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If you're looking to reduce body fat, an efficient exercise program -- combined with a sensible diet -- should help you achieve your goal. You have many forms of exercise, and many choices within each group, from which to select. Doing something is always better than being a couch potato, but performing the best fat-burning exercises is even better. Remember that you must burn 3,500 extra calories to lose 1 pound of fat.
According to a list prepared by Harvard Health Publications, the best calorie-burning exercises are bicycling at 20 mph or running at 10 mph. If you weigh 155 pounds, either exercise will burn 614 calories in 30 minutes. But not everyone can run or bike fast enough, or long enough, to make running or biking the best activity for every exerciser. Additionally, while strength training typically won't burn as many calories in the short run as aerobic exercise, the added muscle you build burns more calories than does fat. So building a stronger body may help eliminate more fat in the long run. Your choices depend on factors including your body type and physical capabilities. For example, an obese but muscular person may be better off performing aerobic exercise, such as riding a stationary bike, while someone who lacks muscle mass should probably incorporate strength training as a key part of a weight-loss routine.
No matter how fast you can move, aerobic exercise is probably your best bet to decrease body fat in the short term. Running at 7.5 mph -- an 8-minute mile pace -- burns 375 calories in 30 minutes if you weigh 155 pounds, while running at 6 mph still burns 300 calories. Bicycling at 16 to 19 mph burns 360 calories in 30 minutes. If you require a low-impact option, stationary biking burns 315 calories in a half hour for a 155-pound exerciser, while vigorous lap swimming slices about 300 calories. Rope jumping is another efficient aerobic exercise, which burns about 430 calories in 30 minutes if you weigh 160 pounds, according to MayoClinic.com.
Competitive sports typically don't help you burn as many calories per minute as the best aerobic exercises. But you may burn more calories overall by playing sports if you find competitive activities more motivating than solo aerobic pursuits. In other words, you'll probably burn more calories playing basketball all afternoon than if you run for 30 minutes. Harvard Health Publications lists handball as the top calorie-consuming sport, in which you'll burn 360 calories per half hour if you weigh 155 pounds. MayoClinic.com notes that 30 minutes of basketball, touch or flag football, or singles tennis will all slice 292 calories for a 160-pounder.
For strength training, you can choose from a variety of specific exercises, using tools such as weight machines, free weights or exercise bands. Body-weight exercises can also do the job, particularly if you don't have access to a gym. In the short term, a 155-pound exerciser trims about 90 to 180 calories in 30 minutes of weight training. To increase your calorie burn, perform a circuit of six to 10 strength exercises, resting very briefly or not at all between activities, to burn 240 calories in a half hour, while reaping the long-term gains of increased muscle mass. Your circuit can include any type of strength-training activities you wish. If in doubt, perform compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, and chest and shoulder presses. You can even mix in an aerobic exercise or two -- such as jumping rope or riding a stationary bike -- for an increased calorie burn.
Working with kettlebells is a form of strength training. But a kettlebell workout also has an aerobic component, particularly if you incorporate swinging exercises, for which kettlebells are ideal. A 2010 American Council of Exercise study determined that a kettlebell circuit, with exercises such as between-the-legs swings, deadlifts and walking lunges, among others, can burn as many as 20 calories per minute.