Tim White

How many calories does your exercise burn?
How many calories does your exercise burn?

Ever wonder how efficient your workout really is? We crunched the numbers to  reveal the calorie-torching potential of 20 types of exercise, from walking and  jogging to surfing and Spinning.

Hiking and backpacking Calorie burn is calculated with a formula  designed by exercise physiologists, using an activity’s Metabolic Equivalent of  Task (also known as its MET), or the amount of energy needed to complete the  activity. Cross-country hiking, for example, has an MET of 6.0 and burns about  387 calories in one hour. Backpacking has a slightly higher MET of 7.0, and so  it also burns more calories—about 451 an hour—because “the more weight you put  on your back, the more you’ll burn,” Lance Cummings, training director at  SEALFit Training Center in Encinitas, California, said.

Biking and spinning “It’s as easy as riding a bike,” goes the old  saying—but really, riding a bike can be as easy, or as difficult, as you want to  make it. An hour-long bike ride at a leisurely 10 to 12 miles per hour, for  example, burns about 256 calories. But crank up your effort to a race pace 16 to  20 mph and you’ll torch around 773. A vigorous Spinning class on an indoor bike  can burn nearly as many, about 741 calories an hour.

“Be sure you’re using proper technique—driving through your heels and  engaging your core” Paula Procida, a personal trainer at Clay Health Club and  Spa in New York City, said. “If you’re just flopping around on the saddle like a  sack of potatoes, you won’t burn nearly as many calories.”

Calisthenics We tend to think of pull ups, push-ups, crunches and  jumping jacks as strength-training moves meant to build muscle or warm us up for  our “real workout.” But they also burn fat and calories, as well—about 256 cals  in 30 minutes—and because you use your body weight as resistance, you don’t need  equipment or big machines.

“To get the most bang for your buck, you want to do them one right after the  other, so you’re not resting and letting your heart rate drop in between sets,”  Procida said.

Dance Half an hour of moving to the beat can burn anywhere from 100  to 400 calories or more, with slower styles like waltz, tango, and cha-cha on  the low end and faster, more athletic styles (think Zumba and Jazzercise) on the  high end. You’ll work muscles you’re not used to using during your regular gym  routine, Procida said—plus, it’s fun and distracting. Several studies have found  that working out with music can help you go harder, faster and farther than you  would without tunes.

Elliptical machine If you’re looking for a cardio workout that will  get your heart rate up but go easy on your joints, consider the elliptical: This  gym favorite is powered by the user’s momentum (rather than an electronic motor,  like in a treadmill), so you can set your own speed and easily adjust as you go.  Spend 30 minutes at a vigorous pace and you’ll burn about 248 calories. But  don’t get complacent, warns Procida.

“It’s very easy to do wonky things with your knees, or chill out and watch  your favorite TV show and not realize how much you’ve slowed down your speed,”  she said. “It’s important to keep your heart rate up and to not fall into a  groove where your body is no longer challenged.”

Golf An hour of playing golf—carrying your clubs; no carts  allowed!—burns about 290 calories. Multiply that by three to five hours, the  average length of an 18-hole match, and you could burn 1,000+ calories out on  the green. (An hour playing miniature golf or spent at the driving range, on the  other hand, burns about 193 calories.)

Want to really rev up your calorie burn? Book the first tee time of the day  (so you don’t have people in front of you) and play speed-golf rules, suggests  Cummings.

“You carry three or four clubs and you run from hole to hole to see who can  finish fastest with the lowest score,” he said. “It’s a crazy cardio  workout.”

Jump rope Just 10 minutes of moderate jump roping  burns about 107 calories. Speed up to vigorous intensity (you’ll know you’re  there because it’s too difficult to carry on a regular conversation) to burn  about 129.

“It’s a little more high impact and you can’t do it for very long, but it’s a  really great way to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time,” Procida  said.

If you get bored or feel silly jumping all by yourself, look for gym classes  that incorporate jumping rope into a bigger workout, she suggests.

Paddleboating or stand-up paddleboarding Spending your weekend at a  beach or a lake? Rent a paddleboat and head out on the water with a friend.  You’ll burn around 129 calories in just 30 minutes—all while sitting back and  enjoying the scenery. (Just don’t forget your sunscreen!) Looking for a more  stand-up way to enjoy the bay? Rent a paddle board—basically an extra-large  surfboard&mdashl;and a paddle. You’ll get a great arm and core workout, and  you’ll burn about 193 calories in 30 minutes.

Pilates These classes promise to make you long and lean, by  stretching and strengthening the muscles in your arms, legs and core. A one-hour  class will also burn about 193 calories, as well—”not as many as you would burn  doing straight cardio,” Procida said, “but that’s because you’re doing a lot of  fine tuning with really subtle movements.” The key to burning calories  efficiently, however, is maintaining proper form—especially keeping your abs  engaged and pulled in toward your spine.

