9 Best Cardio Workouts For Weight Loss (No Running!)
Shed pounds effectively with these 9 best cardio workouts for weight loss from a fitness expert. Get fit, feel great, and boost energy without any running!
Cardio exercise is a fantastic way to lose weight while improving your overall health. While strength training is important to boost your metabolism (and you will hear me on my soap box talk about how important it is for middle age woman), you also need cardio workouts for weight loss.
It drives me nuts when women tell me their fitness trainer told them they don’t need cardio. If you have a heart, then you need cardiovascular exercise!
The biggest issue is that most women think about running as the best form of cardio. There is nothing wrong with running but as we age, for many of us it is a daunting, joint pounding option that sounds horrible. And if it sounds horrible, you aren’t going to do it.
So whether you’re a fitness enthusiast looking to switch up your routine, or a beginner just starting, I’ve got you covered. In this guide I’ll introduce you to the 9 best cardio workouts for weight loss, with no running included.
Plus, I’ll give you a refresher on why cardio matters for fat loss in the first place.
Explore the best cardio workouts for weight loss below. From walking to swimming to dance, and low-intensity to high-impact, there is something for everyone.
Most importantly, just remember, the best exercise is something you LIKE to do so you stick with it. Consistent cardio is an important stepping stone in your health and weight loss journey.
So, what are you waiting for?
Table of contents
What is Cardio Exercise?
Cardio exercise, short for cardiovascular exercise, encompasses any form of activity that raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to your muscles. It is an essential component of any fitness routine and offers numerous health benefits for your body composition.
What sets cardio exercise apart from other types of workouts is its ability to increase your endurance and stimulate your cardiovascular system.
This form of exercise strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles, leading to improved overall health and fitness. It also burns calories, making it an effective way to cut down on belly fat and promote weight loss.
Some popular types of cardio exercise include walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, and stair climbing.
The Benefits Of Cardio Exercise
Burning fat is a wonderful byproduct of cardio exercise, but there are many other great benefits of getting your cardio on. From better immunity to a boosted mood, the positives are endless!
Here are some of the top benefits of cardio exercise:
Keeps your heart healthy: People who do regular cardio workouts typically have a lower resting heart rate and lower blood pressure. You also decrease your risk of heart disease and other problematic conditions. Heart disease is the number one killer of women in America. To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Boosts your mood: Cardiovascular exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals responsible for balancing your mood and keeping depressive thoughts at bay. Many people cite beginning an exercise regimen as one step they’ve taken to help their overall mental health. Even a brisk walk for a short period of time can noticeably alter your attitude.
Boosts Your Immunity: Cardio exercise in most environments makes your immune system stronger, helping you to reduce your body’s risk of bacterial infection and prevent disease.
Helps Your Circulation: Cardiovascular exercise improves your blood circulation, which helps your body rid itself of toxins better and keeps you healthy. Poor circulation long-term can lead to problems such as heart attack or stroke, but keeping your circulation functioning properly can help prevent those problems.
Boosts Your Weight Loss: Finally—cardiovascular exercise helps burn calories, and when it comes to weight loss, calories still matter. You have to expend more calories than you take in to lose weight. Along with strength training, cardio should be an important aspect of your weight loss journey.
Improves Your Sleep. By regularly getting your heart rate up and being consistent with cardio exercise, you improve your sleep quality which parlays into all aspects of your life. Better sleep quality is a big part of healthy aging.
9 Best Cardio Workouts For Weight Loss
Cardio doesn’t have to be intimidating – many fun and simple cardio workouts are surprisingly effective at burning fat and calories. Find a form of exercise you love, and then focus on lower-intensity, moderate-intensity or all-out high-impact depending on your goals.
Imagine making great progress towards your weight loss goals while enjoying yourself too!
Try one of my favorite cardio workouts for weight loss to get started with your cardio journey:
1. Walking [Burns 300-400 calories/hour]
However, a leisurely evening stroll won’t make the cardio cut. To burn fat, you need a brisk, moderately-fast pace. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular brisk walking can help you:
Maintain a healthy weight
Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
Strengthen your bones and muscles
Improve your mood
Improve your balance and coordination
The faster, farther, and more frequently you walk, the greater the benefits. You can walk outdoors on the sidewalk, go for a hike, give rucking a try, hit the treadmill at the gym, or even use a walking pad under your desk during the workday!
Tip: If you’re using a treadmill, try adding an incline to torch more calories and tone your glutes and thighs.
