Lose Weight By Exercising: 7 Best Cardio Workouts for Weight Loss

When you start doing cardio workouts for weight loss, you may wonder what workout is best. Every cardio workout has benefits, risks, difficulty levels, and calorie burn. It can be difficult to know which one is best for you.


The simple answer is that the best cardio workout for weight loss for you is the one that you can do safely and consistently. The highest calorie burn isn’t worth anything if you can’t physically perform it, or can’t motivate yourself to do it because you don’t enjoy it, or, worst of all, it causes injury.


After all, consistency is the biggest key to a successful workout regimen. Doing a little every single day will get you further than doing a lot sporadically.


Below is a list of some of the best cardio for weight loss, but as you learn about them, consider how they will fit with your lifestyle, physical ability, and interests. Then, choose the ones that can fit into your routine safely, easily, and enjoyably. That is the best way to ensure you stick with it when it gets tough.

Swimming for High Resistance and Low Impact

Swimming is a great high-resistance but low-impact cardio workout that most people find very enjoyable. Even while just treading water, swimming requires your whole body to be engaged, working all the muscles at once. It is also great for your cardiovascular system.


Since water is denser than air, you have the added resistance of pushing against the water, but since there is no impact whatsoever, swimming is also easy on the joints.


The main downside to swimming is it does require a trip to a pool unless you’re fortunate enough to have one of sufficient size at home. Some areas may have limited access to a pool, it may only be available for specific hours, or it may require a membership.


Your calorie burns while swimming will depend on what stroke you choose. The breaststroke, for example, burns 200 calories in 30 minutes while the more-difficult butterfly stroke burns 450 calories in that same time frame.


When swimming, there isn’t a wrong way to do it, as long as you’re staying afloat, of course. 


Even simply treading water will give you some calorie burn, but pushing yourself will yield better results. Swim as fast as possible for as long as you can, and add intervals of swimming more slowly or treading water to rest.

Dancing for Enjoyment and Calorie Burn

Dancing is a fun way to get a higher calorie burn for people who may get bored with the repetitive motions of most gym equipment. 


Dancing is a very accessible form of exercise because it requires no equipment except the technology to play music or a video, and you can do it anywhere. Certain types of dance don’t even require much space.


With dancing, you can easily customize the amount of impact to your needs. You can jump and bounce as much as you like or keep your feet mostly on the floor and just move the rest of your body.


There aren’t any downsides to dancing. It is a form of exercise that anyone can do at their level to burn some calories.


The number of calories burned through dancing will vary depending on the intensity and type of dancing you choose, but in 30 minutes, you could burn 100 calories doing a low-intensity dance up to 300 calories for high intensity. 


There are several different types of dance videos – salsa, hip hop, Zumba, line dancing, and many more, or just crank up some music with a good rhythm and move your body. You can choose the style and intensity that works for you. Modify the moves if you’re a beginner, or dance as hard as you can if your body is used to movement.

Elliptical Offers High Calorie Burn with Low Impact

If you’re the type who just wants to get on a machine and zone out while you burn a lot of calories, the elliptical might be perfect for you.


Unlike a treadmill or stair climber, which are also great machines for burning calories, on the elliptical, you do not take steps. Your feet stay on the platforms as you move your legs in motions similar to walking, so the workout is low-impact and easy on your joints.


The downsides of the elliptical are that it is a more expensive machine or requires a trip to the gym, though it is such a popular machine that most gyms have several, and you should have little trouble finding one available.


Thirty minutes on the elliptical can burn 270 calories up to 400-plus, depending on your weight and other factors. In general, someone weighing 125 pounds will burn around 270 calories in a half an hour on the elliptical while someone weighing 185 pounds will burn around 375 calories in that same half-hour.


An elliptical machine is simple to use. Be careful stepping on as the pedals may start to move, and make sure you’re keeping your body straight and not locking your knees. Beyond that, just move with the machine – feet on the pedals and hands on the handles. 


The motion may take a bit of getting used to, so if you are new to the elliptical, go slow at first to get used to it. Once you are comfortable with it, you can move faster or add incline or resistance to ramp up your calorie burn.

Cycling Can be Customized to Your Needs

Cycling is a versatile cardio workout that can be done indoors or out, so whether it’s a beautiful day outside or 90 degrees or 10 degrees, you can still go for your ride. It is also very customizable in regards to difficulty level and corresponding calorie burn.


Stationary bikes are common at most gyms, and they’re a relatively affordable piece of equipment to have at home as well. Your benefits will depend largely on how you cycle. Choose a slower steadier pace for a long stamina-building workout, or do some high-intensity intervals to get maximum calorie-blasting power in a shorter time.


And if you’re craving some fresh air and sunshine, get your bike out on the trails. Again, you have the option of a longer, slower ride on a flatter surface or taking your bike into the hills off-road for a really intense but still enjoyable workout. You can always customize along the way, too, by pushing the speed in intervals.


Your calorie burn with cycling can be anywhere from 300 calories in 30 minutes for a leisurely 12-13 mile per hour pace up to 370 calories for a faster 14-15 mile per hour pace. And if you’re getting into some terrain, you can burn 255-377 calories in 30 minutes.