Rock climbing “Rock  climbing probably uses more muscles than any other sport,” Cummings said. It’s a  major calorie torcher, too: 30 minutes of climbing burns about 709 cals, while  30 minutes of rappelling (coming down with the help of a harness and pulley  system) burns about 511. “It’s not just the act of pulling and pushing yourself  up, but it’s also all those isometric contractions that you have to use to hold  yourself up there, as well,” he said.

Rowing Thirty minutes of  rowing at moderate intensity (100 watts if you’re on a machine at the gym) will  burn 226 calories, while 30 minutes of very vigorous (200-watt) effort will burn  387. Canoeing instead? You’ll burn about 161 on a leisurely paddle around the  lake.

“Rowing is awesome because it uses so many big muscle groups,” Procida said.  “You’re working your quads, your back and your arms all at once, and, if you do  it correctly, you really move through a full range of motion.”

Walking When it comes to walking or running, people tend to burn  between 80 and 100 calories per mile, no matter how fast or how slow they are.  Half an hour of walking at a casual, walking-the-dog pace (2.5 mph, or a  24-minute mile) will burn about 97 calories. A brisk 4-mph stroll (15-minute  miles), on the other hand, will burn about 161 calories in 30 minutes.

“If you’re going to walk for fitness, make sure you’re walking for long  enough to really burn off those calories,” Procida said. Use a pedometer to  track your distance throughout the day, she suggests, or a heart-rate monitor to  measure your actual calorie burn.

Jogging and running Half an hour of jogging at a 5-mph pace (that’s 12-minute miles) burns about 256  calories. Cranking it up to 7.5 mph (8-minute miles) raises your burn to around  403.

“Running is a good example of how you can really play with the duration and  intensity of your workout,” Procida said. “If you’re going to run all out, run  for 30 minutes. If you’re going to jog but you want the same results,  calorie-wise, go for 45 minutes to an hour.”

Another way to ramp up your burn without adding time? Add hills or  stairs.

Swimming Spending time in the pool is a great way to  get a full-body workout without wear and tear on your joints, Cummings said.  You’ll also burn about 226 calories during 30 minutes of slow and steady  freestyle laps. (Breaststroke and vigorous freestyle burns about 322.)

If you’re not a strong swimmer, though, you’ll likely benefit from a few  lessons—not just for safety reasons, Cummings said, but to maximize your calorie-burn in the water.

“A lot of people have poor technique in the water, and they could really  become much more efficient swimmers with just a few pointers.”

Beach volleyball Any workout that’s done in the sand is  automatically going to burn more calories than it would on grass or concrete  because your body has to work harder to stay stable on the uneven surface.  Playing 30 minutes of beach volleyball, for example, burns about 256 calories,  versus about 97 on solid ground.

“Plus, any type of team environment like that can make exercise more fun and  distracting,” Procida said, “so you don’t realize how much exertion is going  on.”

Weight lifting Even though lifting weights is an anaerobic  activity—high-intensity, short-duration exercises meant to build muscle strength  rather than cardiovascular fitness—it still burns calories: about 97 in 30  minutes of light lifting, or 193 in 30 minutes of vigorous, heavy lifting.

The best way to maximize calorie burn, said Cummings, is to get your  heartrate up and keep it there throughout a circuit of different moves: “Set up  five or six stations, and see how many times you can go through the whole thing  in 30 minutes,” he said. “Then try to get better from there: The next time, see  if you can do one more time than the last.”

Yoga There are so  many variations of yoga taught in gyms and studios around the country, and there  is also a lot of variation when it comes to calorie burn. Classes like Hatha  yoga, for example, are generally gentler and more restorative, and only burn  about 161 calories in an hour. A vigorous Vinyasa or Power yoga class, on the  other hand, might burn about 432.

Don’t automatically count out slower-paced classes, though: “These are  usually really great for stress reduction and for focusing on your breath and  alignment, and for just checking in with your body,” Procida said.
Skiing When you’re racing downhill at 20 miles per hour, it may seem  like the mountain is doing all the work—but skiing actually uses more muscles  than you may realize, Procida said. Plus, a day of skiing entails a whole lot  more than just the downhill part, she adds: You’re putting all your gear, on,  hustling to and from the lift, stopping, starting, turning—all in all, it’s a  pretty good workout, and one that burns about 387 calories an hour.  Cross-country skiing takes even more effort, and burns about 511 calories an  hour.

Surfing The actual act of catching a wave (as with skiing down a  mountain) may not burn a ton of calories, Procida said, but that doesn’t mean  that surfing isn’t a great workout.

“You’ve got to paddle with your arms to get out there, and you’ve got to  constantly use your arms, legs and core to push yourself up off the board,” she  said.

During their time out on the water, surfer girls can say goodbye to about 193  calories an hour—and hello to awesome abs.


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