10 Types of Cardio Workouts For Fat Loss (That Actually Work)

types of cardio workouts for fat loss

Key Takeaways

  • Both low-intensity and high-intensity cardio workouts can help you achieve your weight loss goals.
  • You shouldn’t rely solely on cardio for weight loss. Eating in a calorie deficit and maintaining muscle mass are just as crucial.
  • A personalized cardio workout on Fitbod that uses your logged training data is the most efficient way to lose weight versus doing a generic training program.

10 Best Types of Cardio to Aid in Weight Loss

The type of cardio you do will depend on your current level of fitness and endurance. 

Exercises can range from low-impact, low-intensity workouts, such as walking, to more intense cardio, such as HIIT workouts.

The ten best types of cardio for weight loss are: 

  • Incline Walking
  • Stair Climber
  • Rowing
  • Assault Bike (Air Bike)
  • Weight Training
  • Boxing
  • Kickboxing
  • Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
  • Increase Daily Steps Count
  • Running

Note: many of these exercises are low-impact and can be done at low intensity to see results (this is recommended when you want to lose fat and preserve muscle mass).  However, using HIIT in very small doses can also be effective. Here are some other HIIT articles that you can check out for further reading: 

10 Best Types of Cardio to Aid in Weight Loss

1. Incline Walking

inclined walking can improve running form and muscle endurance

This is probably one of the best options for those who love running yet want to limit the impact on their bodies.

Inclined walking can burn a lot of calories and can also improve running form and muscle endurance. 

The incline forces you to lift your legs higher (increased leg drive) and can help prevent overreaching with your stride (which can happen during running). 

You can even jog on an incline to get training effects that are very similar to going out for a run.

Calories Burned Incline Walking

The average number of calories burned in one hour of brisk incline walking is 422 for a 155-pound person.

2. Stair Climber

the stair climber improves muscle endurance of the legs, glutes, and calves

The stair climber is a low-impact form of cardio that can greatly improve muscle endurance of the legs, glutes, and calves. 

This can also be a good way to increase strength and endurance for heavier individuals or those who wear weighted vests. 

It can make walking or hiking more enjoyable, as you will develop greater leg endurance that you can unleash on the trails after training the stair climber.

Calories Burned Stair Climbing

The average number of calories burned in 1 hour of walking on the stairmaster for an 155-pound person is upwards of 550 calories.

3. Rowing

rowing is a low impact, high-intensity form of cardio that can increase leg endurance and pulling power

Rowing is a low-impact, high-intensity form of cardio that can increase leg endurance and pulling power. 

Unlike other forms of cardio, rowing offers the added benefit of performing rows with the upper body making this a total-body cardio movement targeting the legs, core, and back muscles (and some biceps). 

While this doesn’t build muscle like weights, it can offer some muscle endurance if that is something you are after. 

Calories Burned Rowing

The average number of calories burned in 1 hour of brisk rowing for a 155-pound person is 733 calories. 

4. Assault Bike (Air Bike)

assault bike low impact, varied intensity type of cardio is a great option for all levels of lifters

This low-impact, varied-intensity type of cardio is a great option for all levels of lifters. 

This exercise’s low impact makes it great for beginners and individuals with knee or lower back issues. 

It’s also a great way to decrease muscle loss potentially caused by higher-impact exercises (when done in volumes that impede recovery and weight training progressions).

You can do long, slow, steady-state work, or you can incorporate HIIT to help burn more calories in less time, build leg power output, and increase muscle endurance in the lower body and arms (shoulders and chest). 

Calories Burned Assault Bike

The average number of calories burned on the assault bike is between 20-30 calories per minute if you’re doing a moderate-fast pace, which is far higher than other forms of cardio. 

Related: Are Exercise Bikes Good For Weight Loss?

5. Weight Training

resistance training is an essential part of losing weight

Resistance training is an essential part of losing or maintaining weight and increases the likelihood of body fat loss rather than muscle mass loss.

When weight training, you build muscle, which can help increase your metabolism, which means you’ll be able to eat more during your diet and lose weight (as opposed to not weight training).