If you’re on a stationary bike, there’s little to know to get started. Just get on and start pedaling. Playing with the resistance and programs on the bike can simulate terrain and give you a better workout. Trying a spinning class is also a great way to get a high calorie burn on a bike.


Biking outside will require a bit more preparation. Make sure you have the appropriate safety equipment, such as a helmet. You’ll want a bike that’s the proper size for you, and you’ll need to know the laws of the road regarding bikes if you’ll be riding in populated areas. If you’ll be off-road, make sure you’ve got sufficient water with you.

Rowing Works Muscles Other Exercises Miss

Rowing is another low-impact option that goes easy on your joints but still produces a good calorie burn. Unlike some other gym machines, rowing works both the upper and lower body and builds muscle in the arms, shoulders, back, thighs, and glutes.


An extra benefit of rowing is that it works the muscles on the back of your body, referred to as the “posterior chain.” These muscles are important for your posture and keeping you free from injury. They are often somewhat neglected in our modern lifestyle that includes a lot of sitting time.


Workouts like walking, running, and yoga also tend to target the muscles in the front of the body.


Your calorie burn with rowing will vary, the same as with any other exercise, based on your weight, gender, BMI, and more. If you weigh 175 pounds, a ballpark figure for the number of calories you’ll burn in 30 minutes of rowing is 140 for light intensity and 340 for high intensity.


When you’re rowing, make sure to use your legs in the motion; don’t do all the work with your arms. Intervals can also help you get more out of your workout. Row as fast as you can for a certain amount of time or a specific distance, followed by a slower pace to rest.

High-Intensity Interval Training Blasts the Calories

If you’re ready to burn some calories but don’t have a lot of time, high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, may be the way to go. 


HIIT features short duration intense cardio intervals interspersed with periods of rest. It burns calories and fat, works your cardiovascular system, and does more in less time than many other forms of cardio.


HIIT is more a method rather than an actual workout in itself. It uses other forms of exercise – anything from treadmill to lifting weights, and by alternating going fast and intense with resting or slowing down, it becomes a HIIT workout. 


A 185-pound person can burn upwards of 550 calories during a HIIT cycling workout, significantly more than cycling at a steady pace. Furthermore, the intervals of anaerobic exercise increase your metabolism, so you continue burning calories for hours after the workout.


A range of exercises can be turned into HIIT workouts. If you run, add in intervals of sprinting as fast as you can. If you bike, increase the speed to high intensity for short durations. 

The same goes for rowing, swimming, the elliptical, and more. You can also do exercises such as burpees, push-ups, and others in intense, all-out bursts followed by rests in between these bursts.


Your local gym may also offer HIIT classes. Ask if they have any available, and if they don’t, suggest they include them.


Take care when beginning HIIT as it is intense. Be sure your body can handle it and that you’re performing the exercises in perfect form to reduce the chance of injury.


You may also want to incorporate HIIT only a few times a week with less intense workouts on the other days to decrease the chance of burnout or injury.

Hiking Increases Calorie Burn

Walking in itself is an easy cardio workout, and many people enjoy it. However, it does take a lot of miles of walking to burn the same calories as a more intense form of cardio. Endless miles on the treadmill may not be something you want to do every day either.


Hiking serves two purposes. First, it gets you out in nature, so there is always something to see, and you might even forget you’re working out. Second, the varied terrain raises your calorie burn while also improving your balance and getting more muscles involved.


The tougher the hike, the more of a workout you will get, so when you’re ready, tackle that trail that forces you to climb over boulders and fallen trees. What you lack in miles will be more than compensated by engaging new muscle groups and increasing the intensity and calorie burn.


It is difficult to give an accurate calorie burn for hiking since it is entirely subject to the terrain. For a 160-pound person, around 220 calories in 30 minutes is average. 


Hiking can be as simple as finding your nearest hiking opportunity and getting out on the trail for a couple of hours. The only equipment required is a good pair of shoes and sufficient water, though you may also want insect repellent and sunscreen, depending on the time of day, weather, and location. Regional, state, and national parks are great places to start.


Hiking can also become more intense if you get into backpacking, which involves carrying your supplies and hiking for an entire day, overnight, or even a longer stay. Carrying a backpack loaded with water, food, a tent, and other supplies will also increase how many calories you burn.


For safety, make sure you pay attention to the trail’s difficulty level, any potential hazards, and the weather forecast. Let someone know where you will be and when you intend to return.

Finding Your Best Cardio for Weight Loss Option

The important thing to remember is that the best cardio for weight loss is what works for you. Someone else’s favorite or most effective workout may be drudgery for you or cause you injury. Try several options to see what you enjoy and can perform safely.


If gyms bore you, and you would rather be outside, choose hiking or outdoor cycling, like mountain biking. If you need to go easy on your joints, try swimming, rowing, or elliptical. When you’re in good shape and a high calorie burn is your priority, HIIT may work for you. And when you want something just fun, crank up the music and dance.


For best results, incorporate multiple of these cardio workouts into your routine. Each one has its benefits, and by using more than one, you can enjoy more positive results. Switching it up can also keep you from getting bored with one workout, so you stay motivated to continue.















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Jason Hughes
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