In the age to iPhones, Androids, Facebook, Garmin GPS and Pinterest we’ve learned to multitask and get things done in a fraction of the time we used to even five years ago. Although we can now use innovation to speed things up and get more things done is less time, these rules do not apply to exercise (cardiovascular exercise in particular)!
In the time it takes to run a mile on the treadmill (12 minutes at a 5.0 mph pace) you could check your email, microwave dinner for two, pay all of your bills online and finish a load of laundry. It’s no wonder the obesity rate has increased dramatically over the past few decades! The choice between taking care of our bodies and taking care of the responsibilities of life and work doesn’t work in favor of doing exercise.
- What if there was a way to maximize the calorie burn during the time we can dedicate to cardiovascular exercise?
- Would we enjoy doing cardiovascular exercise more often?
- Would it be easier to find the time if we know we’re getting more “bang for our buck”?
Exercises that Burn the Most Calories
The Compendium of Physical Activities (a website supported by Arizona State University and the National Cancer Institute), 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 of 8.0 or higher:
- Jumping rope (100 to 120 skips/minute)
- Martial arts (ie. judo, karate, tae kwan do, kickboxing, etc.)
- Water jogging
- Stair treadmill
- Bicycling (seated, 80 RPM, includes Spinning)
- Rowing (stationary, 150 watts)
- Running (5.0 mph, 12 minute/mile)
- Swimming (front crawl, 50 yards/minute)
- Circuit training (resistance training, high intensity aerobic activity, minimal rest intervals)
- Calisthenics (ie. push ups, sit ups, pull ups, jumping jacks, etc.)
For a listing of all physical activities 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 (December 2011) the average American male is 69.4 inches (5 feet, 9.4 inches) tall and weighs 194.7 pounds (88.3 kilograms) and the average American female is 63.8 inches (5 feet, 3.8 inches) tall and weighs 164.7 pounds (74.7 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
- Jumping rope – 192 minutes (3 hours, 12 minutes)
- Martial arts – 220 minutes (3 hours, 40 minutes)
- Water jogging – 231 minutes (3 hours, 51 minutes)
- Stair treadmill – 252 minutes (4 hours, 12 minutes)
- Bicycling – 266 minutes (4 hours, 26 minutes)
- Rowing – 266 minutes (4 hours, 26 minutes)
- Running – 273 minutes (4 hours, 33 minutes)
- Swimming – 273 minutes (4 hours, 33 minutes)
- Circuit training – 283 minutes (4 hours, 43 minutes)
- Calisthenics – 283 minutes (4 hours, 43 minutes)
Minutes Required to Burn One Pound of Fat – Females
- Jumping rope – 227 minutes (3 hours, 47 minutes)
- Martial arts – 260 minutes (4 hours, 20 minutes)
- Water jogging – 273 minutes (4 hours, 33 minutes)
- Stair treadmill – 297 minutes (4 hours, 57 minutes)
- Bicycling – 315 minutes (5 hours, 15 minutes)
- Rowing – 315 minutes (5 hours, 15 minutes)
- Running – 323 minutes (5 hours, 23 minutes)
- Swimming – 323 minutes (5 hours, 23 minutes)
- Circuit training – 335 minutes (5 hours, 23 minutes)
- Calisthenics – 335 minutes (5 hours, 23 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 that you can see yourself doing for many years to come.