9 Workouts That Don’t Burn as Many Calories as You Think
It's always a good idea to exercise whenever you can, but if your goal is to lose weight, you might not realize that some of your favorite exercises aren't the calorie torchers you hoped.
"Yoga is a great restorative activity for both the body and the mind, but many yoga classes do not involve a lot of movement," says Ariana Fotinakis, a personal trainer with Trainerize.me. "Holding a pose for a long period of time might feel challenging for your muscles, but you aren't burning a lot of calories while you're doing it." To get more bang for your buck, try a vinyasa (flow) class, which includes more movement and will increase your heart rate more than a hatha class. Watch out for these exercise moves that work against you.
Stretching can help improve your flexibility, better your range of motion, and help prevent injury, but it's not exactly the biggest heart pumper. "Fire up your stretch routine by adding cardio bursts between stretch positions," suggests Ngo Okafor, personal trainer. This could include anything from adding in high knees to mountain climbers. "You will still get the benefit of stretching with cardio bursts infused, which raises your heart rate and burns a ton of calories," says Okafor.
Pilates is a great workout for the core, and it also improves flexibility and joint mobility. But as important as Pilates is for injury prevention and recovery, it doesn't burn a lot of calories. To kick it up a notch, consider trying Cardio Pilates. "Cardio Pilates is traditional Pilates exercises infused with cardio bursts," says Okafor. "An example of Cardio Pilates is the 100 exercise followed by 30 seconds of medicine ball slams, rolling like a ball followed by 30 seconds of jumping rope or high knees, and single leg circles followed by 30 seconds of jumping jacks." These exercise mistakes will make you look older.
Spin class can seem intense, but it's a non-weight-bearing activity, which means the calorie burn isn't as high as it seems. "You're sitting in a chair and not using any muscles except your legs," says Cristy Nickel, a trainer. "You don't get near the calorie burn you would using a regular bike." Increasing your speed and the adjustable tension will help you burn more calories, or alternate periods of high-intensity work with periods of low-intensity recovery, also known as high-intensity interval training, which will have you burning more for longer. Don't know what to wear to spin?
Walking is a convenient form of exercise, but because it's low-intensity; you would need to walk for a long time to really torch some calories—think upwards of 90 minutes. However, there are still a number of ways you can use walking for weight loss. "Make your walks more intense by picking up the pace," says Fotinakis. "If it's too challenging to walk briskly for the entire duration of your walk, you can pick a couple of landmarks to walk briskly to (i.e. the sign at the end of the street, the big tree two blocks away, etc.). You can also find a route that has more hills."
Although weight training clearly benefits your muscles as well as your bones, it doesn't do much as far as calorie burning goes, while you're doing it. "The standard gym routine of sitting at a machine, doing some reps, then resting one minute before repeating doesn't burn many calories," says Fotinakis. "Unless you're working with heavy weights or working many muscle groups at once, your heart rate doesn't elevate much while weight training, and sitting to take long rest breaks in between sets lowers the intensity even more." Minimize your rest time, and try compound movements—exercises that involve more than one muscle group—to burn more calories. On the upside, muscle burns more energy that fat, so as your strength increases, so will your metabolism. Make sure to avoid the 15 weight-lifting mistakes that could ruin your workout.
There's no doubt that jogging gets your heart rate up, but it does very little to burn fat if you're running at a steady pace. Try running at intervals instead, which will burn more calories later on thanks to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption effect (the after-burn). Add one-minute sprints in between running to add in those high-intensity intervals.
"One of the most ineffective exercises is doing sit-ups or crunches," says Matt Ng, personal trainer. "Though core strength training is critical to overall body strength, it's a poor way to burn calories. The worse part is, most people do it in hopes of getting that lean six pack midsection when it actually barely helps with that at all." Instead of just doing sit-ups by themselves, try doing core exercises in between your interval cardio training or as an active rest exercise in between sets of your strength training workouts. Here are eight exercises guaranteed to flatten your belly.
A day at the golf course might be fun, but it's no going to do much for your body. "This is really more of a leisure activity than exercise," says Nickel. "These days it's hard to find a course that will let you walk rather than ride in a cart, but brisk walking between rounds will increase your calorie burn." Make sure you never, ever do these things after your workout. They could ruin all of your hard work.