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Comparing Different Exercises

One thing that I frequently get asked is which workout is the best for burning calories. It can seem simple if you are riding a bike or using an elliptical that tells you how many calories you burned. However, are those calculators always accurate? Also, what about exercises that don't have a calculator telling me how many calories I burned? In this article, we take a look at the calories burned using sparkpeople.com's accurate calories burned calculator.




I will use myself as a baseline for these tests. I am exactly 6 feet tall and weight around 195 pounds when writing this article. I am 26 and I am a male. Weight, height, age, and gender all play an important role in the number of calories burned.

The first workout I will look at is running. This is a common workout and is often tough to measure. The speed in which I run makes a difference, so I will calculate many different times. When I put all this info into sparkpeople, I get:

  • 158 calories burned running for 6 minutes at a 6 minute mile pace
  • 162 calories burned running for 7 minutes at a 7 minute mile pace
  • 160 calories burned running for 8 minutes at a 8 minute mile pace
  • 149 calories burned running for 9 minutes at a 9 minute mile pace
  • 160 calories burned running for 10 minutes at a 10 minute mile pace
  • 158 calories burned running for 11 minutes at a 11 minute mile pace
  • 154 calories burned running for 12 minutes at a 12 minute mile pace

One observation that is somewhat obvious is that running faster burns calories at a faster pace. Also, If you look at an average running speed of an 8 minute mile, we can see I am burning about 20 calories per minute. We will use this 20 calories per minute in later comparisons.

The next workout I will look at is the elliptical workout. It is a little tougher to judge the speed I am going at on the elliptical, but if I report a moderate pace I get an average of 14 calories burned per minute.

Next, I will take a look at biking. I decided to look at 3 different speeds of biking. If I put the data into SP, I get:

  • 90 calories burned biking for 10 minutes at a 11 mph pace
  • 128 calories burned biking for 10 minutes at a 13 mph pace
  • 160 calories burned biking for 10 minutes at a 15 mph pace

Yet again, we can see going faster burns calories at a higher rate. Also, taking a 13 mph pace as the average, I get about 13 calories burned per minute for biking.

Last, I looked at a few more exercises that are tough to get calories burned for. Here is what I came up with when looking at them:

  • 13 calories per minute playing basketball
  • 12 calories per minute playing tennis
  • 17 calories per minute swimming
  • 7 calories per minute playing baseball
  • 6 calories per minute playing volleyball

We can see from these comparisons that running, swimming, and the elliptical seem to be the best workouts. Biking follows closely behind these three. All of these done at a medium to high pace will burn calories at a high rate.

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