What Exercise Burns The Most Calories? 60 Serious Contenders

Most people will cite many of the positive physical health benefits of working out as motivating reasons to continue hitting the gym, going for a run, taking on challenging HIIT workouts, and otherwise finding a way to get a good sweat on. 

Exercise can improve your cardiovascular health, build and strengthen muscle mass, and reduce the risk of numerous lifestyle diseases. Plus, exercise is a great way to burn calories and help you manage your weight.

But what exercise burns the most calories? People often seek the most calorie-burning exercises, meaning the most efficient types of exercise that torch the highest number of calories in the shortest amount of time.

In this article, we will take a look at the types of exercise that burn the most calories so that when you’re short on time, you can still make big strides toward your weight loss goals.

We will cover: 

  • How to Burn More Calories With Exercise
  • What Exercise Burns The Most Calories?

Let’s dive in! 

People dancing in a Zumba class.

How to Burn More Calories With Exercise

Before delving into the most calorie-burning exercises, it’s helpful to discuss how to burn more calories during your workouts.

Any type of physical activity burns calories because the muscles need fuel to contract and do work. This fuel comes from stored carbohydrates (glycogen), blood sugar, and stored fat.

Through different metabolic pathways, such as glycolysis and the Krebs cycle, the muscles can convert these stored-fueled sources into usable cellular energy (ATP).

The number of calories you burn during a workout depends not only on the type of exercise you perform (for example, running vs. walking, cycling vs. yoga, etc.) but also on the intensity and duration of your workout, as well as your body weight.

The more vigorous and physically demanding your workout is, the more calories you will burn. This means that the higher your heart rate gets during the workout, the more intensely you are working and the higher your calorie burn will be per minute.

People doing push-ups in a gym class.

Intensity can be increased by either moving at a faster pace, using more resistance, or involving more muscle groups at once, as all of these factors increase the energy demand from the muscles. 

For example, if you run at 8 miles per hour (7:30 minutes per mile), you will burn more calories per minute than if you run at 5 miles per hour (12 minutes per mile).

If you usually work on an elliptical machine at resistance level 10, you will burn more calories per minute than at a resistance level of 3 as long as you are striding at the same cadence.

Lastly, total-body exercises (running, burpees, jump rope, etc.) that utilize more muscle groups simultaneously will burn more calories per minute than isolated exercises (bicep curls, canoeing, etc.). 

A person tying their rollerbaldes.

What Exercise Burns The Most Calories? 

As mentioned, the number of calories you burn during a workout depends on numerous factors, but one of them is the type of exercise you do. So, what exercise burns the most calories? Let’s see!

Below, we’ve created a table that you can use to see approximately how many calories you will burn doing each of the best calorie-burning exercises for 30 minutes.

We used METs values for the exercises from the Compendium of Physical Activities and chose exercises that burn the most calories. 

Then, we used the METs for the activity to determine how many calories you will burn doing 30 minutes of exercise at different body weights.

A person running a great calorie burning exercise.

Calories Burned For Different Types of Exercise:

