The number of calories burned during exercise is an important aspect in a weight loss program: It allows you to budget your exercise time appropriately, while choosing the most time-efficient exercises. It also allows you to keep track of your daily calorie balance (i.e., calories taken in via food minus calories burned during physical activity). A negative daily calorie balance ensures continuing weight loss. A zero balance ensures weight maintenance.
The basic factors influencing the number of calories burned during exercise are as follows:
- the type of workout
- the time and and intensity of the workout
- the body weight of the subject (the heavier the subject, the more calories will be burned during any given exercise)
To a lesser degree, certain individual factors such as age, gender, and muscle versus fat ratio may also affect the number of calories burned during exercise.
For the sake of the discussion below, we will consider a workout time of 30 minutes and a
subject weighing 180 lbs. Here's how many calories are burned during various exercises by this
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- Aerobic activities:
- General aerobics, low impact - 215 cal
- General aerobics, high impact - 300 cal
- Bicycling, stationary, moderate intensity - 300 cal
- Bicycling, stationary, vigorous effort - 450 cal
- Rowing, stationary, moderate effort - 300 cal
- Rowing, stationary, vigorous effort - 360 cal
- Running 6 mph (10 min/mile) - 330 cal
- Running 8 mph (7.5 min/mile) - 450 cal
- Running 10 mph (6 min/mile) - 533 cal
- Rope jumping, moderate speed - 430 cal
- Rope jumping, fast speed - 510 cal
- Stair Climber Treadmill, moderate effort - 380 cal
- Swimming freestyle moderate effort - 300 cal
- Swimming freestyle vigorous effort - 430 cal
- Walking 3 mph (moderate pace), on level ground - 140 cal
- Walking 4 mph (brisk pace), on level ground - 215 cal
- Walking 3.5 mph, uphill - 260 cal
- Strength Training:
- Calisthenics, moderate effort (pushups, setups, jumping jacks) - 200 cal
- Calisthenics, vigorous effort - 340 cal
- Weight lifting, free weights, moderate effort - 200 calories
- Weight lifting, free weights, vigorous effort - 260 calories
- Sports Activities:
- Badminton - 200 cal
- Basketball, game - 340 cal
- Basketball, non-game - 260 cal
- Basketball, shooting baskets - 200 cal
- Baseball / Softball - 230 cal
- Billiards - 110 cal
- Bowling - 130 cal
- Boxing, in ring - 510 cal
- Boxing, punching bag - 260 cal
- Boxing, sparring - 390 cal
- Fencing - 260 cal
- Football - 350 cal
- Golf, walking and carrying clubs - 200 cal
- Golf, using power cart - 150 cal
- Golf, miniature - 130 cal
- Gymnastics, general - 170 cal
- Handball, team - 350 cal
- Hockey, ice or field - 350 cal
- Horseback riding, walking - 110 cal
- Horseback riding, trotting - 280 cal
- Juggling - 170 cal
- Kickball - 300 cal
- Martial Arts (judo, jujitsu, karate, kick boxing, tae kwon do) - 430 cal
- Polo - 340 cal
- Roller skating - 300 cal
- Skate boarding - 215 cal
- Soccer - 370 cal
- Table tennis - 170 cal
- Tai chi - 170 cal
- Tennis - 300 cal
- Volleyball, game - 340 cal
- Wally ball, general - 300 cal
Please note: The numbers shown above apply to a subject weighing 180 pounds and engaging in the respective exercise for 30 minutes.
- If the subject weighs less than 180 lbs, the number of calories burned during exercise will be less than shown above.
- If the subject weighs more than 180 lbs, the number of calories burned during exercise will be more than shown above.
To determine the numbers for your own particular case, see this exercise calorie calculator.
The list above provides a comparative guide to the number of calories burned by various
exercises. Of course, exercises that burn more calories over the same amount of time are more
You can see that among the exercises listed above, the most time-efficient are:
To pick a time-efficient exercise:
- running (at 8-10 mph)
- fast rope jumping
- martial arts
- vigorous stationary bicycling
- vigorous swimming
- scan the list above for exercises burning more than 250 calories per 1/2 hour, then...
- choose the type of exercise you find most appealing and feel capable of doing.
Regardless of the type of exercise you choose, you may increase efficiency by
varying effort intensity during your workout. Alternating intervals of high intensity
with intervals of low intensity is more efficient than exercising at constant moderate
intensity. This method is called interval training, and is widely used by athletes in
their training programs.
Interval training has the following advantages:
- It allows you some recovery time during the low intensity intervals of the workout.
- It creates muscle confusion (which is a good thing, since it results in more
calories being burned for the same amount of effort).
So, if for example you choose running as your exercise, you may run at moderate
pace (about 6 mph) for a few minutes, then increase your speed as tolerated for 1-2
minutes (aiming to achieve 8-10 mph). As you become better conditioned, you may
extend the duration of high effort intervals versus low effort intervals.
The same applies for swimming, walking, bicycling, general aerobics, stationary
rowing, weight lifting, etc.
The number of calories burned during exercise can also be increased by combining aerobic activity and strength training in the same workout. This particular type of exercise is called circuit training. It has the advantage of allowing you to sustain a higher intensity throughout your workout: As you shift from an aerobic segment to a strength training segment and vice versa, your body gets a chance to recover from the previous effort.
Note: It is prudent to consult with your doctor prior to starting an exercise program, especially if you are new to exercise, suffer from any medical conditions, or are a woman over the age of 50 or a man over the age of 40.
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