7 Exercises That Burn More Calories Than Running

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7 Exercises That Burn More Calories Than Running

Running is a great form of exercise. It comes with benefits both mental and physical. I’m personally a huge fan. If you’re trying to burn lots of calories with your workouts, running is a pretty good option. But if you’re looking to maximize your calorie burn or switch up your high-intensity workouts, there are plenty of other options to consider.

Before we go any further, it’s important to note that there are so many great reasons to work out that have nothing to do with burning calories or weight loss, and we’re not suggesting that your goal should be either of those things. If it is your goal, that’s totally fine, but it’s important not to overdo it or exercise compulsively. And if you’ve struggled with disordered eating or compulsive exercising, always speak with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine.

To compare activities based on calorie burn, you first have to understand MET, or metabolic equivalent.

Every type of physical activity has a MET, which is a measure of how much energy it takes to complete. The MET is based off how many milliliters of oxygen a person consumes per kilogram of body weight while doing any specific activity. One MET is roughly equal to the amount of energy it takes to sit still. You can find the MET of over 800 different activities in The Compendium of Physical Activities, a resource provided by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

“As the MET value of activity goes up, the ability to burn calories increases,” Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, tells SELF. The more intense an exercise—that means everything from running to lifting weights to washing dishes—or the harder you push yourself, the more oxygen your body needs to complete it. Which means the MET goes up, and so does the calorie burn. (Exercising at a higher intensity also increases the amount of calories you’ll burn after you stop working out, thanks to the afterburn effect.)

A variety of factors, including a person’s weight and metabolism, determine how many calories a person burns at different intensities of exercise.

The specific number of calories you burn during a particular workout depends on a handful of different things. A person’s body weight, body fat percentage, age, physical fitness, genetics, and even the environmental conditions in which they’re working out, can impact how many calories they burn, according to ACSM.

It’s nearly impossible to know exactly how many calories a person will burn during a run or other activity. We all have different bodies and metabolisms, and chances are, those above factors don’t always stay constant.

What we can do, though, is calculate the approximate calorie burn of specific activities using METs.

The formula is this: MET x body weight (in kilograms) x time (in hours) = calorie burn. This can give you a good idea of which activities are generally more efficient than others at burning calories, even if the exact number will vary a little bit.

“To compare running to another activity, it would be necessary to define the speed [of the run] and body weight of the specific person,” McCall adds. The MET of running depends a lot on the speed—for example, running at a 10 minute/mile pace has a MET of 9.8, whereas running at a 6.5 minute/mile pace has a MET of 12.8.

With some help from McCall, we calculated the calories that a 150-pound person would typically expend running a 10-minute-per-mile pace: 666 calories per hour. Then, we compared this to a handful of other activities. (Note that you might not do these activities for a full hour, but we used one hour as a standard means of comparison.)

What you’ll find is that the big calorie burners on the list have a few things in common: They use a lot of muscles throughout the body, and they can be really challenging.

Here are some exercises you might want to add to your routine if you’re trying to burn more calories:

1. Indoor cycling: Approximately 952 calories per hour

McCall notes that intensity should be at 200 watts or greater. If the stationary bike doesn’t display watts: “This means when your indoor cycling instructor tells you to turn up the resistance, you do it!” he says.

2. Cross-country skiing: Approximately 850 calories per hour

This all depends on your experience as a skier. Slow, light effort won’t burn nearly as many calories as a brisk-speed, vigorous effort will. To really challenge yourself and burn up energy? Try uphill skiing.

3. Rowing: Approximately 816 calories per hour

Again, 200 watts is the benchmark here; McCall says it should be at a “vigorous effort.” Many rowing machines list watts on the display. Bonus: Rowing is an incredible back workout too.

4. Jumping rope: Approximately 802 calories per hour

This should be at a moderate pace—approximately 100 skips per minute—McCall says. Try this jump-rope interval workout to get started.

5. Kickboxing: Approximately 700 calories per hour

Other types of martial arts, like Muay Thai, fit into this category too. When it comes to regular boxing, the biggest calorie burn comes when you’re legit in the ring (a.k.a. fighting another person). But a lot of boxing classes also incorporate cardio exercises like mountain climbers and burpees, so your heart rate ends up increasing more than you’d expect. And, hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere before you can get into the ring, right?

6. Swimming: Approximately 680 calories per hour

Freestyle works, but you should aim for a vigorous 75 yards per minute pace, McCall says. This is a little aggressive for a casual swimmer. (Butterfly stroke is even more effective if you feel like getting fancy.)

7. Outdoor bicycling: Approximately 680 calories per hour

Biking at a fast, vigorous pace gets your heart rate soaring, whether you’re indoors or outdoors. Add in some mountainous terrain and hills and the calorie burn goes up even more.


  • All of them are fine but require more than running: infrastructure. Running can be done virtually everywhere.
    But yes, they are superb addition to running

  • Trudy

    I am a fitness instructor of several genre. However, I have found that on the AVERAGE those that take my Zumba classes expend 720-1,000 calories per class! THIS IS A VERY TRUE STATEMENT mainly due to the fact, People “WORK” HARDER when they are having fun! We work EVERY MUSCLE GROUP. I would put Zumba up to ANY workout that is out there! Not only that just shearly the influence & demographics of Zumba is like no other. I challenge you “REAL” FITNESS INSTRUCTORS. Even though I am AFAA & teach kick boxing, Pilates etc. I have been told I’m a “MICKEY MOUSE” INSTRUCTOR because I teach Zumba. If you feel that way….I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE MY ZUMBA CLASS!!