Exercise ActivityMETSCalories Burned In 30 Minutes for 120 Pound (54.5 kg) PersonCalories Burned In 30 Minutes for 150 Pound (68.2 kg) PersonCalories Burned In 30 Minutes for 180 Pound (81.8 kg) PersonCalories Burned In 30 Minutes for 200 Pound (90.9 kg) PersonCalories Burned In 30 Minutes for 220 Pound (100 kg) PersonCalories Burned In 30 Minutes for 260 Pound (118.2) Person
Elliptical trainer, moderate effort5143179215239263310
Boxing on a punching bag5.5157197236262289341
Horseback riding5.8166208249277305360
Resistance training (weight lifting, free weights, nautilus or universal), powerlifting or bodybuilding, vigorous effort6172215258286315372
Rowing (erg), moderate effort6172215258286315372
Basketball games or vigorous play6.5186233279310341403
Vigorous dancing6.8195243292325357422
Cross-country skiing, 2.5 mph, slow or light effort, ski walking6.8195243292325357422
Ski machine6.8195243292325357422
Racquetball7200251301334368434
Walking, 4.5 mph, level, firm surface, very, very brisk7200251301334368434
Kickball7200251301334368434
Rowing, stationary, 100 watts, moderate effort7200251301334368434
Active video games such as Dance Dance Revolution, vigorous7.2206258309344378447
Tennis7.3209261313348383453
Rollerblading, in-line skating, 14.4 km/h (9.0 mph), recreational pace7.5215269322358394465
Rock climbing7.5215269322358394465
Step aerobics, vigorous7.5215269322358394465
Health club/gym exercises conditioning classes (aerobics, cardio, general conditioning)7.6217272326363399472
Circuit training, including kettlebells, some aerobic movement with minimal rest, vigorous intensity8229286344382420496
Ultimate frisbee, competitive games8229286344382420496
Calisthenics (e.g., push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, jumping jacks), vigorous effort8229286344382420496
Ice Hockey8229286344382420496
Handball8229286344382420496
Running, 5 mph (12 min/mile)8.3237297356396436515
Swimming, front crawl, medium speed, 50 yards/min, vigorous8.3237297356396436515
Rowing, stationary, 150 watts, vigorous effort8.5243304365406446527
Spin bike class workout8.5243304365406446527
Stair climbing, fast pace8.8252315378420462546
Jumping Rope, slow pace, < 100 skips/min, 2-foot skip, rhythm bounce8.8252315378420462546
Stationary Cycling, 101-160 watts, vigorous effort8.8252315378420462546
Cross country, 4.0-4.9 mph, moderate speed, and effort9258322387430473558
Running, 5.2 mph (11.5 min/mile) 9258322387430473558
Orienteering9258322387430473558
StairMaster or Stair Climber machine9258322387430473558
Treading water, vigorous9.8280351421468515608
Running, 6 mph (10 min/mile) 9.8280351421468515608
Rollerblading, in-line skating, 17.7 km/h (11.0 mph), moderate pace, exercise training9.8280351421468515608
Snow shoeing, vigorous effort10286358429477525621
Swimming, front crawl, fast 75 yards/min10286358429477525621
Outdoor bicycling, 14-15.9 mph, fast, vigorous effort10286358429477525621
Martial arts, vigorous effort10.3295369442492541639
Slide board exercises11315394472525578683
Running, 7 mph (8.5 min/mile)  11315394472525578683
Stationary Cycling, 161-200 watts, vigorous effort11315394472525578683
Running, 8 mph (7.5 min/mile)11.8338422507563620732
Jumping Rope, moderate pace, 100-120 skips/min, general, 2-foot skip, plain bounce11.8338422507563620732
Rowing, stationary, 200 watts, very vigorous effort12343430515573630745
Squash12343430515573630745
Jai alai12343430515573630745
Outdoor bicycling, 16-19 mph, very fast, vigorous effort12343430515573630745
Rollerblading, in-line skating, 21.0 to 21.7 km/h (13.0 to 13.6 mph), fast pace, exercise training12.3352440528587646763
Jumping rope vigorously, 120-160 skips/min12.3352440528587646763
Cross-country skiing, 5.0-7.9 mph, brisk speed, vigorous effort12.5358448537597656776
Running, 9 mph (6.5 min/mile)  12.8366458550611672794
Mountain biking, vigorous, uphill14401501601668735869
Stationary Cycling, 201-270 watts, very vigorous effort14401501601668735869
Outdoor bicycling, > 20 mph, racing, not drafting15.8452566679754830980
Mountain biking racing16458573687764840993

Keep in mind that any type of exercise can support your weight loss goals, so pick an activity you enjoy, and be sure to push the intensity to maximize your calorie burn.

We have endless fitness guides to choose from to help guide you even more on your weight loss journey. You can check them out here.

A person swimming crawl stroke.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running websites and publications. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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