What Exercise Burns the Most Calories?

How much time do you have to spend at the gym or on the running track every day? 20 minutes? Half an hour? An hour? No matter who you are, it’s likely that your time is limited. You can’t spend hours working out every day, but you need to fit in the best possible workout in the least possible amount of time. So what exercise burns the most calories—and, preferably, in the least amount of time?

The Secret to Burning Calories: Intensity

When you walk, you burn 100-400 calories per hour, depending on your speed. If you increase your speed to a slow jog, you can get up to 600 or so calories per hour. Take that pace to a run or sprint, and you burn a lot more! It should be fairly clear that intensity is the key to burning more calories. If you want to know what exercise burns the most calories, the answer is simple: the ones that deliver maximum intensity.


CrossFit is definitely one of the best high-intensity workout regimens. Not only do you push yourself to the limits of your endurance, but you shred muscle and work at full speed for prolonged periods of time. The CrossFit style of workout typically involves high volume of work divided into a series of intervals—high intensity work paired with periods of rest. CrossFit is guaranteed to burn A LOT of calories! You may even get up to 1000 calories in a single high intensity CrossFit workout.


HIIT and Tabata are two popular methods that combine periods of high intensity exercise with periods of low intensity exercise or rest. For example, sprint training pairs 60 seconds of jogging with 30 seconds of sprinting. The Tabata method is usually 20 seconds of exercise mixed with 10 seconds of rest, and within 10-15 minutes, you’ll feel the burn like a bad-ass. Best of all, you burn A TON of calories using these methods—anywhere from 600-1000, depending on your size and the intensity of the workout—and you’ll do so in far less than an hour.

Boxing/MMA/Martial Arts

These forms of combat training are amazing for pushing your body to its limits and burning a lot of calories all at once. Boxing, for example, involves 3-minute rounds where you are punching, ducking, dodging, and weaving. 3 minutes may not seem like a lot, but wait until you get those gloves on and start swinging. It’s one of the most exhausting things you can do—professional boxers even have a hard time going the full round at maximum intensity. MMA and martial arts training are similar, and they can burn a lot of calories!


Oddly enough, running is still one of the best ways for you to increase your calorie burning. Though it doesn’t burn quite as many calories as the above-mentioned workouts, you’ll find the difference isn’t as great as you’d expect. It’s estimated that a 115-pound person running  a 10-minute mile will burn the same amount of calories in 30 minutes as a CrossFitter of the same weight would burn in 20 minutes. The heavier you are and the faster you run, the more calories you burn. If you want to increase the intensity and calorie-burning of your runs, simply pick up the pace for a few blocks!

Length Matters

High intensity workouts are effective at burning a lot of calories in a few minutes, but exercise length is almost as important as intensity, especially when it comes to elevating your metabolism. A longer workout (60 minutes) even at lower intensity can have similar metabolism-boosting effects as a shorter, high intensity workout.


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