moderate/fast pace): 375 calories

There’s a reason every gym has a bunch of jump ropes hanging by the weight rack. The aerobic activity can help you lose fat, build muscle strength and improve motor skills and agility -- and burn 375 calories an hour, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Because jumping and swinging a rope requires you to call on your core for balance, a jump rope workout is a great way to work your abs, too. Give it a try with this 15-minute jump rope workout for beginners.

Indoor Cycling/Spinning

  • 30 minutes on a stationary bike (moderate-intense pace): 250-380 calories

Cycling is a great cardiovascular exercise, and spin classes like Peloton have developed a cult following for their ability to motivate people to work up a sweat. Depending on the intensity with which you peddle, you can burn anywhere from 250-380 calories per half-hour cycling session, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you're new to stationary cycling, here's everything you need to know before you hop on the bike. If you prefer to take your bike on the move, a 30-minute ride at a moderate pace burns about 205 calories, according to the AHA.


  • 30 minutes running (10-12 minute pace): 330 calories

Many people who have been walking for awhile like to introduce jogging to increase the intensity of their workout. Jogging is a more high-impact cardio activity that will burn about 330 calories in 30 minutes, according to the AHA — and upping your speed to running at 10 mph burns a whopping 640 calories.

Power walking

  • 30 minutes walking (very brisk pace): 306 calories

Good news for those who hate running: According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE) walking at a fast pace of 5 mph burns almost as many calories as jogging. Power walking entails moving at a quick speed and getting your arms involved, which burns more calories than walking at a slower pace. On days when you need to take things a little slower, walking at a moderate pace still burns 160 calories in 30 minutes, according to the AHA. Walking at any speed has important health benefits. In fact, a recent study found that walking just 4,000 steps a day started to reduce the risk of dying from any cause, while walking just 2,337 steps a day reduced the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.


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