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Are you looking for the best cardio for weight loss that’s still enjoyable?
Choosing workouts that are effective yet challenging is key to helping you lose fat and be energized and healthy.
Cardio sometimes gets a bad rap. Very few people want to run on the treadmill for hours on end because it is boring and needlessly tiring.
As a professional trainer, I always stress the importance of cardio to my clients. It’s great for losing weight and improving the health of your cardiovascular system.
Plus, there are many forms of cardio outside of the treadmill. They can be home exercises or anaerobic activities you do outdoors. If you look closely, there’s something out there that you will enjoy and want to partake in regularly.
Let’s dive into what other benefits cardio provides and go over 15 cardio workouts you can enjoy!
What is cardio?
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Cardiovascular exercises (cardio) increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping.
While building muscle usually isn’t the focus, some cardio exercises can aid with that aspect in addition to improving your cardiovascular fitness and contributing to weight loss.
When you’re engaging in cardio, your aerobic system is triggered. As a result, your heart starts to beat faster. This increases your blood flow and gets your lungs working harder.
Because you are suddenly breathing quicker and deeper, your body has more oxygen to utilize than it did at rest or while doing anaerobic exercises. This oxygen can be used to break down amino acids, glucose, and fat to create fuel for the body.
What are the benefits of cardio workouts?
Related: Does Cardio Burn Muscle?
1. Healthy Heart
With regular cardio exercise, your heart is challenged to improve cardiac output and keep the increased blood flow moving throughout the body.
Because of this, your heart will become stronger and more capable over time.
2. Improved Circulation
Cardio workouts can improve circulation by increasing blood flow throughout the body.
Your muscles require more oxygen during cardio. To meet this increased demand, your heart pumps more blood and oxygen to your muscles, helping to improve the circulation of blood throughout your body.
This increased blood flow can help to deliver oxygen and nutrients to your organs and tissues as well as help to remove waste products and toxins from your body.
3. Help Weight Loss
When you are doing cardio, your body is going through a fat-burning process to provide enough energy for you to perform the activity.
If you’re also eating maintenance calories or in a caloric deficit, then stored body fat will be burned and result in weight loss.
4. Improve Mood
When you do cardio exercises, whether they be home exercises or at the gym, your brain releases endorphins.
Endorphins are a “feel good” chemical that your brain makes when the body is experiencing stress or pain.
5. Boost Immunity
Regular exercise can result in an increased white blood cell count. Your white blood cells are responsible for aiding the body in fighting infections and diseases.
6. Improved Mental Strength
While a leisurely walk in the park may be more enjoyable than anything, many forms of cardio will test your limits.
For example, running and cycling long distances can be extremely tiring, and you may often want to quit before reaching your goal.
This is a great way to build mental strength and resilience. It’s strongly recommended that you plan out small yet progressive goals to keep yourself challenged and ambitious.
How much cardio should you do?
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While everyone is certainly different, there is a general consensus on how much cardio should be part of your weekly routine.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week.
You can break that up into as many sessions as you like, which allows you to reach any goal you may have to lose fat because you can be accommodating to your busy lifestyle.
15 Workouts to Help You Burn Fat
Related: How To Lose a Pound a Day
Now, let’s take a look at 15 heart-healthy, weight-loss-boosting cardio activities you can try.
1. Indoor Sports (Rock climbing, squash, Volleyball)
There are various indoor sports for you to enjoy while getting to socialize and burn some calories.
A few examples include netball, squash, indoor rock climbing, volleyball, and racquetball.
The equipment required for indoor sports is dependent on the sport itself, although usually, at least a ball is needed.
- Allows you to socialize with other people who are committed to their health
- Improves hand-eye coordination and other tactical skills
- Can burn a lot of calories while having fun
- You will also experience a lot of feel-good hormones for mental well-being
While every indoor sports experience will be different, it is generally recommended to engage for an hour or two to experience the benefits. Indoor sports allow you to challenge the muscles of your entire body while improving your cardiovascular system.
Doing it with family or friends can also make it a great time, and before you know it, you will be dripping in sweat! On average, an hour of indoor sports will allow you to burn 356 calories.
Parkour is a fun and engaging activity that isn’t for the faint of heart! It is a mixture of running and acrobatics that involves you getting from point A to point B in the fastest, most efficient way possible.
This physical training allows you to develop the ability to overcome both physical and mental obstacles. While it is typically done outdoors, you can certainly do it in an indoor recreational center as well.
- Parkour club or local area with challenging objects
- Protective gloves
How-To Perform Parkour
With parkour, you need to select an obstacle course of the appropriate difficulty. You will then determine the points from which you will start and end.
