Sports That Burn the Most Calories in Little Time

Let's just admit it ... working out kind of sucks sometimes, especially when you're new at it and haven't gotten hooked yet. And it's hard to find the time and energy to do it. Exercise experts always talk about how anyone can find 30 minutes four to five days a week to work out, but of course they don't figure in the locating of and getting dressed in workout clothes, showering after, re-doing hair, makeup, if you're going to invest the time in a fitness plan, why not find an exercise to burn the largest amount of calories in the shortest amount of time?

The best calorie burner is kind of surprising ... although it shouldn't be. Here they are, in starting with the biggest calorie killer first:


Cross-Country Skiing

545 calories per hour at moderate intensity, 1,125 at high intensity.

The bonus here is that this tends to be something that you have to plan as an outing, and do for more than just 30 minutes at a pop, unlike a gym workout. If you live somewhere snowy and rural, then you can just click into your skis and head out, but for most of us it's something of a day trip. And it's super fun and easy to pick up even for non-jocks ... you may even forget you're exercising.


570 per hour for moderate intensity and 850 per hour for maximum intensity.

Even more than running, which comes in third (with 850 calories burned per hour at an 8-minute-per-mile pace, which is speedier than many recreational runners can muster). While that sounds great, I think it would be easy for people to do a lot of biking thinking they are getting a huge calorie burn when they aren't. Biking is a fun, recreational thing done at a very pleasant and leisurely pace for many people ... although if you're going for that kind of a ride you're likely to keep going longer than you would for a long workout ride, so maybe it all evens out.

Stationary Rowing

650 calories an hour at high intensity and 580 at a slower pace.

At least, I am guessing you wouldn't think of it because at every single gym I have ever belonged to, the treadmills and elliptical trainers have waiting lists during "resolution season" and the one lonely little rowing machine just sits there. It's an absolutely awesome workout, though, and can actually translate to a real-world fun activity in the nice weather.


820 calories per hour

Not one of those things you won't do as a daily workout but when you have a game set up, you're going to be playing for as long as you have the court.


680 calories per hour at the high end and 480 at the low end.

And if you ever doubt swimming's effectiveness as a workout, visit a Y or community pool where the old folks hang out and watch them. They can run circles around your average 20-year-old couch potato and look fantastic for their age.

Jumping Rope

815 calories per hour at high intensity, 680 at moderate.

Some of these are just a little odd ... not something the average person is going to engaging in.  Are you going to be jumping rope for an hour? Didn't think so. Boxing clocks in at about the same calorie burn, and while most women are not hitting the local prizefighter hangout, most gyms offer kickboxing classes, which are excellent ways to get out your frustrations after a long day of work and parenting.

Rock Climbing

740 calories per hour on the climb and 540 on the rappelling down.

Much of that may be from the increased heart rate you experience from being seriously freakin' terrified ... however, there's probably a reason you never see a fat rock climber.

And finally..


Yes, rugby, the sport for people who think football doesn't have enough contact and hockey has too much padding. I'm all for burning calories and having fun in whichever way floats your boat, but should your average not-especially-huge woman be clashing with hooligans just to burn a little fat?


What's your favorite calorie burner?


Image via Jeremy Bronson/Flickr

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