What exercise burns the most calories?

Written By UK Fitness Events

When it comes to discussing which exercises burn the most calories, there are a lot of different opinions. Some people will swear by cardio, while others believe weight training is the key to burning the most calories. If you want to track your calories when exercising here are five great watches to choose from;

  1. Polar Grit X Pro watch
  2. Apple smartwatch Series 7
  3. Fitbit Versa 3
  4. Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
  5. Garmin Instinct 2 Multi-Sport

So, what’s the truth? Here’s everything you need to know about the top calorie-burning exercises.

Are you looking short term? Or are you taking a long term, balanced view?

It’s important to be clear about your motivation for trying it understand the exercises that burn the most calories.

If it’s ultimately weight loss that you’re interested in – it’s less about the number of calories you burn in one session, but the calories you burn consistently over time. A research article Role of Physical Activity for Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance suggested that doing moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes per week was the most effective approach over the long term for weight loss.

So if you’re interested in the best activities to burn calories from a long term weight loss perspective, the best option is to find sports or activities that you enjoy and make sure you practice them consistently.

Are there any particular sports that are really good at burning calories?

If your priority is to try and shed calories as quickly as possible, there are certain sports and activities that burn more calories than others.


Many people think that running is the best cardio exercise for burning calories quickly. The number of calories you burn will depend on how fast you run and how steep the incline is, as well as your age and weight.

It’s estimated that jogging for an hour can burn approximately 400 calories, whereas running for an hour at 6mph pace can burn closer to 600 calories.

We’ve put together some guides on the caloric burn from some of the common racing distances:


Swimming is another great aerobic exercise that is great for burning calories, and also puts a lot less strain and impact on your joints.

Just like running, the number of calories you will burn from swimming will depend on how hard you swim and your body weight.

Swimming breaststroke can help you burn around 300-560 calories per hour. Swimming a more vigorous butterfly stroke can help you burn up to 700 calories per hour.

We’ve put together a guide that provides estimates for the calories burned through swimming.


Cycling is a great cardio workout. It doesn’t burn as many calories as running, but it is gentler on your joints.

On average, an hour of cycling at a moderate pace burns around 400 calories, although you could increase this by cycling on uphill trails and increasing your speed.

Learn more about the number of calories you can burn through cycling

High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT workouts involve repeated short bursts of very intense exercise, followed by a period of recovery. This type of workout is very efficient, and you can get a lot of benefits in a short timeframe.

It’s estimated that an average person can burn upwards of 750 calories in an hour of HIIT based training.

Kickboxing / Muay Thai

Martial arts such as kickboxing and Muay Thai can also be incredibly effective ways to burn calories. It’s suggested that it’s possible to burn upwards of 900 calories for every hour of high-intensity kickboxing.

Another benefit of kickboxing is that it is a full-body workout. A good session can work muscles across your entire body.


There’s a big difference here as to whether you’re training or playing competitively. The more aggressively you play, the more calories you burn.

It is estimated that if you are training and playing at a medium intensity, you can potentially burn between 350 and 500 calories per hour of playing tennis. However, if you are playing in a competitive game, the average person burns between 575-775 calories per hour.

Is there any particular activity I can do at home that is really good at burning calories?

If you’re not able to get out and about in pursuit of your calorie burn, there are still plenty of ways you can burn serious calories at home.

Rowing Machine

Rowing is an efficient way to burn calories. It’s also low impact (meaning it’s easy on the joints) and uses all the major muscle groups.

It’s estimated that someone rowing with moderate effort can typically burn around 400 calories in an hour, which can increase significantly if they row a little more vigorously.


If you’re able to keep going consistently, it’s estimated that skipping can burn anywhere upward of 700 calories in an hour.

Skipping is one of the best cardio exercises, and regular exercise with the jump rope can really help build your cardiovascular endurance.

If you’re just starting out with a jumping rope, however, it’s recommended that you start slow and build up in manageable intervals.


Plyometrics are typically exercises that involve jumping or explosive movement. An example might be burpees or clapping push-ups.

Plyometrics are great for calorie burn because they often work your entire body and elevate your heart rate quickly. They are also great as you don’t need any expensive gym equipment!

It’s suggested that plyometrics can burn up to 10 calories per minute – almost 600 calories in an hour.

Does strength training help burn calories?

Resistance training and lifting weights are not huge calorie-burning activities by themselves, in comparison to some of the other activities we’ve looked at. If you lift weights at a moderate intensity, you can burn a modest 300 calories per hour.

However, muscle tissue burns more calories than body fat. As you build muscle mass, you are also building the ability to burn more calories as you ‘rest’ and go about your normal everyday life.

So if you’re looking at long-term calorie burning, it’s recommended that you have a rounded exercise routine that includes both cardio and strength training.

How do I know how many calories I am burning?

The number of calories someone can burn through different exercises will differ depending on factors such as age, weight and fitness level.

A fitness tracker that can measure your heart rate and how many calories you are burning is one of the best ways to keep track of your progress.

Alternatively, it can be useful to use online calculators to determine the calories your workout burns. We have a great calculator for calories burned which helps you determine your typical calorie burn across a variety of different activities.