At first, you may want to just focus on completing the task at hand, but eventually, try to complete the course within a competitive amount of time.
All you have to do now is run, jump, and maneuver however is necessary with the obstacles you have been given to get from point A to point B!
- It’s fun and challenging
- It burns a lot of calories
- Improves mental strength
- Helps with developing explosiveness
Parkour may seem a bit scary at first, but stick with it, and you will see how capable your body truly is.
Over time, you will be able to run faster and jump further if you are diligent. If you did parkour for an hour, you would burn 600 calories!
Swimming is a classic cardio exercise that is amazing for anyone who needs a low- or no-impact workout.
Swimming laps allows you to work the muscles of your whole body while getting your heart rate up. You can even take it to the next level with some water polo!
- Pool and swimwear
- Swimming goggles
How-To Perform Swimming
When it comes to swimming laps, you can do various strokes. A few of these include the backstroke, breaststroke, and front crawl. Choose one that works best for you, or switch it up every few laps!
To start, you will likely want to aim for the number of laps you complete. However, eventually, a great goal would be completing each lap within a certain time.
- Challenges the muscles of your whole body
- Improves oxygen capabilities
- It burns a lot of calories
Swimming regularly is guaranteed to change your physique while improving your cardiovascular system. While each stroke burns a different number of calories based on difficulty, the average person burns 483 calories per hour of the front crawl.
If you wish to target your upper body while burning plenty of calories, rowing is a great choice!
The rowing motion can be performed on a rowing machine indoors or while kayaking or canoeing on a body of water. Switch it up, or pick your favorite!
How-To Perform Rowing
If you are using a rowing machine, you need to take a seat and securely strap in your feet. Grab the handlebar and make sure your back is straight and your shoulders are back.
Forcefully pull the handle to your sternum as you straighten your legs. Bend your knees as you release the bar until your arms are fully extended before repeating the motion.
If you are outdoors on a body of water, you want to position yourself comfortably in the canoe or kayak. Grab the handles of your oars and rotate them as required to get you moving in the right direction.
- Works your back and biceps
- Gives you the chance to enjoy the benefits of nature
- The fresh air and nature provide a soothing environment for mental health, all while burning calories
The number of calories you burn with rowing will be dependent on what form of it you are doing and at what intensity. Try your best to slowly increase the difficulty over time to ensure you are engaging in progressive overload.
On average, you can burn 400 calories per hour of rowing.
Dancing is arguably one of the most fun workouts. Many different types help with weight loss, improving balance and flexibility, reducing stress, speeding up your metabolism, and more!
Ballet, belly dancing, Zumba, Jazzercise, and ballroom dancing are just a few examples, and this shows that there is a form of cardio workout for almost everybody.
Another great plus is that no equipment is required, and you can either attend a class or do it from your living room.
Every form of dance varies when it comes to instructions and typical movements. Whether you are one of the beginners or an experienced dancer, attending a class in person or following along with videos online is recommended to ensure you keep your heart rate elevated.
- Improves your cardiovascular health
- Challenges your core muscles
- Depending on the dance style you can burn many calories per hour
- Boosts your confidence and feel-good hormones
If you are able to set aside time to dance three to four times a week, you should expect to see and feel the physical effects within a month.
On average, you will burn 300 to 500 calories per hour of the activity.
6. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
As the name suggests, this workout will certainly be intense! HIIT workouts are great for burning a larger number of calories in a shorter period.
They can be done with or without equipment in the gym, at home, or outdoors.
This training is very versatile, making it an option for almost anybody!
How-To Perform HIIT
Choose the exercises that you will be performing during the workout. Next, you need to decide how long your working periods and rest periods will be. The combination of the two will be one minute.
Now, it is time for you to cycle through all the exercises for the predetermined number of rounds!
You can also check out my favorite belly fat-blasting HIIT workouts for women.
- Speeds up your metabolism
- Very time-efficient
- Burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time
HIIT is amazing because it targets your entire body and revs up your metabolism even after the workout is over.
If you were to sustain this level of movement for an hour, you would burn 667 calories on average.
7. Martial Arts
Martial arts is a challenging yet rewarding workout that could be very helpful for your weight loss journey. A few different types of martial arts include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Kickboxing, Taekwondo, and Muay Thai.
Find a local class and give it a try to burn calories, build muscle, and improve your balance and coordination.
Attending an hour-long class is the best way to learn martial arts and burn the most calories, especially for beginners.
Instructors will be diligent about teaching you the basics of the offensive and defensive moves, and you will eventually learn how to spar as well.
