Cardiovascular Exercises to Lose Weight

Losing weight requires you to burn more calories than you consume. While daily activity and body functions burn calories, cardiovascular exercise affords another efficient way to burn additional calories while enhancing lung and heart health. Ninety-four percent of the 5,000-plus members of the National Weight Control Registry, a research group established in 1993 to examine success strategies of those who maintain significant weight loss for over a year, report increased activity as key in their ability to lose weight. Find an exercise you like and will stick with—and do not be afraid to vary your routine to reduce boredom and risk of injury. The Mayo Clinic recommends moderate-intensity exercise longer than 30 minutes a day, five times a week, to achieve weight loss results.

Walking and Running

Walking and running may be performed outdoors on a track, path or sidewalk, or indoors on a treadmill. Apart from sturdy shoes, these modes of exercise require no special equipment and feel natural to most people. If you are new to exercise, walking briskly should significantly raise your heart rate and burn calories—about 277 calories in a one-hour, 3.5-mph walk if you weigh 160 lb. Increase your pace to a 5-mph jog and burn twice that amount. Beginners should work up to the jog or conduct intervals of walking and running to build endurance and avoid overtraining injuries such as shin splints.

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope requires a little extra space and minimal skill to effectively burn calories and build cardiovascular endurance. In just 10 minutes, a 160-lb. person can burn 120 calories. It may be challenging to keep up that pace for a full 30 minutes to an hour, but the American College of Sports Medicine notes that breaking up cardiovascular activity into smaller bouts is an effective way to train. Consider using 10-minute intervals of jump roping in between strength training moves, or jump rope first thing in the morning, afternoon and evening to break up your routine and keep your metabolism revved.


Although appropriate for anyone, water exercise offers a viable option for people who cannot tolerate impact. Swimming, water jogging and water aerobics are easier on the joints and back than running or jumping rope, but provide an effective calorie burn. Because you move less efficiently in the water, you actually achieve a higher heart rate more readily when exercising in the water, notes the Cleveland Clinic. One hour of swimming burns a little over 500 calories for a 160-lb. person.


Exercise machines like elliptical trainers, stair steppers and stationary bicycles are another way to burn calories and move closer to your weight loss goals. Experiment with different ones to find the type that works best for you. Working at a high intensity on an elliptical trainer or a stair stepper burns about as many calories as does running, while a stationary bike workout burns slightly less because it is performed while seated. A stationary bike may be more comfortable for those with joint or weight issues, however.


Consider trying a fitness class to burn extra calories. Cardiovascular classes such as kickboxing, dance programs and step aerobics offer camaraderie and motivation. A trained instructor leads the workout while the energy of the group carries you through the format. Depending on the type of class you choose, you may burn between 300 and 500 calories in an hour. If slogging away on a machine sounds boring to you, group fitness classes may offer the excitement and motivation you need to stick with a regimen.

About this Author

Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.