Can’t Drop the Pounds? Why Spin Class and Other Exercises Aren’t as Effective as You Think

No matter what you do, or how dedicated you are, the pounds just won’t fall off. What gives? This isn’t a sign that exercise doesn’t work — you just aren’t burning as many calories as you think.

Part of the problem is that people aren’t educated enough in the exercises they are doing, thus not losing weight as quickly as desired. And that has a lot to do with us not working off as much fat in our favorite workouts as we expected.

So what are these seemingly fabulous workout staples that are causing such a problem?

1. Spin class, 500 around calories an hour

People enjoying spin class

This fun class works up a sweat, but it isn’t burning as many calories as you think. | Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Calories burned: A 150-pound person can burn close to 500 calories in a 60 minute class.

OK, before you ditch this story altogether — yes, spinning helps you work up a sweat and burn calories. But just doing straight cardio won’t work.

“People do cardio as a main way that they’re trying to lose weight, and the problem with this is 60% of the weight they lose is fat, and 40% is muscle,” senior fitness consultant Michael Mantell tells Today.com. “And we don’t want to lose lean muscle, because lean muscle burns more calories per pound, per day, than fat does.”

2. Workouts claiming to make you look like a ‘dancer,’ around 350 calories an hour

Ballerinas performing ballet

Getting ballerina legs will take more than a couple leg lifts in your living room. | Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Calories burned: A 150-pound person can burn about 350 calories in an hour.

Blame it on the Pinterest revolution for making it look like you can get dancer legs by doing a couple arabesque-type leg lifts at home. But the truth is, these fancy turn-your-living-room-into-a-gym routines aren’t going to make the fat melt off your thighs.

“Many of these frequently-pinned workouts suggest a quick fix to fitness woes, when in reality there’s no such thing,” health and fitness blog The Fitnessista explains.

A more aerobic alternative would be better suited for real results. If working out from home is more your speed, there are some high-octane dance-centric videos you can try.

3. Elliptical workouts, around 600 calories an hour (or at least that’s what the machine says)

people at the gym on ellipticals

The elliptical isn’t as effective as you might think. | iStock.com/MaxRiesgo

Calories burned: A 150-pound person can burn 324 calories in 30 minutes.

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to the effectiveness of an elliptical workout. Sadly, the calorie counter is gravely inaccurate. U.S. News & World Report says these machines are typically off by about 20 to 30%. The story also explains there are a plethora of reasons why these counters are so off, and your own body not matching the algorithm used in the machines could be the biggest culprit.

Solution? Ignore the counter, and opt for a hybrid workout with varying resistances, more akin to circuit training.

4. Long-distance jogging, around 100 calories per mile

Women jogging

That gorgeous jog is just part of what it takes to shed the pounds. | Carl Court/Getty Images

Calories burned: A person weighing 130-150 pounds will burn roughly 100 calories per mile, especially at a slow speed.

Great cardio? Yes. A nice way to de-stress after a rough day? Absolutely. But a fat-buster? Only up to a certain point. Going on a long run is great lower body exercise that burns fat like no other. However, the rate at which you can plateau is rather high. “If you’re a creature of habit, you may prefer your daily steady-state five milers. But once your body adapts, it will hit the brakes on fat burning and significant changes,” Jessica Bell of AZCentral.com explains.

So to get the most out of your run and keep your body from getting too comfortable, add some cross-training with weights to your weekly workout regimen.

5. Lifting weights, around 200 calories per hour

Muscular woman lifting weights

Pumping iron will pump you up, but it’s not going to slim you down. | Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images

Calories burned: A 150-pound person burns roughly 110 calories lifting weights for 30 minutes.

The confusion between targeting places to build muscle and targeting places to burn fat is ongoing. Heavy lifting will build lots of muscle, yes, but it won’t replace fat with muscle. “Your body doesn’t work this way,” Shape says in a piece that debunks common fitness myths. “Muscle and fat are two completely different tissues. If you stop strength training, your muscles will begin to shrink and muscle tone and density will change. At the same time, fat cells gradually begin to replace the lean muscle tissue, creating the illusion of weight gain, but muscle will never actually transform into fat.”

