Fitmodo: These Are The Most Time-Efficient Fat-Burning Exercises

Gizmodo speaks with an Australian sports science and fitness expert to uncover which exercises provide most bang for buck. Perfect for making the most out of your lunch hour. The elliptical? Rowing? Or is there a better option? Here are the facts.

Welcome back to Fitmodo powered by the new Fitbit Charge HR activity wristband — now with continuous heart rate tracking — and the Fitbit Surge fitness super watch. Heart rate, calories, steps and sport tracking with long battery life, call and text notifications, auto sleep monitoring and more.

Running picture from Shutterstock

Fitting exercise into a busy schedule can be hard but most of us could grab 30 minutes a day before or after work, or even during a lunch break. Every workout is different, but if you want to burn as many calories as you can in a limited time then a few stand out above the rest.

To get the full story from an expert in fitness, we spoke to Adrian Holdsworth, the National Product Manager at Fitness First. It turns out the professionals recommend High Intensity Training as the best way to burn fat. HIIT is a form of interval training, which combines short but very high intensity bouts of anaerobic exercise, with less intense recovery periods.

According to Adrian, one of the key advantages of HIIT over traditional workouts such as running is motivation. While you can do your own program, typically HIIT workouts are run by a trainer with a group of participants. This brings a social factor into play — you are much more likely to actually turn up to your class rather than hitting the snooze button.

HIIT workout picture from Shutterstock

Adrian also said that HIIT builds more lean muscle mass than traditional workouts and boosts your metabolic rate. This has a flow on effect after you have finished exercising – your body keeps using higher levels of energy after you are done, increasing weight loss.

HIIT training makes it hard to calculate calorie use, as it can incorporate many different activities. It also impacts people of different weights a lot more than other workouts, as your body is often used as resistance.

Push yourself hard and you can burn up to 700 calories in a 30 minute HIIT workout – even more than our other options. It’s even better than one of the most energy intensive activities we could find – working as an axe wielding lumberjack, with only burns 695 calories in 30 minutes.

How We Calculated Calories Burnt

Calories burnt were taken from the My Fitness Pal and Fitbit websites. Unless otherwise stated, intensity level was set to ‘vigorous’.

These numbers were based on the average Australian male and female according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Sorry girls, but with more body mass and typically more muscle, guys will burn more fat with the same length workout.

Male and Female picture from Shutterstock

Average Male
Height: 175.6cm
Height: 85.9 KG

Average Female
Height: 161.8cm
Weight: 71.1kg

These stats tell an interesting story – since 1995 men have gotten 0.8cm taller, and women 0.4cm taller. But we do need to hit the gym, as on average we have put on an extra 3.9 kg for men and 4.1kg for women.

We assumed a short but intense 30 minute workout. No dawdling here, it is maximum effort for the entire time. Swimming is also a great choice but isn’t so great for a quick workout.

The Simple Maths Of Losing Weight

We recently put together some Fitmodo advice on the maths behind food tracking and weight loss.

Regardless of what you are or aren’t eating, there’s a fundamental formula at the heart of weight loss: you need to burn more energy than you consume. Calorie deficit. Conversely, if we take in more calories than our bodies use, the spare energy is stored as fat.

Next equation: A 7500 calorie deficit in a week equals 1kg weight loss. If you’re under about 100kg, it’s generally considered that 0.5kg per week is a healthy target for weight loss (1kg should really be your maximum). I can’t stress enough that it depends on your individual situation and health. If you’re unsure, check with your doctor or nutritionist.

Get Your Burn On

Turning fat into energy isn’t some magical process that can be short-cut. If you want to lose more, then you need to work harder. Some types of exercise burn more calories than others, but it’s not some magical secret. Really, some types of exercise simply works your body harder in the desired time-frame, which equals more weight lost.

Below are our top picks for calorie munching exercise, ranked from most intense to least.

Treadmill Running

Break out your running shoes, because jogging helps burn those calories fast. While you can hit the streets for some fresh air, it’s just as easy to jump on a treadmill at your local gym.

Make sure you push yourself – you need to maintain 11 km/h to burn the calories below. If you want a harder workout then up the incline and really work up a sweat.

Treadmill picture from Shutterstock

Male Calories

Fitbit — 527

My Fitness Pal — 494

Female Calories

Fitbit — 411

My Fitness Pal — 409

Elliptical Trainer

Also called a cross trainer, this stationary workout simulates running or stair climbing without any extra pressure on your joints. This is great if you are prone to impact damage or are recovering from an injury.

The elliptical trainer works out your upper and lower body for an intense overall workout.

Elliptical picture from Shutterstock

Male Calories

Fitbit — 452

My Fitness Pal — 387

Female Calories

Fitbit — 353

My Fitness Pal — 320

Stationary Bicycle

Riding a bike indoors without actually moving might seem weird, but it’s great exercise. Its low impact and you can easily scale from a light to heavy workout.

To really burn the calories though you will need to push yourself and aim for close to 30 km/h.

Stationary bike picture from Shutterstock

Male Calories

Fitbit — 452

My Fitness Pal — 451

Female Calories

Fitbit — 353

My Fitness Pal — 373


Want to work out all your muscle groups without needing any equipment? Callisthenics are a combinations of exercises such as sit-ups, jumping jacks and various gymnastics. They also help improve your balance, agility and co-ordination.

Callisthenics from Shutterstock

Male Calories

My Fitness Pal — 344

Fitbit — 301

Female Calories

My Fitness Pal — 284

Fitbit — 253


An often overlooked and undervalued workout, rowing works all the major muscle groups. It’s also very low impact and easy to work your arms or legs harder, depending on your routine.

Stationary rowing picture from Shutterstock

Male Calories

Fitbit — 320

My Fitness Pal — 365

Female Calories

Fitbit — 250

My Fitness Pal — 302

Ultimate Frisbee

Don’t have a gym near your house or work? Frisbee Ultimate is a fun way to burn some calories in your lunch break. You don’t need much equipment either. Check your local area as there are often groups who play pick-up games every day.

Frisbee picture from Shutterstock

Male Calories

Fitbit — 301

My Fitness Pal — 344

Female Calories

Fitbit — 235

My Fitness Pal — 284

Out of the Box Fitness

Think your Wii fit can compete with HIIT training? Even at high intensity it falls well behind your gym workout.

Wii Fit picture from Shutterstock

Wii Fit Exercise High Intensity

30 minutes

Male Calories150

Female Calories124


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