These Exercises Burn a Ton of Calories in a Short Amount of Time

Not all of us are built for marathons and other extreme forms of exercise. After all, a busy life calls for workouts that blast calories fast. No exercise promises a miracle, but the following super-efficient workouts can torch serious calories in 30 minutes. One exercise even burns 500 calories in no time (page 10).

1. Jumping jacks

people doing jumping jacks
People doing jumping jacks | iStock.com/leaf
  • Calories burned: 153 (in 30 minutes)

You don’t need a fancy gym to burn calories. Incorporating jumping jacks into your workout will get your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape. If you weigh 150 pounds, you can burn about 153 calories by doing jumping jacks at a moderate pace, reports HealthStatus.com.

Next: You can do this exercise right in your living room.

2. Burpees

Fit woman doing full plank core exercise
Burpees are great for weight loss. | iStock.com/undrey
  • Calories burned: 300 calories

You’re likely familiar with this move. For one rep, squat down, launch your feet back, and land in push-up position. Perform a push-up, then hop your feet back in toward your hands, and jump up for one rep. Health says burpees burn 300 calories in 30 minutes. If you want a challenge, try a variation.

Next: Take this efficient workout one step at a time.

3. Stair-climbing

woman running up stairs
Climbing up the stairs has benefits. | iStock.com/lzf
  • Calories burned: 276

Burning almost 300 calories in a half hour, stair-climbing is “one of the best-kept secrets in preventative medicine,” reports the New York Times. Even walking up a flight slowly will burn two to three times the calories as walking briskly on flat ground. If you have a stair-stepper, you can even include interval training into climbs. This guide from Self is a good start.

Next: Swing it like Serena to burn calories fast.

4. Tennis (singles)

Li Na
Practicing tennis | Fred DuFour/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Calories burned: 363

You don’t need to work as hard as Roger or Venus, but grabbing a racket and running around a tennis court will get you in shape fast. Singles tennis involves much more movement than doubles since it’s just you against your opponent. In 30 minutes, you can torch over 350 calories.

Next: An added perk of this workout is the great outdoors.

5. Hiking

The bottom of a hiking shoe on a rope bridge
Hiking with a heavier pack will get you far. | Philipp Guelland/Getty Images.

Calories burned: 318 calories

A light hike gets you moving, but walking with a pack incorporates cardio and strength training into your workout. You can start small with a mile or two of hiking and add on distance and elevation as you strengthen your legs, back, and core.

Next: Slow down to speed up your calorie burn.

6. Running intervals

woman running
This exercise is sure to get your heart pumping. | iStock.com/lzf
  • Calories burned: 321 calories

Alternating between running and sprinting is easier to track on a treadmill, but you can do it outside, too. Created by Taylor Ryan, C.P.T., this interval plan can burn up to 500 calories in 30 minutes. Try a “comfortable run” in place of the three-minute treadmill portion and go “uncomfortably fast/on the verge of a full-out sprint” for the shorter bursts.

Next: This move isn’t as hard as climbing a mountain.

7. Mountain climbers

man in the bottom phase of a push-up in an empty room
Mountain climbers are tough, but worth it. | iStock.com
  • Calories burned: 360 calories

This full-body workout is great for your core. Get into a plank position. Bring your left knee toward your chest, and then swiftly bring it back. Do the same with your right leg. Try to move as quickly as you can with proper form, like you’re running in place. You can burn about 50 calories for three sets of 15 to 20 reps, depending on your speed. To challenge yourself, try a variation.

Next: Don’t let an incline intimidate you.

8. Hill sprints

running outside on a winter day
Man running outside during winter | Source: iStock
  • Calories burned: 249 calories

If you don’t love long runs, try hill intervals. Runner’s World has a great example, which calls for a 40- to 80-meter hill (on a treadmill, add an incline and aim to run for 10- to 20-second intervals). Run up the hill at 50% of your max speed, then jog back down, and do this five times. Next, run up the hill at 80% of your max speed and jog back down two to three times. Finally, sprint up the hill as fast as you can once, and jog back down. Repeat the sequence 10 to 20 times to burn 250 calories in 30 minutes.

Next: When was the last time you tried this childhood activity?

9. Jumping rope

jumping rope
Jumping rope is hard work. | iStock.com
  • Calories burned: 405 calories

You probably don’t remember just how hard it is to sustain jumping for 10 minutes at a time. Fitness suggests trying this short workout to feel the burn. You’ll do regular jumps, double hops, side-to-side jumps, and running in place. A 150-pound person can burn around 135 calories in 10 minutes..

Next: This workout will burn nearly 500 calories in 30 minutes.

10. Tabata training

people in a pilates class
Tabata training is incredibly tough. | iStock.com
  • Calories burned: 450-500

A form of high-intensity interval training, Tabata involves rounds of intervals; each round is 20 seconds of movement and 10 seconds of rest, explains Bodybuilding.com. Do one exercise, like burpees or mountain climbers, for 20 seconds. Take a 10-second break, then do another high-intensity exercise. After four minutes, you should feel winded.

