Whether you like to go for a nice daily stroll or hit the gym hard, there’s a chance you’ve been curious about the amount of calories various workouts burn. And the fact is, not only does the type of workout impact how many calories are burned, but so does the duration of exercise, your pace, intensity, and your age, height, and weight.
“There are so many nuances to burning calories throughout the day,” says Daniel Saltos, certified personal trainer and founder of Train with Danny. “On average, we burn 1500 to 2000 calories a day by just going through our daily lives.” But a 300-pound person who is taller is going to burn more calories than a 150-pound, shorter person burns because the more you weigh, the more energy it takes for your body to function.
What factors impact the amount of caloric burn?
A calorie is a unit of energy that’s used to measure weight loss. In order to lose one pound, you have to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in for one pound of weight, the USDA says. Your ability to burn calories is impacted by your age, height, intensity of workout, and duration and pace of your workout.
Age is an important factor in determining calories burned. “If you’re 60 and less mobile, then you’re not as agile and able to reach as high of an intensity during a workout than if you were an 18 year old,” Saltos says. And intensity matters. How quickly you move between sets impacts your level of heart rate, which determines how much energy (calories) your body burns.
Duration and pace can also determine how many calories you burn during exercise. For instance, “walking can burn up to 300 to 500 calories in an hour, whereas running can burn that same amount in about half of the time,” Saltos explains. You’ll also burn more calories by walking for a longer period of time, versus say 10 minutes.
How to burn more calories during a workout
Although the amount of calories each person will burn during any given day varies, there are still some ways you can increase the amount of energy you burn. Saltos recommends keeping an eye on your heart rate.
“An elevated heart rate is your body’s physical response to pumping more blood. This requires more oxygen and energy, resulting in more calories burned,” Saltos says. Increasing the intensity of your workout and reducing rest time in between reps can help keep your heart rate elevated. “If you usually do 1 minute in between sets, try 30 to 45 seconds of rest,” Saltos suggests.
You can also make your workouts work better with compound exercises. “Compound movements use multiple muscle groups at once,” Saltos says. “If you do a bicep curl, this will only target a single muscle — the biceps. A chin up, on the other hand, uses the biceps, back, and core muscles, so you’ll burn more calories.”
Which types of workouts burn the most calories?
You can level up any workout with the suggestions above, but the type of workout you choose can also naturally burn more calories. Running, swimming, high intensity interval training (HIIT), and cycling are just some of the exercises that give you more bang for your buck.
“Running is one of the best calorie burners out there,” Saltos says. An average person can burn anywhere from 500 to 1000 in one hour of running. “Speed, pace, and endurance are all factors that can impact this range. But running uses every muscle group in the body, allowing you to burn more calories.
Swimming is a low-impact workout that also targets multiple muscle groups. “In just 30 minutes of swimming, an average person can burn 200 to 300 calories,” Saltos says. Swimming also improves cardiovascular health, builds endurance, and increases strength—all great reasons to want to hop in the water.
There’s nothing like a nice evening bike ride when the weather’s nice, and it’s actually a great workout for you as well. A long, steady bike ride can burn up to 500 to 700 calories in an hour, Saltos says. “If you want to up the intensity with intervals of sprinting on a stationary bike for 20 seconds, and resting or slowing down for 10 seconds, then you can burn 500 to 700 calories in about half of that time,” he notes.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
If you want intensity, HIIT exercises provide exactly that. These workouts involve working hard in intervals, then resting. “There are so many versions of HIIT, but traditional tabata involves pushing yourself for 20 seconds and resting for 10 seconds, for 8 rounds or 4 minutes,” Saltos says. Because your heart rate will stay elevated, you’ll burn more calories in less time. “On average, a person will burn 400 to 600 calories in 30 minutes,” he says.
This childhood activity can actually do wonders for your health. “Jumping rope is great for strengthening the lower and upper body while improving endurance and cardiovascular fitness,” Saltos says. It also improves your coordination, because your mind has to work while you jump. Jumping rope can burn 600 to 1000 calories in an hour.
Strength training is one of the most efficient ways to burn more calories. “One hour of strength training can burn 300 to 400 calories on average, but you’ll continue to burn more calories throughout the day because of the EPOC effect,’” Saltos says. The EPOC effect, also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, represents an increase in metabolism that occurs after strength training linked to the consumption of oxygen that is required to help restore the muscles.
Not only is boxing a great way to release pent up energy, but it also helps improve balance, boost endurance, and strengthens the upper body and core. “Boxing helps you get a good calorie burn, too, with the average person burning up 500 to 800 calories in an hour session,” Saltos says.
The pushing and pulling motion of rowing machines targets multiple muscle groups including the arms, core, and back, helping you to burn more calories. “An hour of rowing will burn 400 to 600 calories on average,” Saltos says.
Overall, any exercise is good exercise
The old saying goes, any exercise is better than none at all. If you only have time for 10 minutes of exercise a day, it is better than 0 minutes a day. “Everyone is fixated on calories burned during exercise, but the calories you burn during that one hour at the gym only account for 10 percent of the calories you burn in a day,” Saltos says.
Look for opportunities throughout the day to optimize calories burned, like parking further away from the grocery store, standing while you work, or taking the stairs instead of elevator. “This will make a huge difference in how many calories you burn,” he says.
Currently an assistant editor at Prevention.com, Nicol is a Manhattan-based journalist who specializes in health, wellness, beauty, fashion, business, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, Houston Chronicle, Business Insider, INSIDER, Everyday Health, and more. When Nicol isn’t writing, she loves trying new workout classes, testing out the latest face mask, and traveling. Follow her on Instagram for the latest on health, wellness, and lifestyle.