The Best Cardio Workouts for Weight Loss in 2024

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By: Chris Freytag, CPT // January 11, 2024


Cardio exercise is a fantastic way to lose weight while improving your overall health. While strength training is important to boost your metabolism (and you will hear me on my soap box talk about how important it is for middle age woman), you also need cardio workouts for weight loss.

It drives me nuts when women tell me their fitness trainer told them they don’t need cardio. If you have a heart, then you need cardiovascular exercise!

The biggest issue is that most women think about running as the best form of cardio. There is nothing wrong with running but as we age, for many of us it is a daunting, joint pounding option that sounds horrible. And if it sounds horrible, you aren’t going to do it.

So whether you’re a fitness enthusiast looking to switch up your routine, or a beginner just starting, I’ve got you covered.

In this guide I’ll introduce you to the 9 best cardio workouts for weight loss, with no running included.

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    1. Walking [Burns 300-400 calories/hour]

    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Yes, walking! Perhaps the most straightforward, most available exercise around, walking is not only a great way to burn calories, but it’s also a low-impact workout that most people can do.

    However, a leisurely evening stroll won’t make the cardio cut. To burn fat, you need a brisk, moderately-fast pace. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular brisk walking can help you:

    • Maintain a healthy weight
    • Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
    • Strengthen your bones and muscles
    • Improve your mood
    • Improve your balance and coordination

    The faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits. You can walk outdoors on the sidewalk, go for a hike, give rucking a try, hit the treadmill at the gym, or even use a walking pad under your desk during the workday!

    Tip: If you’re using a treadmill, try adding an incline to torch more calories and tone your glutes and thighs. 

    2. Climbing Stairs [Burns 1000 calories/hour]

    Run the stairs as a way to burn calories.
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Are you looking for an efficient cardio workout that engages your lower body muscles and elevates your heart rate? Look no further than stair climbing.

    This challenging exercise can be done at home, in a gym, or even on outdoor stadium steps, making it a versatile option for any fitness routine.

    Here are a few tips to help you get started with climbing stairs for cardio exercise:

    Proper Form and Techniques

    When stair climbing, it’s essential to maintain proper form to maximize the benefits and prevent injuries. Keep your back straight, engage your core muscles, and step up one stair at a time.

    Avoid using the railing for support and try to push off with your toes to engage your calf muscles. As you progress, you can increase your speed, step height or try skipping one or two stairs.

    Progressive Overload

    Just like with other exercises, it’s crucial to gradually increase the workload to keep challenging your body and avoid plateauing. Start with a few flights of stairs and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout.

    You can also add weight by wearing a backpack or carrying dumbbells to make the climb more challenging.

    3. Kettlebells [Burns 800-900 calories/hour]

    woman lifting kettlebell
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    A kettlebell is a cannonball-shaped weight that produces a powerful, effective workout. Kettlebell workouts combine strength training with cardio and can help you burn up to 20 calories per minute (the equivalent of running a 6-minute mile.)

    Now that’s getting the most from your workout time!

    According to the American Council on Exercise, kettlebells can provide a higher intensity workout than the usual strength training routine in a shorter amount of time. This is because kettlebell training simultaneously works your cardio endurance while building muscle strength, balance, and flexibility.

    4. Jumping Rope [Burns 600 calories/hour]

    Woman jump roping outdoors.
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Aside from being a fun pastime, jumping rope is an effective cardio workout that can help you lose weight. By engaging your whole body, it burns a significant amount of calories and improves coordination, balance, and agility.

    One of the best cardio exercises for weight loss is jumping rope. It’s not only a calorie blaster but helps build bone density, strengthens your legs, makes your heart stronger, and improves coordination, balance, and agility.

    Moreover, it is a low-cost activity that can be done almost anywhere.

    Jumping rope is also a great form of plyometric workout, where both feet are off the ground. Plyometrics get your heart pumping and burn calories quickly and effectively.

    Other forms of plyometrics include exercises like:

    • Jumping jacks
    • Split jumps
    • Box jumps (you can use any step or safe, elevated platform)

    5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) [Burns 600 calories/hour]

    A woman holding dumbbells while doing squats in her living room.
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    If you’re short on time but still want to burn calories and get in shape, HIIT is the way to go. This popular cardio workout technique involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by brief rest periods.

    Once used to train only elite athletes, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is now mainstream and can be incorporated into many workout routines.

    These workouts can be done in as little as 20 minutes and are known for their ability to burn calories not just during the workout, but even after, thanks to the “afterburn effect.” HIIT workouts also trains and conditions both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.

    HIIT exercises can range from bodyweight movements, such as burpees and jump squats, to using equipment such as kettlebells and resistance bands. The training can also be done with treadmills, outdoor walking, swimming, cycling, and elliptical machines.

    Most programs will have you push hard for a work session (between 20-30 seconds), with a short 10-20 second rest in between. The key is to push yourself to your maximum effort during the high-intensity work portion and then allow your body to recover during the rest periods.

    With HIIT, a lack of time is no excuse: a 20-minute HIIT session is more effective at burning calories and fat overall than a 60-minute jog.