The American Council on Exercise studied Tabata-style workouts. Participants warmed up for five minutes, then did four rounds of Tabata and burned between 240 and 360 calories each. Sounds effective to us.

Next: Get weighty to lose weight.

11. Supersets

senior man in sportswear kneeling alone in a gym
Supersets don’t necessary involve heavy weights. | UberImages/iStock/Getty Images
  • Calories burned: 225 (in 30 minutes)

This form of circuit training involves two exercises with no rest between. Perform each move and only rest once you finish a full round. Try this superset workout, courtesy of PopSugar. Do each combo three times before moving on to the next; rest for one minute between each.

Next: You may feel silly but you’ll burn major calories.

12. Rollerblading

Roller skating
Whether you’re rollerskating or rollerblading, your legs will get worked. | Ridofranz/ Getty Images
  • Calories burned: 342 calories

The ’60s and ’70s were the heydays of rollerblading, but you can bring back this retro sport to tone your butt, legs, and core. Whether on sidewalks or a rink, don’t count out rollerblading; it’ll burn over 300 calories in 30 minutes.

Next: Join the “crew” doing this water-inspired workout.

13. Rowing

A rowing picture of Jason Stathem
Actor Jason Stathem loves rowing to stay in shape. | JasonStathem via Instagram
  • Calories burned: 250-300

To maximize this full-body workout, Anna Cummins, a master rowing instructor, tells Shape to set the rowing machine’s damper — the device that controls your drag — between three and five. Row for nine minutes, stretch, then complete nine more minutes. SFGate reports that a 150-pound person can burn between 250 and 300 calories in 30 minutes.

Next: Joint problems? This one’s for you.

14. Swimming

Michael Phelps
You don’t need to swim like 4Michael Phelps to reap the benefits. | Clive Rose/Getty Images
  • Calories burned: 351

This activity is a major calorie killer. Luckily, many gym pools and public facilities are open year-round. To torch fat, swim vigorously for 13 minutes or moderately for 19 minutes. Or do water aerobics for 33 minutes. Everyday Health explains a 150-pound person burns about 350 calories in a half hour.

Next: Jump around!

15. Plyometrics

crossfit class practicing box jumps
Plyometrics will surely get your heart pumping. | iStock.com
  • Calories burned: 300 calories

Plyometrics, also called jump training, includes explosive movements like jumping jacks, jumping rope, and box jumps. The Huffington Post explains the box jump: Place a sturdy box in front of you. Sink into a squat, and then swing your arms forward to propel yourself onto the top of the box. Lower yourself back down, holding your hands out for balance, and repeat as many jumps as you can for 30 seconds.

Next: One-on-one time that rapidly burns calories

16. Martial arts

Judo and kickboxing are involved in Halle Berry's daily life.
Actress Halle Berry loves Judo and kickboxing. | HalleBerry via Instagram
  • Calories burned: 300 calories

One-on-one sports like karate, kickboxing, or taekwondo require a lot of energy; competing against another person will keep you on your toes the whole time. A 150-pound participant can burn 300 calories in 30 minutes.

Next: Hop on the weight-loss train with this workout.

17. Spinning

men in a spin class
Spin class will give you a real challenge. | iStock.com
  • Calories burned: 333

On a stationary bike, a 150-pound person can burn 333 calories in 30 minutes (pedaling at a moderate intensity). If you opt for a class, however, that number will skyrocket; the average person burns between 500 and 700 calories during a 45-minute SoulCycle session!

Next: Snow-lovers, this one is for you.

18. Cross-country skiing

Pippa Middleton cross-country skis.
Pippa Middleton in a 33-mile cross-country ski race | Geir Olsen/Birken
  • Calories burned: 200-250

Unlike downhill skiing where a lift takes you to the mountaintop, cross-country skiing takes place on flat ground. ThoughtCo reports that a 150-pound person can expect to burn 200 to 250 calories per half-hour if you’re pacing 2.5 miles per hour.

Next: Toss the pigskin like an NFL player.

19. Flag football

Football isn’t just for kids and pros. | Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
  • Calories burned: 363 calories

No wonder those pro footballers are in such good shape; they burn a lot of calories. Get a group together to play a vigorous game of flag football and you can enjoy an intense cardio workout.

Next: You’ll be one with nature after this workout.

20. Rock climbing

rock climbing
Rock climbing is a killer workout. | iStock.com
  • Calories burned: 250-450 calories

You’ll mostly work your arms, back, chest, shoulders, and core when you engage in this intense sport. Whether you climb up a 40-foot wall utilizing a harness or test your stamina on sloped bouldering surfaces, a 150-pound person can torch between 500 and 900 calories in an hour, according to Life by Daily Burn.

Next: 16 Lies You’ve Been Told About Losing Weight