While strength training is important to boost your metabolism so you burn more calories at rest, if you want to lose weight you also need cardio. But if you’re not a bonafide cardio-junkie, the prospect of getting in solid cardio workouts each week can be daunting. Plus, you might not even know what the best cardio to lose weight technically is. The intimidation or lack of knowledge can result in losing interest in your cardio instead of losing pounds. Never fear! We’re here to give you a refresher on why cardio matters and then offer up seven surprising cardio workouts for weight loss that you’ll actually WANT to do! They’re a lot more fun (and more simple) than you might think. Ready to get your cardio on? Let’s go!
Benefits Of Cardio Exercise
Weight loss is a wonderful byproduct of cardio exercise, but there are so many other great benefits of getting your cardio on. Check out these additional benefits of cardio exercise before we get into the seven best cardio workouts for weight loss:
1. Keeps Your Heart Healthy
Your heart is a muscle just like any other; to keep it healthy and strong it has to be worked! By getting your heart rate up consistently you’ll keep your heart strong and decrease your risk of heart disease and other problematic conditions. To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.
2. Gives You A Mood Boost
Cardiovascular exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals responsible for balancing your mood and keeping depressive thoughts at bay. Many people cite beginning an exercise regimen as one step they’ve taken to help their overall mental health. Even a brisk walk can noticeably alter your attitude.
3. Boosts Your Immunity
Unless you are jogging through smog, the notion that you’re harming your immune system by getting in cardiovascular exercise outdoors is nonsense. On the contrary, cardio exercise in most environments makes your immune system stronger, helping you to reduce your body’s risk of bacterial infection and prevent disease.
4. Helps Your Circulation
Cardiovascular exercise improves your blood circulation, which helps your body rid itself of toxins better and keeps you healthy. Poor circulation long-term can lead to problems such as heart attack or stroke, but keeping your circulation functioning properly can help keep these problems from occurring.
5. Boosts Your Weight Loss
And yes—cardio workouts help you lose weight like none other! If you start a new cardio regimen, you can see results quickly. Yes, you need strength training to maintain a healthy metabolism, but if you’re pushing yourself to a moderate to high intensity, you’ll burn calories and fat effectively during each and every cardio workout.
7 Best Cardio Workouts For Weight Loss
So what’s the best cardio to lose weight? Here are seven unexpected cardio workouts that will help you lose weight (without losing interest)!
1. Walking [300-400 calories/hour]
Yes, walking! Perhaps the simplest, most available exercise around is walking. Walking is not only a great way to burn calories, but it’s also a low-impact workout so almost anyone can do it. Now, if you’re searching to burn calories and lose weight you can’t just head out for a slow evening stroll. In order to see results you need a brisk, moderately-fast pace in order to get your heart rate up and torch those calories. But it goes even deeper than that! 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. So get out there and get walking!
2. Running Stairs [1000 calories/hour]
A simple flight of stairs is about to be your new favorite workout tool. Walking, running, or lunging up a flight of stairs provides a great big calorie burn. A 150-lb person running stairs for an hour can burn 1000 calories! Wow! That’s crazy!!! Of course, it’s probably just as crazy to run stairs for an hour! But you don’t have to. Get this: A person weighing 160 lbs. will burn 102 calories walking up and down stairs for 10 minutes. That’s a lot! Even better, you can do a great cross-training workout in 30 minutes or less and burn off more than a regular running session. Look for an outdoor staircase near you that has more than one flight. If the weather is bad, use that simple flight of stairs in your home instead.
Related: Full-Throttle Run The Stairs Workout
3. Kettlebells [800-900 calories/hour]
Kettle-what? Kettlebell! It is a cannonball-shaped weight that produces a powerful, effective workout like you’ve never experienced before! Kettlebell workouts combine strength training with cardio for a complete workout. And if you want a calorie burn, look no further. These babies can help you burn up to 20 calories per minute, which is the equivalent to running a 6-minute mile. Now that’s called 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, strength, balance and flexibility. Try our 10-minute Kettlebell-Bell Inspired Workout for a great introduction for how to use the kettlebells as well as a powerful 10-minute workout hat will leave you dripping in sweat and satisfaction Not enough? Go through it twice!
4. Jumping Rope [600 calories/hour]
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 and makes your heart stronger. According to WebMd you’d have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you can burn jumping rope. Worried about the impact of jumping? Peter Schulman, MD, professor of Cardiology/Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington says that jumping rope is something that fit adults can add to their fitness routine. Done properly it is lower impact than running.
Jumprope is also a great form of plyometric workout, where both feet are off the ground. Plyometrics get your heart pumping and burn calories like none another! Check out this check Jump Around Cardio Workout you can do at home:
10-Minute Jump Around Cardio Workout
Watch the video below to see how each exercise is performed. Perform each move for 1 minute and then take a 1 minute rest after you’ve gone through all four. Repeat the entire circuit one more time for a 10-Minute Jump Around Cardio Workout.
- Jumping Jacks
- Jump rope
- Split jumps
- Box jumps (you can use any step or safe, elevated platform)
5. HIIT [600 calories/hour]
HIIT, or “High Intensity Interval Training,” has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years. What was once used to train only elite athletes is now mainstream and can be found in any gym and all over in online workouts! High intensity interval training comes in many forms, but the goal remains the same: go all-out with your highest intensity for a short interval, then take a brief recovery and do it again. These higher intensity periods increase the body’s need for oxygen, causing your system to search for that oxygen and therefore burn more fat than lower intensity training.
How do you do it? You choose! This training can be done with running, cycling, elliptical machines an even with weights. The form is less important than the goal: HIGH INTENSITY. Most programs will have you push hard for between 20-30 seconds, with a short 10-20 second rest in between. Done correctly, you will be breathing through your mouth and should NEED the recovery in order to continue. The best news of all when it comes to Hiit is that 20 minutes is plenty of time to get this done! A 20-minutes Hiit session is more effective burning calories and fat overall than a 60-minute jog.
If you need a great HIIT idea to do at home, try our Calorie Sizzler Tabata Workout.
6. Cycling [600 calories/hour]
Remember when you were a kid and riding your bike was the best part of the day? Hop back on that bike and start peddling! Cycling is an excellent way to get exercise, increase your heart health, strengthen your leg muscles and burn some serious calories. Outdoor cycling is fantastic and fills your need for fresh air and vitamin D. But not everyone feels comfortable biking outside or has the money to purchase a brand new bike (that one with the banana seat from 1974 might not work any more). In that case, let me introduce you to the notion of indoor cycling!
If you’ve never been to an indoor cycling class, it’s time! According to The American Council of Sports Medicine “ACSM”, an average person burns between 400-600 calories in a 45-minute class. Sound like torture? It’s actually super fun! Take riding a bike, add a room full of people, mix in some motivating music and top it off with a great instructor. Now you’ve got something fun that will push you to your limits, but in a good way. And remember—cycling is low impact!
7. Rowing [500-600 calories/hour]
You know that machine in the corner of the gym that all-too-often sits unused? The rowing machine is something you should definitely be using! People might stay away from this machine because they don’t know how to use it, or perhaps because they wrongly assume it is just an upper body exercise! That notion couldn’t be more misguided.
Rowing is a full body exercise that works the biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, glutes, quads, hamstrings and corer body. In addition to all this strength training, keep in mind that the cardio benefits of rowing are intense! According to Harvard Health Studies rowing burns between 250-300 calories in a 30-minute session.
Give some of these cardio workouts a try to burn calories, keep your heart healthy, and speed up your weight loss. Paired with strength training, it’s an unbeatable combination that will have you feeling healthy, lean, and strong.