2. Climbing Stairs [Burns 1000 calories/hour]
Are you looking for an efficient cardio workout that engages your lower body muscles and elevates your heart rate? Look no further than stair climbing.
This challenging exercise can be done at home, in a gym, or even on outdoor stadium steps, making it a versatile option for any fitness routine.
Here are a few tips to help you get started with climbing stairs for cardio exercise:
Proper Form and Techniques
When stair climbing, it’s essential to maintain proper form to maximize the benefits and prevent injuries. Keep your back straight, engage your core muscles, and step up one stair at a time.
Avoid using the railing for support and try to push off with your toes to engage your calf muscles. As you progress, you can increase your speed, step height or try skipping one or two stairs.
Just like with other exercises, it’s crucial to gradually increase the workload to keep challenging your body and avoid plateauing. Start with a few flights of stairs and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout.
You can also add weight by wearing a backpack or carrying dumbbells to make the climb more challenging.
3. Kettlebells [Burns 800-900 calories/hour]
A kettlebell is a cannonball-shaped weight that produces a powerful, effective workout. Kettlebell workouts combine strength training with cardio and can help you burn up to 20 calories per minute (the equivalent of running a 6-minute mile.)
Now that’s getting the most from your workout time!
According to the American Council on Exercise, kettlebells can provide a higher intensity workout than the usual strength training routine in a shorter amount of time. This is because kettlebell training simultaneously works your cardio endurance while building muscle strength, balance, and flexibility.
Try this 10-minute kettlebell workout for a great introduction to how to use kettlebells, as well as a powerful 10-minute workout.
4. Jumping Rope [Burns 600 calories/hour]
Aside from being a fun pastime, jumping rope is an effective cardio workout that can help you lose weight. By engaging your whole body, it burns a significant amount of calories and improves coordination, balance, and agility.
One of the best cardio exercises for weight loss is jumping rope. It’s not only a calorie blaster but helps build bone density, strengthens your legs, makes your heart stronger, and improves coordination, balance, and agility.
Moreover, it is a low-cost activity that can be done almost anywhere.
Fun fact: you’d have to run an eight-minute mile to work off more calories than you can burn jumping rope. An additional bonus is that, if done correctly, this exercise is a lower impact than running.
Jumping rope is also a great form of plyometric workout, where both feet are off the ground. Plyometrics get your heart pumping and burn calories quickly and effectively.
Other forms of plyometrics include exercises like:
Box jumps (you can use any step or safe, elevated platform)
If jumping rope sounds like a fun way to incorporate cardio into your routine, check out this 15-minute jump rope and bodyweight workout to try at home or the gym.
5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) [Burns 600 calories/hour]
If you’re short on time but still want to burn calories and get in shape, HIIT is the way to go. This popular cardio workout technique involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by brief rest periods.
Once used to train only elite athletes, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is now mainstream and can be incorporated into many workout routines.
These workouts can be done in as little as 20 minutes and are known for their ability to burn calories not just during the workout, but even after, thanks to the “afterburn effect.” HIIT workouts also trains and conditions both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.
HIIT exercises can range from bodyweight movements, such as burpees and jump squats, to using equipment such as kettlebells and resistance bands. The training can also be done with treadmills, outdoor walking, swimming, cycling, and elliptical machines.
Most programs will have you push hard for a work session (between 20-30 seconds), with a short 10-20 second rest in between. The key is to push yourself to your maximum effort during the high-intensity work portion and then allow your body to recover during the rest periods.
With HIIT, a lack of time is no excuse: a 20-minute HIIT session is more effective at burning calories and fat overall than a 60-minute jog.
Check out our HIIT workout library for great HIIT workouts to try at home.
6. Cycling [Burns 500-600 calories/hour]
Cycling is a low-impact exercise that increases your heart health, strengthens your leg muscles, and burns some serious calories.
If you’re looking for an effective workout that can help you lose weight while being gentle on your joints, cycling might be the perfect fit for you. This low-impact cardio exercise can be done indoors or outdoors, and it’s suitable for different fitness levels.
When cycling, you target your lower body muscles, such as your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, and you also improve your cardiovascular health. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the average person burns between 250-300 calories per 30 minute session of cycling exercise.
*Calorie burning varies depending on factors such as body weight, intensity, and duration of the workout.
If you prefer working out indoors, you can try spinning or indoor cycling classes, which simulate outdoor biking. These classes typically last 45-60 minutes and can be adjusted to your fitness level.
