Which Exercise Burns The Most Calories? [Energy Expenditure Guide]

The basic rule of thumb to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in, whilst it sounds difficult to do, we actually burn calories sleeping, eating, walking up flights of stairs and even just sitting around!

Which Exercise Burns The Most Calories? [Energy Expenditure Guide]

This isn’t enough to help you lose weight, so you’ll have to do some workouts that burn calories.

It’s hard to know what you’re actually burning from working out, sweat and effort are usually good indicators that you’re challenging yourself but the only way to actually know how many calories you’re burning is using an accurate heart rate monitor that has your body measurements like height and weight and also your age and sex. 

Since we have all this new technology, like fitness trackers and heart rate monitors built into watches, it’s gotten much easier to tell how many calories you’re burning in a day and during a workout, but it’s still a good idea to know how many calories common exercises burn, so you can choose the best one for you.

This article will outline the factors that affect calorie burn during exercise and how many calories common exercises burn.

What Determines Calorie Burn During Workouts?

There’s a few different factors that determine how many calories you burn during a workout, these are the main ones: 

Heart Rate Training Zone

For this, you’ll want to work out your target heart rate and your maximum heart rate zone to understand what to aim for during your workout.

Target heart rate is usually expressed as a percentage (typically between 50% and 85%) of your maximum safe heart rate.

Your maximum heart rate is based on your age, which is then subtracted from 220, so for a 50 year old, their maximum heart rate would be 170 BPM.

At a 50% exertion level, the target would be 50% of that maximum, so 85 BPM and at an 85% exertion level, the target would be 145 BPM.

So the target heart rate that a 50 year old would want to aim for during exercise is between 85 BPM and 145 BPM.

Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate will depend on how fit you are, a normal resting heart rate is between 60-100 BPM, but a very fit person may have a resting heart rate between 40 and 50 BPM. 


The general rule is that the more you weigh, the more that you’ll burn during working out. 

Types Of Exercise

The type of exercise that you do will depend on how many calories you burn.

So cardio based workouts will burn much more calories than other types of workouts like lifting weights or yoga. 

How Many Calories Common Exercises Burn, Ranked From Highest To Lowest 

Everyone is different, so the amount of calories that you burn during a workout will differ from person to person, based on the factors that we mentioned earlier, but there are general estimates of how many calories these workouts burn that you can use as a general guideline.

The estimates below are calculated based on someone who weighs 130 pounds and based on the American Council on Exercise calculator. 

Running Or Jogging 

  • Burns 206 calories per 30 minutes

Even running at a slow pace can burn a lot of calories per 30 minutes, and on average running burns around 10.8 to 16 calories a minute which puts this workout at the top of the list of burning most calories.

Which Exercise Burns The Most Calories? [Energy Expenditure Guide]

To burn more calories, up the intensity of the running or try sprinting for some intervals. 


  • Burns 176 calories per 30 minutes

Hiking is an excellent way to burn calories without it seeming like a workout.

You’re out in the beautiful nature of the outdoors, and since you’re walking on uneven terrain and walking up and downhill, you’re burning more calories because you’re working a lot more muscles and getting your heart rate up. 

Biking/ Cycling 5.5mph

  • Burns 117 calories per 30 minutes

5.5 mph is quite a leisurely pace, so you might find that you go faster than that, and in that case you’ll burn more calories.

But biking is a great way to workout, as it can be a lot easier for some people as you’re sitting on a seat and mainly working your leg muscles and you can typically go longer, even if you’re a novice bike rider, which results in burning more calories.

Just note that calorie burning in spin classes or interval training will differ to this. 

Jump Rope At A Fast Pace

  • Burns 115 calories per 10 minutes

Jump rope surprisingly burns a lot of calories, since you’re jumping around and moving your entire body you’ll burn 115 calories in just 10 minutes! 

Walking At A Moderate Pace

  • Burns 97 calories per 30 minutes 

Walking is one of the most accessible forms of exercise there is and it’s also one of the most simple, you can do it anywhere!

Even if you don’t walk for that long, each short walk you do will add up through the day and the bonus is, it gives you a break from the house. 


  • Burns 88 calories per 30 minutes

Lifting weights is a great way to build muscle and burn calories at the same time, whilst it’s not the fastest way, it still increases your muscle mass and metabolism whilst simultaneously burning calories.

The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn whilst you’re resting. 

Stretching/ Hatha Yoga

  • 73 calories per 30 minutes

Yoga is a great way to enhance mobility, flexibility and give you tension relief.

It’s a useful exercise as it’s not too high intensity, but there’s still a wide range of benefits to gain from doing yoga or stretching. 

Whatever exercise you decide to do, just remember that it’s better than nothing and any workout you choose to do is better than sitting down at your desk all day and once you get moving you’ll feel much better!

Jenna Priestly
Latest posts by Jenna Priestly (see all)