To get the most out of your weight-lifting regimen, add more reps.

6. Crunches, around 25 calories for five minutes of work

Soccer player Marco Bresciano of Australia doing crunches

It will take more than just a couple sit-ups to get in tip top shape like Marco Bresciano of Australia. | Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Calories burned: A 150-pound woman can burn roughly 25 calories by doing crunches for five minutes.

Say hello to one of the most misused and commonly messed up workouts out there. Sit-ups, crunches, and other forms of core work function the same as with lifting weights: They build your core muscles, but are not going to melt away the pooch in front of your abs. “Exercising your abdominal muscles will strengthen them,” Authority Nutrition says in an easy-to-follow piece. “However, twisting, crunching, and side bending will not make your abdominal muscles visible if they are covered by a thick layer of fat.”

Solution? Having as much variety in your workout as possible. A little cardio before your core workout will help shed calories and help reduce your waistline.

7.  Yoga, around 240 calories an hour

people doing yoga

Bikram yoga is great for detoxing. Too bad fat isn’t a “toxin.” | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Calories burned: A 125-pound person can burn 120 calories in a 30-minute session.

Yoga is the kale of workouts. It’s trendy and fun to have in your life the first few go-rounds. But then everyone wants to abandon it for pizza and beer once it doesn’t make them instantly skinny.

The truth? Yoga has a handful of benefits, but burning massive amounts of calories just isn’t one of them. A piece in Women’s Health chronicles all the good that different types of yoga can do for you — and yes, giving you that tone so you look good in spandex is a perk. But even more intense forms of the practice, like vinyasa, “is not intense enough to raise the body’s metabolic rate.”

So, like with every other exercise on this list, yoga isn’t enough on its own to burn the calories you desire.

8. Talking on the treadmill, around 200 calories an hour

A man and women on a treadmill taking to each other.

You have to be focused on working up a sweat. | Sjale/iStock/Getty Images

Calories burned: Walking on the treadmill at three miles per hour burns 73 calories in 20 minutes. Distracted exercise burns less than that.

Many experts suggest getting a workout buddy if you need extra motivation to hit the gym. And heck, who doesn’t want a little extra boost when they exercise? The only problem here is that it’s easy to get distracted by chatting with your workout partner, and that takes the focus away from your exercises. “To really challenge yourself athletically,” psychologist Jonathan F. Katz tells The New York Times, “you need to focus on your form, your pacing, and that’s impossible if you are watching a movie or chatting.”

To get the most out of your workout while having a workout buddy present, try getting the bulk of chatting done before you hop on that exercise machine.

9. Ab machines from TV, around 100 calories for each use

A woman with abs stands in fitness gear.

Don’t buy into miracle workers. | Jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

Calories burned: A machine from TV takes away your effort to burn, so a 150-pound person could burn 100 calories, if that.

When it comes to losing weight, everyone wants to do it as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, many of these supposed “miracle workers” are total scams, and won’t do a darn thing to help your lose weight. If anything, you will be wasting the time you could be spending getting a decent workout in.

You’re actually better off skipping the TV buys all together and using that money to buy personal training appointments. At least that way you will get in-person pointers on how to lose weight more effectively.

10. Barre workouts, around 250 calories an hour

A girl stretches at the bar in the fitness studio.

Your barre class will get you limber, but it might not lead to weight loss. | Vadim Guzhva/iStock/Getty Images

Calories burned: A 150-pound person can burn roughly 250 calories in a one-hour class.

The popular method, which mixes muscle-sculpting with ballet technique, has even spawned branded gyms. But, like yoga, it doesn’t have the fat-burning properties that many people think it does. “No matter how you slice it, Pure Barre isn’t a fast track to weight loss,” Livestrong.com says outright. “It simply doesn’t burn enough calories to melt a significant amount of fat.”