- Builds confidence
- Improves coordination and balance
- Increases your cardiovascular endurance
- Can burn many calories while learning an important life skill
Each form of martial arts will burn a different number of calories, but they all arguably are challenging and an amazing workout.
For example, if you were to do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for an hour, you would burn about 500 calories.
Want to feel like you’re a kid again while working on your weight loss? Whether outdoors or indoors, trampolining can be a fun and enticing cardio workout to include in your weekly regimen.
- A small exercise trampoline
- or large family trampoline
How-To Perform Trampolining
If you are trampolining outdoors, you simply would want to focus on continuously moving for a certain time period to provide your body with a challenge and be burning those calories.
If you are utilizing an indoor trampoline, you can follow along with workout videos for more structure and motivation. You could even attend classes in a studio!
You can simply have fun on the trampoline with your kids and burn calories!
- Challenges the lower body and core
- Gets your heart rate up and blood pumping
- Can have fun with your children while bouncing on the trampoline and burning calories at the same time
You must be constantly moving during this workout to maximize the number of calories burned. On average, someone can burn around 500 calories per hour.
9. Cycling and Mountain Biking
Cycling on a stationary bike or outdoors can be a great way to build muscle in your lower body while increasing stamina.
If you are a bit more adventurous, you could take it a step further and try mountain biking! This activity involves greater concentration and skill, but it can easily be learned.
- Mountain bike
- First aid kit and water
How-To Perform Cycling and Mountain Biking
Cycling is a fairly straightforward activity that involves you pedaling and maintaining your balance for the duration of your ride.
With mountain biking, you will likely be handling some bumpy terrain that requires you to maneuver and slightly come off the ground, but mountain bikes have thicker wheels to support these actions.
- Builds lower body strength
- Improves stamina
- Improves mental well-being
Try to attend a class or go out for a ride a few times a week to start to see a transformation in your lower body and the length of time you are able to ride.
If the average person cycles for an hour, they will burn around 784 calories when consistently going 14 mph.
10. Jumping Rope
Whether or not you enjoyed jumping rope as a kid, it cannot be denied that it is a killer workout that will have you burning plenty of calories in no time!
Jumping rope primarily works your legs and shoulders, and it is great for your cardiovascular system.
A jump rope
How-To Perform Jumping Rope
Grab each handle of a jump rope and hold them out by your sides with your elbows bent at 90-degree angles.
Flick your wrists to bring the rope over your head and in front of you. Jump up to allow the rope to pass under your feet, and continue this motion at a comfortable pace.
- Challenges your shoulders and lower body
- Increases stamina
- It burns a lot of calories and is very good for building coordination skills
The average person burns 984 calories per hour of jumping rope – likely one of the highest numbers you will see! While you may now want to make an hour of this activity part of your weekly workout routine, it is unfortunately not that simple.
Jumping rope is a strenuous exercise all on its own, and most people can only do it for about five minutes straight.
To make this more sustainable, try alternating a minute or two of jumping rope with a low-intensity exercise like crunches to maximize the length of time you will be able to do it.
Going for a hike outdoors is one of the most beneficial things you can do because the low-impact functional movement allows you to also benefit from fresh air and sunshine.
Nearly anyone can go for a hike, and hardly any equipment is required, so this is an excellent cardio activity to enjoy on your own or with family and friends.
- A reliable pair of shoes
- First aid kit and water
To get started, find a hiking trail that is of the desired length and difficulty. If you are new to hiking, it is recommended that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start with a beginner trail that will take an hour or less to complete.
Over time, you can choose more challenging hikes that will allow you to explore even more scenery.
Tennis shoes are perfectly fine for many hikes, but you may also want to consider purchasing a pair of hiking boots for more stability and reliability. Hiking poles and a backpack may also come in handy.
- Improves longevity
- Challenges the lower body
- Improves mental well-being
- Great way to build a bond with your friends and family
Depending on the difficulty of the terrain, the number of calories you burn per hour can vary. You must try to keep a steady pace throughout your hike to maximize the amount of fat burned during the activity.
On average, you will burn around 480 calories per hour.
If you are looking to spend some time in the sun while burning calories and working out your full body, tennis is the way to go! Tennis can be a challenging yet fun aerobic activity.
- Tennis court, rackets, and balls
- Tennis shoes
It is up to you how seriously you take your tennis game, and you can choose to simply work on drills or scrimmage and be running back and forth on the court.
If you’re new to tennis, you may want to take a few lessons to maximize the enjoyment you can get out of the sport!
