post 15 Best Cardio Workouts for Weight Loss (From a Trainer)

15 Best Cardio Workouts for Weight Loss (From a Trainer)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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Cardio workouts have become phenomenal for losing weight. But how you can leverage them for faster fat loss may spark your interest.

Besides rethinking your diet and increasing your supplements, cardio might be what you need to get the best results.

So, I did all the guesswork and came up with 15 fat-burning workouts and everything you need to know to choose one or craft a mix for you.

Let’s dive right in.

Quick Summary

  • To effectively lose weight, incorporate a variety of cardio workouts like walking (low intensity), brisk walking or medium-paced cycling (moderate intensity), and high-intensity interval training (high intensity).
  • Low-intensity cardio, such as walking or light jogging, is ideal for beginners and can be gradually intensified for better results.
  • A study in the Progress in Cardiovascular Disease journal showed that overweight individuals who followed a consistent aerobic exercise program without dieting lost between 0.74 kg and 6.8% of their body weight in 22 to 14 weeks.
  • In my professional experience as a trainer, balancing different intensities of cardio workouts not only aids in weight loss but also caters to individual fitness levels and health conditions.

Type Of Cardio Workouts

Cardio workouts targeting your heart rate (THR) are super effective for weight loss.

This THR varies from 50 to 85% of your max heart rate (MHR), a tidbit from the University of Iowa's research [1].

The Mayo Clinic highlights the importance of knowing your MHR—the maximum your heart can handle during exercise—to find your THR [2].

The National Health Service advises adults aged 19–64 to engage in daily physical activity, recommending at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise weekly [3].

You can check out more in our article about can cardio help with weight loss.

But here's the kicker: It's the intensity of your cardio that really ramps up fat burning. High-intensity sessions burn heaps of calories, but a mix of intensities is the real deal for shedding fat, especially for folks with conditions like diabetes or hypertension.

Remember, cardio isn't one-size-fits-all; it ranges from low to high intensity.

Low-Intensity Cardio Workouts

two ladies doing warm up exercises outdoors

Ideal for beginners and those with physical limitations, low-intensity cardio includes activities like walking, gardening, and light jogging. From my experience, starting with these gentle activities is perfect for easing into a fitness routine.

They only require a THR below 50 percent of your MHR.

A study published in the Progress in Cardiovascular Disease journal showed that overweight individuals who followed a consistent aerobic exercise program without dieting lost between 0.74 kg and 6.8% of their body weight in 22 to 14 weeks [4].

Aim for 60 minutes, five days a week, and gradually up the ante by adding weights or mixing in other routines.

Here are some examples of low-intensity cardio:

Walking

Walking

Walking is a simple, cost-effective way to burn fat and improve body composition without posing much stress on the body.

This free cardio fitness regimen can improve mobility and movement flexibility.

You can start with 15 minutes a day if you're a beginner, then climb up to 30, 45, or 60 minutes a day.

Jogging in Place

Jogging in Place

Jogging in place is a convenient and effective exercise to burn calories and pump up your heart rate.

You can start with 10 minutes of bouncing lightly from one foot to another, then gradually building up the duration to 15 or 20 minutes.

Low-Impact Jumping Jacks

Low-Impact Jumping Jacks

Low-impact jumping jacks are like regular jumping jacks, minus the jumping.

To start, step out your right foot while bringing your arms over your head, keeping your weight on the extended foot.

Stand back to the starting position, then switch to your left foot. You can extend your arm movements further to get your heart pumping and burning calories.

Single-Leg Stand

Single Leg Stand

Single-Leg Stand is a low-intensity cardio workout that can effectively burn fat.

According to WebMD, if you stand six hours per day instead of sitting, you'll burn around 54 calories more. And standing on one leg increases the charge and may burn another 20 to 30 more calories on top of the regular calorie burn [5].

You can maintain this position for more than 20 seconds or take the lift higher to increase difficulty.

Arm Circles

Arm Circles

Arm circling is another low-intensity cardio exercise with a low-calorie burn.

Again, you can do this in a seated position, but doing it from a standing position may increase the calorie burn.

It may be acting upon a limited group of muscles, but devoting more time and repetitions to the exercise can increase the fat burn.

Moderate Intensity Cardio Workouts

shirtless man in a gym jumping rope

The American Heart Association recommends a target heart rate (THR) of 50–70% of your max heart rate (MHR) for moderate-intensity workouts [6]. In my years of training, I've found this range ideal for clients looking to step up from low intensity without overdoing it.

These include brisk walking, medium-paced cycling, and hiking.

Try for a 30- to 45-minute session on a cardio machine for a balanced workout.

Moderate intensity Cardio offers some advantages, which includes: 

  • Improving general health by lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension
  • It enables you to work out regularly for a longer period of time because it has less impact on the body.
  • It gives a variety of choices compared to other cardio-intensity workouts.

Here are some examples of moderate-intensity cardio:

Lunges

Woman doing lunges

Basic lunge can work as moderate-intensity cardio by giving medium effort to get your heart pumping.

It kickstarts your metabolism and works on large muscle tissue groups in your lower body to enable you to burn excess calories and reduce body fat.

Step-Ups

box step up

Step-ups is a classic fat-trimming cardio workout, and adjusting the intensity level of this exercise is easy.

You can either put the step on the floor to lower the intensity or raise the step higher to increase it.

Step-ups are joint-friendly, boost heart health, and strengthen muscles while reducing body fat.

