The best exercise for fat loss: run, swim, or skip?

When I run, I see people riding. When I skip rope, I see people rowing. And when I ocean swim ... I sense ocean creatures all around, so I don't do it.

With options galore, anyone looking to burn calories and lose body fat must get involved in some cardiovascular exercise.

In 2016, we're all looking to save time, so it's important to know: is the elliptical more efficient than running? Is rowing better than skipping?

Here are 15 popular movements and the subsequent calories burned per hour (ranked from low to high):

  1. Yoga (power), 364 calories
  2. Golfing (carrying clubs), 391 calories
  3. Walking (5.5 km/h), 391 calories
  4. Elliptical trainer (moderate effort), 455 calories
  5. Swimming laps (light or moderate), 528 calories
  6. Hiking, 546 calories
  7. Rowing, stationary, 546 calories
  8. Football (touch or flag), 728 calories
  9. Tennis (singles), 728 calories
  10. Running (8 km/h), 755 calories
  11. Stair treadmill, 819 calories
  12. Swimming laps (vigorous), 892 calories
  13. Taekwondo, 937 calories
  14. Running (13 km/h), 1074 calories
  15. Rope jumping, 1074 calories


Comparing calories

No wonder those Bondi stunners look so fresh after yoga – they've hardly burned off their kale smoothies and gossip session. Calorie/kilojoule-wise, you're better off hitting the golf course, playing tennis, or smashing out a vigorous jog.

The above statistics will vary as they are clinically based on a 91kg individual exercising for one hour. In 2016, who's got time for an hour? Add travel. Add locker room time. It's too much. But don't worry, because you can do less, yet burn more – it's all about the intensity you bring to your training routine.

Your cardio, on steroids

One-hour training sessions become monotonous, so you need a boost – intensity. Shorter workouts get more results, and that leaves more time for fun, family, and other pursuits. And for those looking to keep their muscle bulk, rest easy.


Long endurance sessions might deprive you of muscle mass, yet short bursts of intensity will only add muscle tone. Sprinter or marathon runner – whose body shape do you prefer?

Here's how to do it

High Intensity Interval Training

HIIT has been mentioned in this column too many times to count – because it's simple, and it works. Studies show women adopting a 20-minute HIIT program dropping six times more body fat than a group that performed 40-minute jogging sessions. HIIT trainees continue to burn calories long after a workout. Ditch the cruisy treadmill jog and elliptical sessions forever.

Workout: On a stationary rower, row with 100 per cent intensity for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Perform for 10 minutes.

Tabata Training

Japanese Dr Tabata developed a "20 seconds on, 10 seconds of rest, repeat for four minutes" method that builds aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels more than steady state sessions.

Workout: Skip rope for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds of rest. Repeat for four minutes in total. Rest 1 minute, then continue with Tabata sessions of push-ups, sprints, then squats.

Mix it Up

Don't become cardio-centric, because the body likes variety. Add bodyweight movements to your cardio sessions like squats, push-ups, burpees, and core work.

Workout: Sprint 100 metres at 100 per cent effort. Drop for 20 push-ups. Stand for 10 plyometric (jump) squats. Walk back to starting point. Repeat nine more times.

Rope it in

Obi Obadike is a fitness expert and fitness model. His shredded body is all over the internet and graces many fitness magazine covers. His favourite cardio exercise for fat loss? Skipping rope. I couldn't agree more. A rope is cheap and skipping can be done at home, gym, work, or at a hotel. Skipping is easy on the body, yet high in intensity.

Ultimately, you can take the science along with my advice and throw it out the window, because the best cardio session is one that makes you sweat, swear, and think "that was intense, yet I feel good – I'm going to do that again".

It takes a non-scientific (mental) approach from the boardroom to the bedroom, from the kitchen to the gym: It's not the time. It's the passion and intensity that breeds results.

Do you have a workout secret? Let us know in the comments section.

Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his 'Cut The BS' diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.

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