High-calorie burn

Five ways to burn up to 500 calories in an hour.

June 17, 2003
High-calorie burn
Tired of half-hearted aerobic workouts that leave you yawning instead of sucking wind? If you want to burn some serious calories, we've got your program. Since most experts advise that to lose weight you should burn 500 more calories a day than you take in, a tough cardio workout can let you eat a moderate diet, with no deprivation, and still lose those extra pounds. The only catch is that you're going to have to push yourself to get the job done. Your ability to burn hundreds of calories depends in large part on the intensity of your workout. Whether you judge that with a heart-rate monitor or by how you feel according to rating of perceived exertion (click on "How Hard Are You Training?" at right), you need to keep track of your intensity level and avoid slacking off. This may mean tightening up your punches in a cardio kickboxing class instead of just flailing your arms around, or adding stationary lunges to a biceps move in a dumbbell workout class. Whatever your activity, you need to move those muscles for maximum burn.

If you're a beginner, the bad news is that it might take a while to build up to a 500-calorie burn in one training session. The good news is that as long as you stay safe, just about anything you do will give you a great workout, putting you on the road to a more conditioned body and faster metabolism. For you regular gym rats, the challenge may be to return to those early days; the more conditioned you are, the more likely you are to slip into an exercise routine that you can do in your sleep (and which burns about as many calories).

Of course, everyone is different, so depending on your age, fitness level and bodyweight, your total caloric burn may vary from the 450-500 range we're going for here. The workouts also vary in terms of which muscle groups are worked and the level of experience required, so be smart and work within your own limits. What allows you to burn so many calories in such a relatively short time? Interval training, where you alternate periods of very high-intensity exercise with short, easier periods. This means you'll burn more calories than you would doing the same amount of steady-state exercise. It also makes your workouts more interesting, so have fun!

Run for Your Life
490-920 calories in 60 minutes*
Running is the queen of calorie-burning exercise: The average 135-pound woman will burn 490 calories by running at 5 mph for an hour, and she'll burn 920 calories at 9 mph. Some women happily lace up their sneakers and hit the road for an hour-long run, but for the rest of us, the monotony of running makes it intolerable. That's where our interval program comes in. If you have some running experience and want a challenging program, we've got just what you're looking for.

If you're new to running, you may want to start with a few 10-minute walk/run sessions a day. Three 10-minute sessions can burn as many calories as one 30-minute session and can get you started without putting too much strain on your joints. Everyone was a beginner once; two-time Fitness International champion Susie Curry runs regularly now, but says it took her some time to get to that level. "I started with a walk/run program and gradually increased to where I am now. Some days I'll run 6 miles, some days I'll just do 2," she states. When you're ready, try the interval program shown below under the title, On The Run.

Karrie Bunch, an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified clinical exercise specialist in Annapolis, Maryland, devised our running interval program using both the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and maximum heart rate (MHR) to show how hard you should push yourself. (Click on "How Hard Are You Training?" at the right for an explanation of these systems.) "Seek out steep hills, because they're one of the toughest intervals possible," Bunch notes. "Focus on breathing and maintaining good posture. Walk if necessary, just try not to stop."

On The Run
Minutes 0-5: Walk (RPE 3, 30%-40% MHR)
Minutes 5-10: Stop and do stretches for your legs, glutes, shoulders and neck.
Minutes 10-12: Walk at an increasingly faster pace, progressing to a jog (RPE 4-5, 50%-60% MHR)
Minutes 12-15: Run at 65%-75% MHR, RPE 6. To burn at least 450 calories, you must maintain 65%-75% MHR for the duration of the run.
Minutes 15-35: Run, adding self-paced intervals of higher-intensity bursts. For example, sprint to the third telephone pole and then recover with two minutes of jogging. When possible, seek out hills as the most natural form of intervals. If you don't have any hills to run up, do power moves such as jumping jacks or skipping, or add overhead controlled arm movements such as military presses. Between high-intensity periods (which should range in length from 30 seconds to a few minutes), return to steady-state running.
Minutes 35-40: Slow back down to your jogging pace and add all-out sprints. These should be your highest-intensity moves (85% MHR, 8-9 RPE). Gradually work up to three 10-20-second bouts; really push it as you approach your mental finish line.
Minutes 40-45: Easy jog, decreasing in speed to a fast-paced walk. Get your breathing back in balance.
Minutes 45-50: Stretch the same muscle groups as before, but hold the stretches for a longer time, at least 30 seconds each.