Jumping Rope

Jump-Rope

Skipping with jumping ropes is considered a moderate-intensity cardio activity.

Adjusting your jump speed makes all the difference. As you jump faster, your heart rate and breathing will follow.

Some people consider jumping with ropes the best way to burn fat.

You can jump rope for 30 minutes straight or jump as fast as you can for one minute. It's definitely up to you.

Finding your breath in between your jumps can guide you to reduce fat tissue effectively.

Stair Climber

Stair Climber-Ladder Machine

A stair climber is another moderate-intensity cardio exercise that can help you burn fat.

However, like climbing stairs that use more muscles than walking, stair climbers can add more pressure on your joints, making it harder for people with weak knees.

Doing stair climbers every day can burn calories—about 65 in 15 minutes [7].

You can increase the intensity to burn more calories by going faster or carrying heavy items.

Elliptical

Elliptical

An elliptical or cross-trainer is a low-to-moderate aerobic exercise to blast those fats off.

Depending on your ability level, you can increase the resistance to get a higher-intensity workout.

Elliptical machines can be an excellent way to burn fat and excess calories without wearing out your joints.

In addition, you can increase the intensity by adding a high incline to challenge more muscle growth in your legs and glutes.

Related: Do Ellipticals Burn Belly Fat?

High-Intensity Cardio Workouts

man in a push up position

This fast-paced workout pushes your THR to 70–85% MHR.

As a trainer, I've seen it work wonders for quick weight loss and boosting endurance, strength, and respiratory capacity. But remember, too much can lead to burnout and injury.

Balance is key: mix in one or two high-intensity sessions with other workout types for optimal results.

Here are some examples of high-intensity cardio:

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

shirtless man doing HIIT rope workout

High-Intensity Interval Training is a popular workout with a combination of quick, vigorous bursts of cardio exercise followed by equal or more extended rest periods.

It can burn calories for hours, even after the workout. So it is practical if you're short on time.

In addition, the intense burst of activity elevates your heart and guarantees calorie burn and fat loss.

It is apparent that HIIT workouts burn fat and one good point is that you can mix them with other weight training workouts so you get good cardio and build muscle mass simultaneously.

Related: HIIT vs Cardio

Burpees

burpees

Burpees are high-intensity cardio with a combination of squats, jumps, and pushes. These exercises may help you burn fat faster if done regularly.

Burpees are excellent fat-blasting cardio that also helps strengthen muscles and boost metabolism.

It utilizes full-body movements that target overall body fat, making it one of the most effective cardio exercises to get your heart pumping and burn calories even after the workout.

You can increase the difficulty by using special exercise equipment like a bosu ball and a medicine ball.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are a high-intensity exercise mix of cardio and muscle training.

It is an advanced full-body exercise that has the power to burn fat in no time.

It helps build perfectly sculpted abdominals and tones your butt and thigh muscles.

Inchworms

Inchworm

Inchworm is often a part of HIIT workouts that increase strength and improve flexibility and mobility in the body.

This move requires no equipment and uses different muscle groups to work on your core, arms, and chest simultaneously to burn more calories.

In addition, you can maximize this exercise by leveling up your movement speed, which helps pump your heart rate even more.

Bear Crawl

Bear Crawl

The bear crawl is a full-body, all-in-one exercise that challenges your core.

It is a high-intensity cardio workout that works on all major muscle groups and is a sure-fire way to lose weight.

In addition, it can strengthen muscles and fire up your metabolism to blast those body fats.

Health Benefits of Cardio

woman thinking with her hands pointing to her head while holding a weighing scale

Cardio has other health benefits, which include:

  • A mood booster to fight depression and stress
  • Risk reduction of heart diseases by improving blood circulation
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Improves  sleep quality
  • Improves brain activity
  • Controls blood sugar levels

Practical Tips to Stay Fueled in Cardio Workouts

phone, watch dumbbells, notebook and a measuring tape in a table, and a man holding up a bag of vegetables and fruits and a thumbs up
  • Stick to a consistent workout schedule—something I always emphasize to my clients. And sneak in extra activity whenever you can, like walking at the mall or in the park.
  • Break your exercise into smaller sessions throughout the day, like a 20-minute jump rope in the morning and a walk in the evening.
  • Fuel up with light snacks like protein bars or bananas. This clean diet can help you maximize your weight loss (to improve your exercise performance, check out our article to learn what to eat before a cardio workout).
  • Don't forget the importance of a good night's sleep for enhanced endurance and mood.

FAQs

How Much Running to Lose Weight?

The amount of running needed to lose weight varies depending on several factors, including your current weight, diet, and metabolism. However, a general guideline is that you need to create a calorie deficit of approximately 500 calories per day to lose about 1 pound of weight per week, which is a safe and sustainable rate.

Is Cardio Important to Lose Belly Fat?

Yes, cardio can be important to lose belly fat. Cardio helps create a calorie deficit, burning calories and promoting overall fat loss, including fat stored in the abdominal area. However, it's essential to combine cardio with a balanced diet and other forms of exercise, such as strength training, for maximum results.

Can You Use HIIT Cardio Workout for Fat Loss?

Yes, you can use HIIT cardio workout for fat loss. HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest or low-intensity periods, boosting metabolism and burning a significant amount of calories in a short time.


References:

  1. https://uihc.org/health-topics/target-heart-rate-exercise
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3925973/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/what-to-know-about-standing-to-burn-calories
  6. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates
  7. https://captaincalculator.com/health/calorie/calories-burned-stairs-calculator/
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