Which Exercises Are Best To Burn Maximum Calories In Minimum Time?

When time is at a premium, finding the right exercise regimen can make or break your weight-loss plans. Weight loss is best achieved by combining a healthy diet where you watch your calorie intake with the right exercise. There’s no dearth of choices today – from intense CrossFit workouts and spinning to fun and social dancercise like Zumba. Not to forget old-school options like running, jogging, swimming, and a host of other team sports. So how do you choose? Which exercises help slice through the maximum calories in the minimum time? Here’s some help.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

Before diving into calorie burn rates, keep in mind that for maintaining a fit and healthy body, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a certain minimum amount of exercise each week. While “power” workouts may promise quick kills, there is no substitute for some gentler routines that keep your body up and active.

Even if you are simply trying to just keep up your weight at current levels, you will need at least 75 minutes of a more vigorous aerobic activity, or twice that (150 minutes) of a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. If you’re mixing things up, aim at putting in about equal measures of both. Depending on your individual metabolism, you may need to push yourself to do a little more, but this is the bare minimum.1

Exercises That Burn Calories Fast

Some exercises can help you burn the most calories with a minimal outlay of time. Keep in mind that the calorie burn rate is for a 154 lb person, unless mentioned otherwise. If you weigh less you will burn fewer calories and if you weigh more than 154 lb you can expect to burn even more calories in the time mentioned.


Hit The Road (Or Treadmill)

Running and cycling at over 5 mph and 10 mph respectively are the simplest, most cost-effective routes to burning off those calories. The average 154 lb person can expect to use 295 calories in half an hour of this vigorous aerobic activity. Mountain biking or BMX biking, which is more demanding on your body, uses about 316 calories.

If you run a 10-minute mile (6 mph) then the number goes up to 372 calories. Sprinting at 7.5 mph takes the calorie burn to 465 per half hour, but this is better done in bursts of two minutes alternated with a minute of jogging for your body to recover.2


If you prefer walking, the calorie burn drops to 230 for a speed of 4.5 mph, which is a very brisk walking pace.3

Get Your Water Wings

Swimming is a great option if you have knee trouble or can’t take the high impact of running or jogging. To make the most of your time in the pool, you will need to do slow freestyle laps for about half an hour to burn 255 calories.4 Vigorous swimming or doing the breaststroke or butterfly stroke can take the calories burned to as much as 409 per half hour.


If you want to try something different or prefer signing up for a group workout, try a water aerobics class. A 150 lb person can use as much as 361 calories in a half hour class.5

All-Weather Exercise

Exercise machines that simulate outdoor sports can help you efficiently burn calories all year round. Vigorous rowing on a stationary rowing machine can help you use up 316 calories in 30 minutes. The elliptical trainer ups that to 335 and the Ski Machine to 353 calories per half hour.6


For a more low-tech solution, try the jumping rope. You will use 372 calories in 30 minutes.

Learn A Martial Art

Martial arts training is great for overall fitness and is an exciting, empowering way to stay fit. The average class runs about an hour, and you can expect to burn about 372 calories in just half an hour.7


Power Up With Yoga

While gentler forms of yoga may lose you fewer calories, hatha yoga can use up around 171 calories to the half hour. Power yoga, which includes more demanding poses or asanas, and more reps, can work through 273 calories in the same duration.8

Don’t Do It Alone

If you prefer to work out with other people, there are a host of activities just waiting for you!

  • Sign up for an aerobics class at your local gym. It will help you use about 240 calories every 30 minutes. Dance-based workouts like jazzercise or Zumba can give you an even higher burn rate – anywhere from 180 to 250 calories on average, all the way up to 400-plus calories per half hour.9
  • An active round of basketball can help you lose 220 calories for every half hour of play. Handball games burn 446 calories in the same duration, and racquetball burns 372 calories. Football and boxing use 335 calories.
  • You could also sign up for a CrossFit workout where you go through the different routines of the day and melt away those extra pounds. Weightlifting alone can lose you 220 calories every half hour – combine that with the other vigorous routines and you have a recipe for success.10
  • Circuit training is another great option for anyone who needs variation in their routine and works through a hefty 298 calories per half hour.
  • A Pilates trainer can help you stretch and balance your way to a 205 calorie burn in the same time.
  • Want to take the action to the water? Water polo can burn 372 calories every 30 minutes.11