    • stenogirl65

      I wear a Fitbit and have also worn the chest strap and I have never burned 1,000 calories in Zumba. I love Zumba. I am not knocking it. They cancelled my favorite class at the Y, but I would love to try a class where I burn 1,000 calories in an hour.

      • Richard Beltzhoover

        Fit bits values are somewhat suspect, and inaccurate. I sent mine back is was so erroneous.

      • robinbishop34

        While fitbits are completely worthless, you are correct about not burning a 1000 calories in an hour…. maybe half that.

    • Kim Thomas

      I love my Zumba class! I don’t know how many calories I burn exactly, but I do always put in as much effort as I can. A definite plus of Zumba is that whilst it is exercise we have so much fun it doesn’t feel like the effort of a workout 🙂

    • cil

      gotta say. . . i dont have fun when i am trippign over my feet trying to get the moves right- or even vaguely right, and just when i think i have them half right, the move changes. UH!

    • robinbishop34

      “I have found that on the AVERAGE those that take my Zumba classes expend 720-1,000 calories per class! “

      Very unlikely.

      A much more effective way to lean out, and obtain optimal body composition is through calorie/macro control, weight training, and normal physical activity.

  • Lissa

    Are all these figures based on a 150lb person?

  • PW

    200 watts? It would take a high grade club cyclist to produce this output continuously. What’s wrong with us lesser mortals doing 100 or so? It’s probably not going to beat running buit it doesn’t damage your joints either.

    • stenogirl65

      Right? 200 watts? Give me a break! Yikes!

    • Jimbo Ford

      Have to disagree there mate. I’m a 53 year old club cyclist and my FTP is 279watts. (My max av output for 1 hour cycling). 200W/hr on a watt bike should be achievable

      • cil

        so about 175watts for most small women then 😉

      • David Hicks

        You’re a cyclist — for someone who rides/trains frequently — you’re correct, but while this article appears to be aimed at the average fitness-minded person — the criteria (200 watts– 75 yards/minute) are not achievable for the average person looking for something different or just trying to lose weight.

        • Bob

          Agree with David…

      • newbie rider

        Well, I’ve startet monitoring my rides two weeks ago. I’m 168cm, 75kg, 35 years old and my FTP is only 134 watts. I didn’t have any power spikes on the end of the run like many do when getting their FTP too low, so I really was giving it my all. For an untrained person 200 watts definitely seems to high to me.

    • Tams Harty

      Likewise, a swimmer doing 75 yds in a minute is pretty much sprinting and could not keep it up for a solid hour. I wish I could! I might be heading for the Olympics!

    • Nathan Budd

      What’s the issue? Do slightly less watts then… 180 say. You’ll still burn more than running by the looks of it. I averaged 214 watts for 1h 37m last night, and burned 1384 calories. I’m not a high grade club cyclist, I don’t race. I commute occasionally during the week, and time permitting, one ride at the weekend.

  • Emma Meehan

    Love how Muay Thai got a shout out in the kickboxing section! I always grew up hating team sports etc but Muay Thai I think is the best way to have a solo workout where you’re not comparing yourself against anybody else, but you have the support of people around you. Would recommend anyone to start it

    • Doug Fisher

      Maury Thai is a great workout!! I personally prefer traditional Japanese Karate. Been training for years and in great shape. I also love to do trail hiking. Life is good!!

      • Doug Fisher

        Sorry Emma, I meant Mauy Thai. Sorry for the typo. Such a great art.

  • Ingrid

    Yeah, tomorrow gonna interval-jump-rope-workout in my room upstairs instead of running outdoors in nice cool air …..

  • Frank

    What does that translate to in RPMs? I try to keep it at least 90 or higher.

  • Frank

    Long slow distance is what always works for me. Whether it is biking, running, or swimming.

    • Carl Weaver

      …me too!

  • smaktcat

    or Louisiana..10 steps in 99 degree 99% humidity-pass out on the pavement

  • jadunnigandc

    Go ahead and take of Jumping Rope. Who do you know that jumps rope for 60 minutes straight?

    • no shit

      • Alan J Krawitz

        I use jumping rope as an added cardio boost…no one said you have to do it for an hour straight! That would get kind of boring anyway. I do it after a hard resistance training session to really get my heart rate up.

  • Bob

    200 watts on a rower is not something the average person, or even above average person, can achieve… much less for an hour. I rowed 20 minutes at 29 strokes/min this morning… +4500 meters and that generated 105 watts. I would have to row at about 45-50 stokes/minute to come close to 200 watts. Not possible. Did the author of this “list” actually try any of this?

  • I burn more than 1000 calories in an hour doing any of those above mentioned excersizes. Not sure where those stats come from. Maybe the “Avg person”. Who wants to be average?!

  • Marcel

    Ill stick with outdoor running and jumping ropes. IF your target is belly and ass this is where to start.

  • JFred

    Jump rope to shin splints one should be careful with how high and what you jump on. And my personal favorite is with skates.

  • Carl Weaver

    I am 153lb duathlete and 10 min/mile running for 1 hour is ridiculously easy compared to 200W for 1 hour on stat bike. Of course, there are good reasons to do more than run, but maximizing cal/hour is not one of them. My typical road tempo run of 70 minutes is reported as 881 kcal by Training Peaks while a fairly hard road ride of same duration is 667 kcal

  • Nicholas

    Half of these are wrong, or under estimated. Who is going cross-country skiing a few times a week for fitness? This is so ancient. 200 watts is very achievable. biggest thing is people are barely hitting 500 calories burned and then going out for wings/ tacos and drinks.
    The “I can eat whatever and burn it off with exercise” is short lived with poor intake.