We live in a society where we are forced to do more things in a day with the same 24 hours. As our work and family responsibilities take priority in our day, that leaves less time (if any at all) for our regularly scheduled fitness and calorie burning exercise. On days when you need to get the most out of your workout with a limited amount of time, especially if you are on a weight loss program with exercise requirements to achieve, choosing activities that are high intensity may be the perfect solution!
Exercises that Burn the Most Calories
The Compendium of Physical Activities, provides a listing of hundreds of physical activities and how much energy you expend doing them (MET). A MET (metabolic equivalent) is:
- the ratio between work metabolic rate and resting metabolic rate.
- defined as 1 kcal/kg/hour and is roughly equivalent to the energy cost of sitting quietly.
- also defined as oxygen uptake in ml/kg/min with one MET equal to the oxygen cost of sitting quietly, equivalent to 3.5 ml/kg/min.
The following is a list of physical activities (that are affordable, accessible and safe for most people) that have MET levels between 10.0 and 14.0 METS:
- Mountain biking (uphill, vigorous effort) – 14.0 METS
- Cross country skiing (5.0 to 7.9 mph, fast pace) – 13.0 METS
- Rowing (stationary, 200 watts, vigorous effort) – 12.0 METS
- Rope jumping (120 to 160 skips/minute, fast pace) – 12.0 METS
- Boxing (in the ring, general) – 12.0 METS
- Running (7.5 mph, 8 minute/mile) – 12.0 METS
- Ballroom dancing (competitive, general) – 11.0 METS
- Windsurfing or Kitesurfing (general) – 11.0 METS
- Martial arts (different types, moderate pace) – 10.0 METS
- Swimming (breaststroke, moderate pace) – 10.0 METS
For a listing of all physical activities (in PDF format) at the Compendium of Physical Activity website, click here.
Burning Calories to Lose Fat
Many people associate exercise with weight loss (primarily in the form of fat). A person needs to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of fat. To determine the total number of calories burned during physical activity, the following formula is used:
Total Calories Burned = Duration (in minutes) x ((MET x 3.5 x weight in kg)/200)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (November 2012) the average American male is 69.3 inches (5 feet, 9.3 inches) tall and weighs 195.5 pounds (88.7 kilograms) and the average American female is 63.8 inches (5 feet, 3.8 inches) tall and weighs 166.2 pounds (75.4 kilograms). The lists below use the average data for American males and females to determine how many minutes it takes to burn 3,500 calories (and one pound of fat).
Minutes Required to Burn One Pound of Fat – Males
- Mountain biking – 161 minutes (2 hours, 41 minutes)
- Cross country skiing – 173 minutes (2 hours, 53 minutes)
- Rowing – 188 minutes (3 hours, 8 minutes)
- Rope jumping – 188 minutes (3 hours, 8 minutes)
- Boxing – 188 minutes (3 hours, 8 minutes)
- Running – 188 minutes (3 hours, 8 minutes)
- Ballroom dancing – 205 minutes (3 hours, 25 minutes)
- Windsurfing or Kitesurfing – 205 minutes (3 hours, 25 minutes)
- Martial arts – 225 minutes (3 hours, 45 minutes)
- Swimming – 225 minutes (3 hours, 45 minutes)
Minutes Required to Burn One Pound of Fat – Females
- Mountain biking – 189 minutes (3 hours, 9 minutes)
- Cross country skiing – 204 minutes (3 hours, 24 minutes)
- Rowing – 221 minutes (3 hours, 41 minutes)
- Rope jumping – 221 minutes (3 hours, 41 minutes)
- Boxing – 221 minutes (3 hours, 41 minutes)
- Running – 221 minutes (3 hours, 41 minutes)
- Ballroom dancing – 241 minutes (4 hours, 1 minute)
- Windsurfing or Kitesurfing – 241 minutes (4 hours, 1 minute)
- Martial arts – 265 minutes (4 hours, 25 minutes)
- Swimming – 265 minutes (4 hours, 25 minutes)
Getting the Most Out of Your Exercise Choices
There are numerous physical activities with a higher MET level than the ones listed. The reasons why they aren’t listed is due to the fact that they are not realistic choices for the majority of the population because of accessibility, affordability, risk of injury and discomfort. These factors make is less likely for someone to participate in this activities on a regular basis (which results in no benefits from the physical activity).
Doing some physical activity is better than no exercise at all. Choose exercise options that you enjoy and don’t be afraid to “mix up” your exercise options. The more options you have, the more likely you will continue to exercise for many years to come.