- Challenges the muscles of your upper and lower body
- Improves stamina
- It’s fun and can burn a lot of calories without really noticing
As mentioned before, you can play tennis more casually or choose to take it seriously. If you were to play a full-on game, you would burn an average of about 600 calories per hour.
13. Cardio Boxing
Want to learn defense while building muscle and breaking a sweat with some of the best cardio for weight loss?
Cardio boxing can be a very challenging yet rewarding workout, and you will find out pretty quickly what you are capable of!
It is also likely that time will fly while you do this workout because you will be so focused on perfecting each move.
- Boxing gloves
- Hand wraps
How-To Perform Cardio Boxing
This cardio movement typically is enjoyed in a class, so you are likely being led by an instructor that is skilled in boxing in general and can provide constant feedback on your form and technique.
However, if you’re doing cardio boxing on your own, select a series of movements and drills to cycle through in circuit-style training.
- Works the upper body
- Improves core strength
- Improves hand-eye coordination
- Learn important life skills for self defense
- Very efficient at burning a lot of calories per hour
Whether you are doing cardio boxing on your own or in a class, you will burn a ton of calories if you keep moving and keep the rest breaks on the shorter end.
The average person can burn up to 800 calories per hour – that is certainly some motivation to keep moving!
Rollerblading is a fun activity that will get you outdoors enjoying the scenery. You can even take this cardio activity and use it as a means of transportation when you need to go somewhere nearby!
- Knee and elbow pads
How-To Perform Rollerblading
Rollerblading is a fairly straightforward cardio exercise that you can learn rather quickly. After you get a bit of practice in and are comfortable with using the rollerblades, you can find a sidewalk or safe street.
Aim for increasing either speed or distance over time to ensure you are constantly challenging your body.
- Works the lower body
- Improves balance
- Very easy to burn calories without noticing
With rollerblading, it is important that you are always putting in the effort to make sure your heart rate stays elevated.
If you can keep this up, you can burn up to 913 calories per hour of the activity!
15. Organized Sports
Don’t want to be responsible for planning your workouts and want to be social while getting in the best cardio for weight loss? Organized sports are the way to go!
Organized sports can include things like football, soccer, basketball, and even triathlons. They are a great opportunity for you to give your cardio workouts more purpose, help you develop tactical skills, and socialize with like-minded people.
How-To Perform Organized Sports
Gather a group of friends or join a team that has already been formed. Check your local rec center or gym if you want help finding an existing group.
Learn all the rules, what equipment you will need, and what the workout schedule will be. Every sport will be different, but you will still benefit from each in many ways!
- Improves tactical skills
- Works on hand-eye coordination
- Great team bonding and building relationships
- Makes it fun for fat loss and improves your overall health
Try to find a sport during which you will practice or play at least twice a week to really benefit from it.
How many calories you will burn to help with fat burning is dependent on the sport, but expect to burn 450 calories per hour on average.
Tips For Training
Related: 16 Best Low Impact Cardio Machine
1. Make a Progressive Plan
With cardio, it is important that things never get too easy for you. That’s when your weight loss progress will start to stall.
For example, if you choose to run every week, it would be ideal that you make your run a bit harder each week. You could do this by increasing the distance you run or the time spent.
You could also challenge yourself to run a certain distance in a shorter period of time.
2. Enjoy Yourself
Many people don’t do cardio because they only think of what they would consider boring. Cardio activities can be very enjoyable, like playing volleyball with your family or going rock climbing in a new place.
You’re much more likely to stick to your routine if you are choosing to do cardio exercises that you enjoy.
3. Analyze Access
There are many forms of cardio that don’t require any equipment, such as hiking and HIIT workouts. Activities like tennis require a bit more equipment and a place to play. Take this into consideration when making your plan.
4. Stay Consistent
It’s going to be hard to lose weight if you aren’t consistent with the cardio. Keep your end goals in mind, and make a promise to yourself to follow through. It may be difficult at the beginning, but it will get easier over time.
Having a friend to do it with can help provide some accountability as well.
We hope that you enjoyed our guide to the best cardio workouts to help you lose fat and feel healthier than ever!
Hopefully, you now understand that cardio doesn’t have to only be using a machine at a gym for hours on end. You can switch things up and have fun while still making progress toward your goals.
Perhaps more than any other type of exercise, cardio is essential to our longevity and heart health. It’s also one of the more reliable ways to reach or maintain your ideal weight.
The benefits are seemingly endless. It can put you in a better mood and boost your energy levels even when you’re not exercising.
Please comment below which of the 15 cardio workouts listed is your favorite. Plus, don’t forget to share this article with anyone else who may find it helpful!