While strength training is important to boost your metabolism and burn more calories at rest, if you want to lose weight you also need cardio.
We get it: The prospect of fitting in solid cardio workouts each week can be daunting. Plus, you may not even know what form of cardio you like. In this article, we’ll give you a refresher on why cardio matters, and share 7 fun (and simple) cardio workouts for weight loss you’ll actually WANT to do!
Benefits Of Cardio Exercise
Burning fat is a wonderful byproduct of cardio exercise, but there are many other great benefits of getting your cardio on:
- Keeps your heart healthy: 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.
- Boosts your mood: 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.
- Boosts Your Immunity: Cardio exercise in most environments makes your immune system stronger, helping you to reduce your body’s risk of bacterial infection and prevent disease.
- 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 prevent those problems.
- Boosts Your Weight Loss: Finally—cardiovascular exercise helps to burn calories, and when it comes to weight loss, calories still matter. You have to expend more calories than you take in to lose weight. Along with strength training, cardio should be a main aspect of your weight loss journey.
7 Best Cardio Workouts For Weight Loss
Cardio doesn’t have to be intimidating – many fun and simple cardio workouts are surprisingly effective at burning fat and calories. Try these 7 cardio workouts to lose weight:
1. Walking [300-400 calories/hour]
Yes, walking! Perhaps the simplest, 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. In order 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, or hit the treadmill at the gym.
Tip: If you’re using a treadmill, try adding an incline to torch more calories and tone your glutes and thighs.
2. Running Stairs [1000 calories/hour]
A simple flight of stairs is about to be your new favorite workout tool. Walking, sprinting, 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!
The good news is: you don’t have to sprint stairs for an hour to see the benefits. A person weighing 160 lbs. will burn 102 calories simply walking up and down stairs for 10 minutes. 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, or hop on the stair climber at the gym. For a home workout, you can simply run or walk up a flight of stairs in your home instead.
Related: Full-Throttle Run The Stairs Workout
3. Kettlebells [800-900 calories/hour]
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 to 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.
Try our 10-minute kettlebell workout for a great introduction on how to use kettlebells, as well as a powerful 10-minute workout.
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.
Fun fact: you’d have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you can burn jumping rope. An additional bonus is that, if done properly, this exercise is lower impact than running.
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)
If jumping rope sounds like a fun way to incorporate cardio into your routine, check out this 15 minute jump rope and bodyweight workout to try at home or the gym.
5. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) [600 calories/hour]
Once used to train only elite athletes, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), is now mainstream and can be incorporated into many workout routines.
HIIT is a type of workout where you give maximum effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods. HIIT workouts train and condition both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. This kind of exercise gets your heart rate up and improves your cardiovascular fitness level while burning more fat and calories in less time.
This training can be done with running, swimming, cycling, elliptical machines and even weights. Most programs will have you push hard for between 20-30 seconds, with a short 10-20 second rest in between. 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.
Check out our HIIT workout library for great HIIT workouts to try at home.
6. Cycling [600 calories/hour]
Remember when you were a kid and riding your bike was the best part of the day? Good news: it’s great for adults, as well!
Cycling is a low-impact exercise which increases your heart health, strengthens your leg muscles and burns some serious calories. Outdoor cycling also fills your need for fresh air and vitamin D.
But not everyone feels comfortable biking outside or has the financial means to purchase a brand new bike. If that’s the case, indoor cycling is an excellent option. According to The American Council of Sports Medicine, an average person burns between 400-600 calories in a 45-minute class.
7. Rowing [500-600 calories/hour]
Rowing is a full body exercise that works the biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. 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 lose fat, 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.