The great thing about the Fitbod app is that it automatically adjusts your workouts as you get stronger and your muscle mass increases. You never have to worry about when to add more weight, do more reps, or switch up your exercises to avoid plateaus and get your desired results.

Plus, with Fitbod’s new body composition feature, you can better understand your body’s fat, muscle, and bone ratio instead of focusing on the number on the scale. This will give you a more comprehensive overview, especially if your goal is fat loss.

Calories Burned Weight Training

The average number of calories burned in 1 hour of weight training for a 155-pound person is 419 calories. 

Related: Cutting Without Cardio: Is It Possible?

6. Boxing 

boxing is a great way to burn calories, increase shoulder, back, and core endurance

Boxing is a great way to burn calories and increase shoulder, back, and core endurance while limiting the impact on the lower body. 

It’s also a more interactive cardio workout than running on a treadmill, which may help you enjoy your workouts more if you find sitting on a bike or running impalpable.

Calories Burned Boxing

The average number of calories burned in a high-intensity 1-hour boxing class can be upwards of 800 calories.

Related: Cardio for Beginners: 6 Mistakes to Avoid

7. Kickboxing

kickboxing is a great form of total-body high intensity, high impact cardiovascular training

This is a great form of total-body high-intensity, high-impact cardiovascular training. 

Like boxing, it can help increase core strength and muscle endurance in the shoulders, legs, backs, and core and also help increase power production when throwing with maximal or near maximal intensity. 

Kickboxing is also a multi-planar form of cardio.

Multi-planar cardio exercises incorporate movements from all planes (side-to-side, front-to-back, left-to-right), making the workout more dynamic and functional. 

This approach helps in improving overall fitness, coordination, balance, and agility. It can also better simulate real-world movements and activities, making it especially beneficial for athletes and individuals seeking to improve their performance in daily tasks or specific sports.

Calories Burned Kickboxing

The average number of calories burned in a high-intensity 1-hour kickboxing class is between 350-400 calories.

8. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

brazilian jiu jitsu can be both low intensity or high intensity depending on the level you are training

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) can be both low-intensity or high-intensity, depending on your training level. 

For many beginners who start training BJJ, this can be a great way to increase movement, help address basic conditioning, and get “cardio” while also learning a new skill. 

BJJ also benefits from increased strength (from grappling) and body control, in addition to burning a ton of calories.

Calories Burned with BJJ

The average number of calories burned in an average 1-hour BJJ class is 820 calories, so long as it includes constant movement and not practicing technique. 

Related: How Long Does It Take To Get A Flat Stomach 

9. Increase Daily Steps Count

increase daily steps count

While walking may seem basic, it’s one of the most effective ways to increase calorie expenditure. Even just 30 minutes of brisk walking can help you burn extra calories. It’s also low-impact, easy on the joints, and beginner-friendly.

Dr. Michael Jensen, Endocrinologist at The Mayo Clinic advises starting by cutting extra unnecessary calories from your diet and then working up to a walking plan, saying:

“Having an immediate change in eating habits and then gradually increasing your physical activity until you have a comfortable active lifestyle is probably the best combination.”

The Mayo Clinic explains:

“Step one, eat a little less. Step two, start a slow burn instead of that brisk hour long walk Ease up. Even walking at a 2 mph hour pace, you could burn 183 calories in an hour. Build up your endurance, build up your strength, and then you can add more as time goes on. In this case, slow and steady can win the race.”

You can also increase your non-exercise activities (walking to work, taking the stairs, riding bikes, increasing daily step counts) to increase your daily calorie expenditure without needing to slave away at the gym as much. 

This is something anyone can do, doesn’t require you to sweat, and can help improve mood, not increase appetite (unlike hard workouts, and decrease stress (unlike hard workouts).

Calories Burned Walking

A 155-pound person can burn 436 calories per hour walking at a brisk pace of 3.5 miles per hour.

10. Running

running is high-impact and could increase muscle loss, especially in the lower body

I listed running last because it may be one of the most overused and abused forms of cardio out there. Running isn’t bad; however, it can be when people first aim to lose weight and go from the couch to running 5 miles a day. 

Running is high-impact and can lead to injuries if someone is not ready for the impact or stress of the body pounding the pavement. 