    6. Cycling [Burns 500-600 calories/hour]

    Pink tennis shoes locked into spin bike
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Cycling is a low-impact exercise that increases your heart health, strengthens your leg muscles, and burns some serious calories.

    If you’re looking for an effective workout that can help you lose weight while being gentle on your joints, cycling might be the perfect fit for you. This low-impact cardio exercise can be done indoors or outdoors, and it’s suitable for different fitness levels.

    When cycling, you target your lower body muscles, such as your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, and you also improve your cardiovascular health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the average person burns between 250-300 calories per 30 minute session of cycling exercise.

    *Calorie burning varies depending on factors such as body weight, intensity, and duration of the workout.

    7. Rowing [Burns 500-600 calories/hour]

    using an indoor rowing machine
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    amstrings. In addition to all this strength training, keep in mind that the cardio benefits of rowing are intense!

    Indoor rowing machines, also called “ergs” or “ergometers,” have long been used by crew teams who want to maintain their training during the winter months. But over the years, they’ve also gained popularity with other people—anyone who wants a total-body workout that’s low-impact and gets your heart rate up.

    Benefits of Rowing for Cardio Exercise

    • Low impact
    • Full body workouts
    • Meditative
    • Simple
    • High calorie burn

    Most gyms have a rowing machine section, and there are even some group fitness rowing classes you can take.

    According to Harvard Health Studies, rowing burns between 250-300 calories in a 30-minute session. 

    8. Dancing [Burns 460-1,000 calories/hour]

    A grandmother dancing in the kitchen with her granddaughter.
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Are you tired of the usual workouts and looking for a fun and engaging way to shed those extra pounds? Look no further than dance workouts!

    Dancing not only burns calories but also helps improve endurance, coordination, and flexibility. Some popular dance styles for weight loss include Zumba, hip-hop, and salsa.

    You don’t need to be a professional dancer to benefit from dance workouts. Many classes cater to beginners and offer modifications to suit different fitness levels. You can also do these cardio sessions right in the comfort of your own home!

    The amount of calories you’ll burn depends on the intensity of your workout, and the type of dance:

    • Zumba (460-920 calories/hour)
    • Hip Hop (500-1,000 calories/hour)
    • Salsa (400-800 calories/hour)

    *Calorie burning varies depending on factors such as body weight, intensity, and duration of the workout.

    In addition to being an effective workout, dance workouts are also a great way to have fun and socialize. Grab a friend or join a class to add some excitement to your fitness routine.

    So, put on your dancing shoes and start burning those calories!

    9. Swimming [Burns 250-900 calories/hour]

    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Swimming is an excellent low-impact cardio workout that provides a full-body workout without putting stress on your joints. With the resistance of the water, swimming works nearly every major muscle group in your body, which can lead to improved muscle tone and overall fitness levels.

    Additionally, swimming helps to improve your cardiovascular endurance, making it a great form of aerobic exercise that can aid in weight loss.

    There are several different swimming strokes that you can try, including:

    • Freestyle (400-700 calories/hour)
    • Breaststroke (400-600 calories/hour)
    • Backstroke (250-400 calories/hour)
    • Butterfly (600-900 calories/hour)

    *Calories burned per hour are based on an average weight of 155 pounds (70 kg) and vary depending on several factors, including body weight, swimming intensity, and stroke.

    Each stroke targets a different set of muscles, allowing you to vary your workout and keep things interesting. For beginners, starting with the freestyle stroke is often the easiest to learn and most effective for burning calories.

    If laps aren’t you’re thing, I recommend trying my 30 minute pool workout with simple but effective exercises for any age.

    Swimming is a fun and effective way to burn calories, improve endurance, and tone your muscles.

    Whether you prefer swimming laps in a pool or splashing around in the ocean, make sure to incorporate this low-impact cardio workout into your fitness routine for maximum weight loss results.

    The Beginner Strength Training Guide for Women

    woman lifting kettlebell
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Starting a strength training routine can be intimidating and confusing. Walk onto any weight floor in the gym, and it seems everyone there has a plan and knows what they’re doing but you!

    Of course, the truth is that everyone had to start as a beginner at one time. That’s why we created this beginner strength training guide for women.

    The Beginner Strength Training Guide for Women

    How To Start Working Out Again (& Stick With It!)

    Two women working out together.
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    Whatever the reason – lack of time, injuries, pregnancy, or just don’t enjoy exercise – most of us experience a lull in exercise at one point or another. Regardless, getting back to the gym after time away can be tough!

    When you are ready to get back at it and stick to it for good, here are 9 tips to show you how to start working out again and stay with it.

    How To Start Working Out Again (& Stick With It!)

    HIIT For Beginners

    A woman jumping while working out.
    Photo Credit: Shutterstock

    HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training) can improve your cardiovascular fitness while helping you build lean muscle and burn fat.

    As a personal trainer for decades, I have recommended this type of workout to so many people and currently include it in my own workout routine — because HIIT exercises work to burn fat, fast!

    Here’s your guide for getting started.

    HIIT For Beginners



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