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October 23, 2017

Top 8 Best Cardio Exercises to Lose Weight and Stay Healthy

best cardio exercises
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The many benefits of cardio on your overall health are well known. However, deciding on the best cardio exercises can be a challenge when everyone’s body is slightly different. If you are looking for a new cardio workout that will help you reach your fitness goals, we have created this guide just for you.

The exercises below are listed as a starting point until you figure out which ones you like best and which of those works best for your body. Take your time when trying new exercises. Give yourself time to adjust to a new routine and don’t add too many new exercises too quickly.

Always check with your doctor before starting or changing your workout routines and activities, especially if you have an injury or health condition.

1. Walking

Walking is one of the best cardio exercises to lose weight for beginners or those with health conditions that may prevent them from engaging in more strenuous forms of exercise. Moreover, walking at a steady pace can burn 300-400 calories per hour.

Your overall pace and muscle mass will determine your exact calorie burn. Walking is also one of the best cardio exercises to do at home, as many people choose to walk on treadmills in their houses or just talk a long stroll through their own neighborhood. This makes walking easy to get in any time of day, even during your lunch break!

2. Running

This physical activity is one of the best cardio exercises to lose weight, especially when interval training is used (walking at a fast-paced for a certain amount of time, followed by running/jogging for another amount of time, and repeat for 30-45 minutes.

Running burns on average 600 calories per hour for most people. While running is considered to have a high impact on the joints (ankles, knees, and hips), the benefits for most people outweigh those concerns.

3. Cycling

Similar to running, cycling burns about 600 calories per hour, making it another of the best cardio exercises. However, cycling is easier on the joints than running, which makes it suitable for some who are not able to try running for one reason or another.

Cycling can be done outdoors on a traditional bicycle or indoors on a stationary bike. This makes it not only one of the best cardio exercises to do at home, but also one of the best for weight loss for those who need the calorie burn but can’t risk the stress on their joints.

4. Rowing

Another of the best cardio exercises to make our list is rowing. Rowing is unique in that it is a sitting position cardio exercise that still manages to burn an amazing 840 calories per hour. Rowing is another of the best cardio exercises to lose belly fat because it uses so many core muscles in addition to upper body strength.

5. Swimming

If you are wondering what is the best cardio exercise for heart health, swimming is a wonderful full body workout that burns an impressive 600 calories per hour. Swimming is low impact but engages all of the muscle groups in your body.

While any of the best cardio exercises will help keep your heart healthy, swimming’s full body engagement makes it a good option for those looking for a gentle but effective way to exercise. Don’t worry, water aerobics count too!

While in the pool, be sure to treat water as much of the time as possible for maximum calorie burn. When working on swimming techniques, engage your core as much as possible and make sure your body is aligned in good form.

6. Jumping Rope

While few people jump rope for a full hour, this addition to our list of the best cardio exercises will have you burning for more! If you do feel up to the challenge, jumping rope burns over 1,000 calories per hour.

Even if you don’t plan on going for the hour, even just 5-10 minutes of jump roping is comparable to 30-45 minutes of other cardio workouts. This makes it a great option for those looking to burn the maximum number of calories in the shortest amount of time.

7. Kettlebells

This unique, ball-shaped weight burns a whopping 800-900 calories per hour in a high-intensity workout that combines cardio and strength training together for maximum effectiveness.

The American Council on Exercise has promising study data on the effectiveness of kettlebell workouts for a maximum burn with minimum time wasted in the gym. Each minute alone burns 20 calories, so whether you have 20 minutes or an hour, kettlebells pack the punch you need when deciding on the best cardio exercises.


HIIT stands for “High-Intensity Interval Training,” and it lives up to its name. Burning 600 calories per hour and the same calories in 20 minutes as you will burn in a 60-minute jog, HIIT is booming in popularity. The idea is to go for high-intensity movements for a period of time, followed by a brief recovery, and then jump right back in with the high intensity.

Most HIIT sessions are 20-45 minutes. Trust us, that’s plenty! In addition to high-calorie burning, HIIT also gets your body to burn more fat than lower intensity activities like slow walking.

Most sessions have you push yourself to your highest intensity limit for 20-30 seconds, followed by 10-20 seconds of rest in between. The benefit to HIIT is that you can do it with running, cycling, kettlebells, or any of the best cardio exercises outlined above.

Putting It All Together

What is the best cardio exercise? As you can see, you have many options. Starting or adjusting your workout routine may take some time. Be kind to your body and be sure to stay hydrated throughout the process. The results will be worth it!

Do you have a favorite cardio workout? Share your workout ideas in the comments below!

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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