It’s no more effective at burning calories than any other of these forms above when you standardize the intensity at which they are performed. 

If your heart rate gets to 160 while running, rowing, or biking, the calorie expense is very similar (however, the risk of muscle loss and stress to the body is much higher in running due to its high impact nature). 

Calories Burned

An 155-pound person can burn 703 calories while running for an hour at 6 miles per hour, for a 10-minute mile.

Related: Cardio Other Than Running: 12 Examples

Is Cardio Necessary for Weight Loss?

No, performing cardio is not necessary for weight loss, but it will help you achieve your goals, coupled with a regular strength training program using Fitbod. 

While you’ll burn more calories doing cardio, building lean muscle mass will help increase your caloric burn.

Being in a calorie deficit (mainly through diet) is also necessary for a weight loss plan. 

If you are doing cardio yet eating to put your body in a calorie surplus, your weight will not decrease. 

You may find that you can eat and work out, lose fat, and gain muscle (especially for beginners or individuals who have more body fat). 

However, being in a calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss.

Founder of Melbourne Functional Medicine, Jabe Brown, advises:

“It’s crucial to acknowledge that achieving a calorie deficit is key for weight loss, emphasizing the importance of dietary choices over the type of cardio performed. It’s calories in vs. calories out. Quite simple. This foundation sets the stage for a more informed approach to exercise, where the focus shifts from cardio being a necessity to a supplementary activity that enhances overall well-being.”

Dieting is stressful on muscle tissue, and therefore, if you are aggressively dieting and also not training hard with weights, there is an increased likelihood that you will end up losing weight that is predominantly from muscle loss (and some fat). 

This, of course, is not ideal because the more muscle you lose, your appearance will still be soft and not toned, and your metabolism will drop due to muscle loss (making long term weight loss and keeping the lost weight off, increasingly more difficult).

Dody Deavours, Physical Therapist at AICA Orthopedics, emphasizes:

“While cardio is an effective tool for increasing calorie burn and improving cardiovascular health, it’s not the only path to weight loss. A combination of dietary adjustments, strength training, and cardio can lead to more sustainable fat loss results.”

Cardio can be used sparingly throughout a diet and workout regimen to aid in increasing calorie expenditure. However, it is not necessary — I lost almost 15lbs using Fitbod and got absolutely lean while doing minimal cardio. 

By prioritizing eating properly, maintaining a SLIGHT calorie deficit that is progressively and conservatively increasing over a period of 8-12 weeks, and training hard with weights to prevent loss of strength and muscle tissue, you could have amazing results. 

If you need to burn a little more calories still and don’t want to cut out calories from your diet, add low-impact, lower-intensity cardio to your training plan in small amounts.

Related: Cardio vs Weights: Which Is Better For Weight Loss?

Fitbod provides ultra-personalized workout plans that help you make long-term progress. 

Fitbod’s workouts have helped hundreds of thousands of people get stronger, lose fat, gain muscle mass, and generally get (and stay) fit. 

With Fitbod, every workout is calibrated to your goals, ability and preferences–so all you need to do is open the app and get to work.

Downsides of Excessive Cardio

When looking to lose weight, you need to reframe your approach to try to lose as much body fat as you can, rather than scale weight (weight on the scale can come from fat loss, muscle loss, waste loss, and water loss). 

Brown explains how cardio can actually hinder your progression:

“The potential downsides of excessive cardio include muscle loss and joint impact, which underscores the importance of balance and moderation. Another downside is the potential for a mental health vicious cycle. Engaging in excessive cardio with the sole aim of weight loss can lead to an unhealthy obsession, stress, and disappointment if goals are not met, potentially spiraling into negative mental health outcomes.”

Making sure to eat properly, stay hydrated, and lift weights as your primary weight loss training variable is most likely your best approach to losing fat and maintaining as much muscle as you can. Using Fitbod to create a customized plan is the most effective place to start.

Related Articles:

About The Author

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), USA Weightlifting Advanced Coach, and has over 10+ years of experience working with collegiate athletes, national level lifters, and beginners alike. Mike is Founder of J2FIT Strength and Conditioning, a growing global training company with gyms in New York City, Cincinnati, and online offering personal training, online custom coaching programs.