The Best Exercise for Weight Loss – The Surprisingly Simple One That Burns the Most Calories in the Least Time, Without Killing You from Overexertion
Finding the ultimate exercise for weight loss – the one that burns the most calories per minute without pushing you to exhaustion – feels like finding the Holy Grail of workouts. Every exercise is good for you, as long as you’re sensible and don’t injure yourself from overexertion. However, not all exercises are created equal when it comes to the number of calories burned per hour.
The exercise that comes out on top for calorie burning is an exercise that most people can do. Sure, you could cycle up Everest and burn way more calories… but most people can’t (or would rather not, thank you).
With everyone stuck at home due to Lockdown 2.0, many people have already seen the result of a sedentary lifestyle: weight gain. And while we are still allowed to go out for exercise, given the terrible weather and early darkness, we all wonder: what is the best type of exercise for rapid weight loss?
It’s not that we don’t like exercising. But when it comes to weight loss, we want to do it as quickly as possible. Nobody enjoys prolonged periods of hunger or special diets like the keto diet or intermittent fasting – no matter how good they are if you make the effort.
So, which exercise burns the most calories per minute? AKA, at least in theory, the best exercise for weight loss.
Luckily, you don’t have to guess, as someone already did the math for us. In a recent study, Ocean Finance used research from Harvard University to compile “The Most Time-Efficient Exercises to Shed Lockdown Pounds” and concluded that there is one exercise that rules them all.
The table above details how long it takes to burn one pound of body fat while doing various popular gym and home exercises.
Needless to say, the results should be seen as guidelines rather than gospel truth. Firstly, the research assumes that “an average of 3,500 burned calories is needed to lose one pound.” This is, at best, a dated approach – it is based on a 1958 study by Max Wishnofsky. It’s true that this estimate hasn’t been debunked in the 62 years since, but it has certainly been challenged.
Moreover, even if the “3,500 pounds of fat” model is correct, it’s worth noting that everyone burns fat differently – depending on their biological sex, age, and numerous other factors.
It’s also true that you could do the top 3 exercises from the table for 3 hours every day and still not lose weight if you’re eating more calories than you burn. Although you’ll become extremely fit, assuming you don’t end up in the hospital.
However, what we can say is that for most people, doing the exercises higher up on this list will burn more calories than the ones lower down. And that means they burn more fat, which means that eventually – in conjunction with a good diet – you’ll lose more weight.
THE BEST EXERCISES FOR WEIGHT LOSS – BREAKING DOWN THE TOP 5
- Treadmill (10 mph): This activity will burn 495 calories in half an hour if you weigh around 9 stones, 614 calories if you’re 11 stones, and 733 calories if you’re 13 stones. It’s true that 10 mph is a moderate effort run for runners and a high effort activity for more sedentary people.
- Treadmill (7.5 mph): A slower pace on the treadmill will burn 375 calories in half an hour if you weigh around 9 stones, 465 calories if you’re 11 stones, and 555 calories if you’re 13 stones. Not as good as running at 10 mph, but still pretty decent.
- Elliptical Trainer (moderate): A surprise entry, using the elliptical at a “moderate pace” will burn 315 calories in half an hour if you weigh around 9 stones, 391 calories if you’re 11 stones, and 466 calories if you’re 13 stones. Using the elliptical trainer is probably a better option for heavier and older people as it’s a more joint-friendly activity than running, even on a treadmill.
- Bike Exercise (vigorous): An even more surprising statement is that vigorous bike exercise sessions will burn fewer calories than moderate elliptical workouts. This activity will burn 300 calories in half an hour if you weigh around 9 stones, 372 calories if you’re 11 stones, and 444 calories if you’re 13 stones.
- Step Aerobics (high impact): This activity will burn 285 calories in half an hour if you weigh around 9 stones, 353 calories if you’re 11 stones, and 422 calories if you’re 13 stones.
Clearly, when it comes to fat loss and calorie burning, nothing beats moderate to fast sessions on the treadmill! No wonder all the best treadmills sold out early in the OG lockdown.
Surprisingly, the second best thing to do is hopping on an elliptical trainer, and exercise bikes are a close third. This is good news, as the best exercise bikes and the best ellipticals are still somewhat available to buy, especially if you know where to look.
Looking for an even cheaper way to work out? Calisthenics and circuit training (aka HIIT) are not too far down the list, and both can be done using little or no home gym equipment. If you’re up for the challenge, check out the Mike Tyson bodyweight training or start with the best bodyweight workout for beginners.
One more thing we’d like to mention is the last entry on the list, weight lifting (moderate). While it may not burn as many calories compared to using a treadmill, resistance training is still a great way to lose weight and keep it off. A 2010 study called “Strength Training and Weight Loss” concluded that “strength training can actually help with weight loss as an excellent complement to aerobic exercise and diet.”
“The mechanisms governing this process are (a) increase or maintain your resting metabolic rate, (b) increase your total energy expenditure considering your own strength activity, and (c) also the effects related to excessive oxygen consumption after exercise.”
So now you know…