You can also invest in a stationary bike and exercise at home while watching TV or listening to music. Just make sure to adjust the seat and handlebars correctly to prevent injuries and maximize your potential.
If you enjoy being in nature, outdoor biking can be a fun and challenging way to lose weight. You can explore different terrains and routes, challenge yourself with hills and sprints, and enjoy the fresh air.
Outdoor cycling also fills your need for fresh air and vitamin D.
7. Rowing [Burns 500-600 calories/hour]
Rowing is a full-body exercise that works the biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. In addition to all this strength training, keep in mind that the cardio benefits of rowing are intense!
Indoor rowing machines, also called “ergs” or “ergometers,” have long been used by crew teams who want to maintain their training during the winter months. But over the years, they’ve also gained popularity with other people—anyone who wants a total-body workout that’s low-impact and gets your heart rate up.
Benefits of Rowing for Cardio Exercise
Full body workouts
High calorie burn
Most gyms have a rowing machine section, and there are even some group fitness rowing classes you can take.
According to Harvard Health Studies, rowing burns between 250-300 calories in a 30-minute session.
8. Dancing [Burns 460-1,000 calories/hour]
Are you tired of the usual workouts and looking for a fun and engaging way to shed those extra pounds? Look no further than dance workouts!
Dancing not only burns calories but also helps improve endurance, coordination, and flexibility. Some popular dance styles for weight loss include Zumba, hip-hop, and salsa.
You don’t need to be a professional dancer to benefit from dance workouts. Many classes cater to beginners and offer modifications to suit different fitness levels. You can also do these cardio sessions right in the comfort of your own home!
The amount of calories you’ll burn depends on the intensity of your workout, and the type of dance:
Zumba (460-920 calories/hour)
Hip Hop (500-1,000 calories/hour)
Salsa (400-800 calories/hour)
*Calorie burning varies depending on factors such as body weight, intensity, and duration of the workout.
In addition to being an effective workout, dance workouts are also a great way to have fun and socialize. Grab a friend or join a class to add some excitement to your fitness routine.
So, put on your dancing shoes and start burning those calories!
9. Swimming [Burns 250-900 calories/hour]
Swimming is an excellent low-impact cardio workout that provides a full-body workout without putting stress on your joints. With the resistance of the water, swimming works nearly every major muscle group in your body, which can lead to improved muscle tone and overall fitness levels.
Additionally, swimming helps to improve your cardiovascular endurance, making it a great form of aerobic exercise that can aid in weight loss.
There are several different swimming strokes that you can try, including:
Freestyle (400-700 calories/hour)
Breaststroke (400-600 calories/hour)
Backstroke (250-400 calories/hour)
Butterfly (600-900 calories/hour)
*Calories burned per hour are based on an average weight of 155 pounds (70 kg) and vary depending on several factors, including body weight, swimming intensity, and stroke.
Each stroke targets a different set of muscles, allowing you to vary your workout and keep things interesting. For beginners, starting with the freestyle stroke is often the easiest to learn and most effective for burning calories.
If laps aren’t you’re thing, I recommend trying my 30 minute pool workout with simple but effective exercises for any age.
Swimming is a fun and effective way to burn calories, improve endurance, and tone your muscles.
Whether you prefer swimming laps in a pool or splashing around in the ocean, make sure to incorporate this low-impact cardio workout into your fitness routine for maximum weight loss results.
The Bottom Line
Now that I’ve shared my favorite types of cardio workouts for weight loss, it’s time to take action and start incorporating them into your fitness routine.
Remember that consistency is key, and small changes can lead to significant results. Whether you prefer walking, cycling, or dancing, choose an activity that you enjoy and stick to it.
Cardio workouts can be challenging, but they are also rewarding.
They not only help you lose weight and improve your physical health but also boost your mental well-being. So take the first step today and embark on a journey towards a healthier, fitter you.
Forget about the number of calories you’re burning, and find something you enjoy!
Cardio exercise, short for cardiovascular exercise, refers to any form of exercise that increases your heart rate and stimulates your cardiovascular system. It can involve bodyweight exercises, or cardio machines. Cardio helps burn calories, improve endurance, and promote overall heart health.
Cardio workouts offer numerous benefits for weight loss, including creating a calorie deficit, improving metabolism, increasing muscle mass tone, reducing body fat, boosting mood, and reducing stress levels. Steady-state cardio also improves heart health.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a popular cardio workout technique that involves short bursts of high-intensity cardio followed by brief rest periods. It is known for its ability to burn calories both during and after the workout due to the “afterburn effect.”