Burn More Calories in Less Time
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Burn More Calories in Less Time

Your workout of choice could determine the amount of time you need to exercise to fight weight gain. Find out how much time you should clock at the gym and which workouts will help you peel off the pounds in a hurry.

An hour of play keeps the pounds away. That's the word from a Harvard study that seeks to finally settle just how much daily exercise it takes to fend off weight gain. But here's the fine print: Scientists found that the secret to staying slim for the 30,000-plus women they followed was more about calories burned, not time clocked. In other words, do a tougher workout -- like running at a 10-minute-mile pace -- and you'll need only about two hours total a week to melt enough calories (1,280, based on a 140-pound woman) to save your size, compared with the roughly seven weekly hours it would take at a 20-minute-mile walking pace.

The women in a recent Harvard study who successfully maintained a healthy weight completed a certain total of weekly exercise that was tallied in METs (metabolic equivalents), a scientific measure -- used to calculate calories burned -- of how much effort is involved in any given physical activity. To reach the magic number of 21.5 METs a week, you could do a 7 MET activity, like playing soccer, about three hours a week or a 10 MET activity, like swimming fast freestyle laps, about two hours a week. Use the METs chart below to tab up your weekly pastimes.

Activity METS
Walking (3 mph) 3.3
Bicycling (moderate) 8
Calisthenics 3.5
Circuit training (cardio intervals) 8
Dancing (general) 6.5
Elliptical trainer (moderate) 6.5
Frisbee 3
Gardening 4
Hiking 6
In-line skating 12
Jumping rope 10
Pilates 3
Running (5 mph) 8
Running (6 mph) 10
Running (6.7 mph) 11
Running (7 mph) 11.5
Running (7.5 mph) 12.5
Soccer 7
Stairclimber 9
Spinning (moderate) 7
Swimming (general) 6
Swimming laps (breaststroke) 10

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, June 2010.