Weight loss is the most common fitness goal people want to accomplish. In fact, according to weight-loss statistics compiled for 2024, 95% of individuals want to lose weight to support a greater sense of well-being and 85% want to improve their fitness. In order to shed unwanted pounds and body fat, establishing a calorie deficit is key, along with performing regular strength training and cardio. Many people automatically assume that they have to spend hours slogging away on a treadmill to lose weight, but that's simply not the case. There are plenty of different forms of cardio and workouts you can implement into your weight-loss journey. That's why we've rounded up 15 of the best cardio exercises for faster weight loss.
Keep in mind that within your cardio workouts, you must incorporate both steady-state and interval training. Steady-state is excellent for building endurance and heart health, whereas interval training is more for fat burn, improving your anaerobic power, and increasing your VO2 max.
So without further delay, here's our list of the 15 best cardio exercises and workouts for faster weight loss.
1. Incline Treadmill Walk
To perform this steady-state workout, hop on the treadmill, and set it at the highest incline—which is typically 15 degrees—and adjust the speed to 2.5 to 3.5 mph. Walk at this pace and incline for at least 20 minutes, and see your heart rate increase. You can also try an incline walking routine like the viral 12-3-30.
2. Steady-State Rowing
Head to the rowing machine for this aerobic workout that's stellar if you're interested in learning proper rowing form and boosting your aerobic endurance. Set the length of time that works best with your schedule (10, 20, or 30 minutes), and row at a pace you can keep up with throughout the duration.
3. Steady-State Stair Climber
Begin climbing on the stair climber. If you're a first-timer, go at a comfortable pace you're able to maintain for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Once you build up more endurance (or if you're a bit more of an intermediate level), feel free to crank up the speed, or climb for at least 30 minutes.
4. Steady-State Swimming
Begin swimming for 20 to 30 minutes. Be mindful of your technique, and try to maintain a steady stroke pace. When your endurance improves, you can set a distance goal for yourself to make things interesting and a bit more challenging.
5. Jump Rope
The jump rope is one of the best cardio and conditioning tools to burn calories and lose weight. If you're a beginner to jump roping, focus on learning proper technique and building up your endurance. Start with sets of 30 seconds to a minute, and slowly increase time as you get more comfortable. Work up to five minutes, then eventually 10 for a great cardio workout.
6. Stair Workout
To get started, find a place near your home where there are lots of steps. Check out bleachers, parks, and more, then perform several laps up and down. You can set a timer to do as many as possible, or challenge yourself with a lap goal.
7. Steady-State Bike
Hop on an exercise bike, and go at a moderately challenging pace that you can maintain for 30 minutes. If you don't like being on an exercise bike, you can cycle outside. Find a route in your area, and conquer it! If you want more of a challenge, select a trail or route with hills for you to climb, and get going.
8. Exercise Bike Intervals
Check out this interval-style routine you can do on a stationary bike that'll help you burn calories and body fat:
- Work 30 seconds, rest 10 seconds
- Work 30 seconds, rest 10 seconds
- Work 15 seconds, rest 15 seconds
- Work 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds
- Work 20 seconds, rest 20 seconds
- Work 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds
- Work 10 seconds, rest 10 seconds
- Work 10 seconds, rest 40 seconds
- Work 15 seconds, rest 15 seconds
- Work 15 seconds, rest 45 seconds
9. Stair Climber Intervals
Start with an easy two-minute warmup, then begin 30-second intervals of fast-paced climbing, followed by 30 seconds at your regular pace. Perform this for 15 to 20 minutes, followed by a two to three-minute cooldown afterward.
10. Incline Treadmill Intervals
Start this interval workout with your legs outside of the belt. Set your treadmill to a 10% incline and the speed a little higher than your typical jog pace. Once the incline and speed are set, hop onto the belt, and sprint hard for 30 seconds. Once you sprint for 30 seconds, grab the handles on the side, and carefully jump back onto the stable non-moving part of the treadmill. Rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat this workout for 10 rounds.
11. Hill Runs
Hill runs are an incredible tool to burn fat to lose weight. They can be done as a standalone workout or a finisher after a long steady-state cardio run.
Find a hill in your local community that you can run up. You'll start at the base, and sprint uphill as fast as you can until you reach the very top. Once you reach the top, turn back around, and walk down slowly and steadily to where you started. Get your heart rate down, and catch your breath. Then, repeat for three to five rounds.
12. Rower Intervals
A great way to burn extra calories is to perform intervals on the rowing machine. If you're just getting into it, then you can begin with shorter sprints: Start with 5 sets of 200 meters, rest twice as long as you took to finish in between. Try to maintain the same pace with each set. If you're more conditioned, you can do 4 sets of 250 meters or 5 sets of 300 meters.
13. Track Workout
If you have access to a track, you can incorporate low-intensity work there. Besides walking at a brisk pace, you can jog lightly for several laps, too. Try to get in one to two miles at a minimum.
Want a bit more of a challenge at the track? Alternate between stretches of your long walks with bodyweight walking lunges. Try brisk walking for a ¼ mile, then performing lunges for 60 seconds, then back to walking. Repeat for as many sets as possible.
14. Bodyweight Circuit
One of the best ways to burn calories and lose weight is to perform a bodyweight circuit. When you do multiple exercises back to back for higher reps and short periods, it becomes a great cardio workout.
Here's a sample bodyweight circuit. Perform each movement back to back, aiming for three to four sets.
Bodyweight Squats (x15 reps)
Keep your torso upright and your core tight. Sit back onto your heels and hips until they are parallel to the ground. Then, come back up, flexing your glutes and quads at the top.
Walking Lunges (x10 to 15 reps per leg)
Begin the movement by taking a long stride and stepping forward with one leg. Firmly plant your foot, then lower yourself under control until your back knee gently touches the ground. Then, step through with your other leg, and repeat.
Butt Kickers (x15 reps per leg)
With your hands out to your sides, begin to kick your heels back toward your glutes, flexing your hamstrings with each rep.
High Knees (x10 reps per leg)
Keeping your torso upright and your core tight, start to march your knees up above your hips back and forth.
15. Dumbbell Cardio Circuit
In addition to bodyweight circuits, you can also do a series of movements with a light pair of dumbbells for higher reps. Here's a sample workout below. Perform each movement back to back, aiming for three to four sets.
Dumbbell Deadlifts (x10 reps)
Place a dumbbell in front of you with your feet planted outside shoulder-width. Keep your chest tall and your core tight, squat down, and grab the weight. Drive through your heels and hips to come back up, flexing your glutes and quads to finish. Place the dumbbell back down to the starting position before performing another rep.
Dumbbell Pronated Rows (x10 reps)
Plant one hand and the same leg on a workout bench. Keep your core tight and your chest tall. With a dumbbell in your opposite hand, drive the weight back toward your body, keeping your elbow flared out. Squeeze your upper back and rear delt hard at the top of the motion, then resist on the way back down. Get a solid stretch at the bottom before performing another rep.
Dumbbell Push Press (x10 reps)
Grab a pair of dumbbells, and hold them at shoulder height with your palms facing each other. Keep your core tight, and dip into a quarter squat. Explode back up, using the momentum to press the dumbbells overhead. Using control, lower back down into the starting position before performing another rep.
Dumbbell Walking Lunges (x10 reps per leg)
Start this exercise with a dumbbell in each hand. Step forward with one leg, and firmly plant your foot on the floor. Then, lower your body until your back knee gently touches the floor. Walk forward with the opposite leg, and repeat.