That being said, keeping barre in your weekly workout regimen has a big upside. If you aren’t a fan of lifting weights as part of your resistance training, a muscle-toning barre class can be a great addition to your weekly workout schedule.

 11. Your ‘go-to’ workout, even fewer calories than you think

Women at a gym do a workout on mats.

If you’re not being challenged anymore, it’s time to take a more advanced class. | Bojan89/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Calories burned: When the body starts to plateau, it burns fewer calories.

Everyone should be comfortable with their fitness regimen. In fact, you will get much more out of your exercise session if you enjoy what you’re doing. However, it is very imperative to switch up your workouts on a regular basis. Your body will become accustom to the exercise that you’ve been doing for a long time, and eventually stop producing the same results it did in the beginning. And you know what that means — the dreaded fitness plateau.

There is, thankfully, a way to still do your favorite exercises. Keeping a favorite exercise in a rotation will ensure that you still see results and get to do a workout that you enjoy.

12. Any workout followed by happy hour, negative calories burned

Glasses and shots with different colored cocktails.

Drinking after the gym will reverse your progress. | Tsuguliev/Getty Images

Calories burned: It doesn’t matter how many calories you burned if you put them right back into your body.

Chances are, if you spend a lot of time at the gym, you have developed a friend base there. And what do all friend tribes like to do together? Eat. So naturally, post-workout bites and happy hour become a common part of your gym experience. But all too often, those eats are super unhealthy. And no matter how much you worked out beforehand, you just can’t out-exercise a bad diet. “The myth that you can out-run a bad diet partially stems from conventional calories-in-calories-out thinking,” certified nutrition specialist JJ Virgin tells MensFitness.com.

Any type of exercise that you do must have a coordinating diet. While the occasional happy hour with your fellow gym-goers is fine, making it a habit will only make you gain weight.

13. Intense at-home workout videos, around 400 calories per video

A woman in a blue shirt does a workout in front of her television.

Video workouts are either too easy or too hard. | Comstock/iStock/Getty Images

Calories burned: The workout claims it helps you burn 1,000 calories, but most people say they burn anywhere from 200 to 600 calories.

For those who don’t have time to make it to a brick and mortar fitness facility, at-home workout videos are a good bet. However, not all videos are created equal. In fact, some workout videos are a complete waste of time. Even the super intense ones, like Insanity, are so difficult that most people can’t make it through a single workout. And if you can’t do the exercises, your body doesn’t have the opportunity to lose weight.

To get the most out of an at-home workout, choose a high-intensity exercise circuit that matches your personal fitness level. Follow Self.com‘s lead in constructing the best at-home workout for burning fat.

14. That hot new celebrity workout, around 450 calories

A woman does a plank workout on a pink mat.

That celeb workout might not perform miracles. | Gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Calories burned: A 150-pound person can burn anywhere from 400-500 calories in one hour, if you do it right.

There’s really no better way to show your love for a celebrity than to adopt their fitness routine. The problem with trying to copy celebrity workouts is that, often times, we aren’t getting the full story on their exercise plan. Magazines might pull an exercise or two from a celebrity’s fitness regimen,without disclosing that the workout is much more complex. You will only end up frustrated because a couple exercises haven’t slimmed you into a Victoria’s Secret model, and could potentially give up on the workout all together.

It’s great to be inspired by a celebrity’s workout. But to make it work for you, you should set image and weight loss goals according to your body.

15. The workout that you didn’t really do, 0 calories

A woman sits on the gym floor with a phone.

You can’t cross it off your list if you didn’t really do it. | Gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

This should go without saying: Putting in half effort isn’t going to make your workout productive. Sure, it’s better than no workout at all. But if your goal is to lose weight, a weak attempt at exercising isn’t going to yield the results you want. Plus, not putting your whole heart into a workout results in poor form, which can lead to injury. In committing to a weight loss plan, you have to put your all into your fitness regimen.