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10 Ways to Burn More Calories Than the Elliptical

You hit the gym daily, eat right, and drink lots of water. But your workout routine is starting to get a little dull and repetitive, isn’t it? We’ve all been there. In fact, I myself am guilty of it! I used to spend an hour a day on the elliptical, toiling away watching my calorie burn go up while doing some major people watching at the student recreation center.

In an hour at level 5 resistance, the average female of 140 pounds can burn up to roughly 650 calories on the elliptical. This is great—but who wants to work out on the same machine day after day? Her Campus is here to offer you some other exercises that are more fun and burn at least the same amount of calories if not more while providing better results. Plus, isn’t it about time to put the spice back in your workout routine?

HC’s 10 Workout Alternatives to the Elliptical

1. Go hiking
600-700 calories per hour

For those of us who have the option of hiking in the outdoors, this is a great way to burn a serious amount of calories. And with the great spring weather starting to show its pretty face, you can get your tan on while working on your fitness! If you want to make a day out of it, pack a lunch, bring some friends and carry the picnic up the hike. This will add extra weight, which means you’ll be working off more calories. Enjoy the view and the lunch from the top—but don’t forget sunscreen!

2. Rollerblading
816 calories per hour

OK. This seems a little ‘80s throwback. But rollerblading is a very underrated cardio workout. We’re not talking roller skates that you wear at the roller rink. Some serious in-line roller blades will be needed for this exercise. You can find a great variety at Target or any sporting goods store. They are well worth the investment because they will last for years! And while you’re at it, remember to get some protective gear to prevent any unwanted bruises or scrapes. Elbow pads, kneepads, and a helmet are always a good call.

Megan Bianchetti, a student at the University of Oregon, switches up her normal cardio workout at the gym twice a week and opts for rollerblading instead. “It’s an awesome workout for your legs and abs, you will definitely feel sore the next day,” she explains. “A group of my friends established ‘Skate Saturdays’ where we rollerblade around campus all afternoon. It sounds dorky but it’s so much fun! I wear a heart rate monitor so I know how many calories I’m burning, and it’s always a lot.”

So take advantage of the sunny weather, strap on those blades and shred around town. You’ll get a serious sweat going while toning up your legs so they’re sexy by summer.

3. Rowing
800 calories per hour

You’re probably thinking, “Rowing? Really? Who has access to a canoe and river on their campus to even do this?” But fear not, most gyms now have the infamous rowing machine. This exercise simulates a rowing motion, putting resistance on the pull, which works your back, arm and core muscles. Here’s a guide to the proper technique when using this machine:

  • Stretch your arms in the direction of the flywheel while keeping them straight and your wrists flat. Maintain a straight back and lean forward with your upper torso and move the seat frontwards until your knees are fully bent.
  • Press your legs down while maintaining straight arms and a firm back. Slowly bend your arms and pull your upper torso back.
  • Pull on the handle until your elbows are behind your chest. The handles should be an inch from your abs. At the same time, tilt your upper body slightly back while keeping your legs extended.
  • Recover by stretching your arms back toward the flywheel. At the same time, your hips should follow your arms by bending your upper torso and sliding the seat forward.

It’s also a great cardio machine as well. Just look at those calories! Hello full body workout, goodbye boring elliptical.

4. Biking 
816 calories per hour

Looking to take a ride around town, explore the city, and hangout with friends at the same time? Although many of us picture riding the bike as a leisure activity, you can make your bicycle ride an intense workout by simply riding around the hills and bike paths in town. Instead of sitting in a sweaty room of people at spin class, get some fresh air and peddle along your favorite bike path outdoors.

If you don’t have a bike of your own, many campuses provide free bike rentals in their outdoor programs. Also, most bicycle stores offer daily rentals at reasonable rates. “On sunny weekend days I like to rent a bike from the UO outdoor program. It’s free and they give me great trail maps and routes around the city,” says Jeff Ackler, a junior at the University of Oregon.

5. Weight lifting
408 calories per hour

Although this exercise does not burn as many calories as the elliptical in an hour, it can be supplemented with any cardio workout to pack on the extra calorie burn. Plus, it’s always important to keep your muscles toned and strong. Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat, so you continue to expend calories hours after your workout, even if you’re just going about your daily routine. Lifting weights regularly will encourage your body to lose fat, reduce risk of injury and best of all, boost your endorphins!

Check out this HC article on an introduction to weight training. You can find some great tips and ideas for different workouts to strengthen and tone your muscles.


6. Running up the stairs
885 calories per hour

Stair runs. We usually only see them when the football team is training for season. But this exercise is an intense workout that combines leg strengthening with cardio. Stair runs are a high-impact workout whereas the elliptical is low-impact, meaning less weight-bearing on your joints. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, high-impact weight-bearing exercises such as stair climbing provide the best way to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Just think how tan you will be after running the stairs under the sun—and with a nice toned butt and thighs to match. So head over to the stadium on a sunny day, bring a friend along for mental support, and get to work!

7. Circuit Training
544 calories per hour

Just like the weight lifting spiel, when you combine this exercise with some cardio you will burn more than you would on the elliptical. Circuit training is often used to target every muscle group efficiently, building muscular endurance. It is a conditioning exercise that combines resistance training and high-intensity aerobics.

An exercise “circuit” is one completion of all prescribed exercises in the program (see example image above). For example, one circuit would include pushups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, and crunches all done for 45 seconds each with a 60-second rest period between each exercise. After 3 full completions of the circuit, you will definitely be feeling the burn!

Circuit training is extremely effective if you are trying to get a full body workout in a short amount of time. It also keeps your heart rate up, as you switch back and forth between exercises at a fast pace, burning fat and building your strength and cardio endurance.

8. Squash 
816 calories per hour

No, we’re not talking about the vegetable here, but rather the game called squash. I had heard about it, I’d even seen it once or twice, but I didn’t actually know how to play squash until my friend was telling me about how tired she was from her squash game. Squash combines speed, agility, hand-eye coordination, and aerobic fitness making it an intense cardio workout. This exercise targets all of your major leg muscles and is also great for your biceps and triceps. It’s basically tennis on steroids. There’s much more running, swinging, and sweat involved.

After finding out you can burn 800+ calories in just an hour of playing, I immediately rounded up a group and dragged them to the gym to play with me. But first I read this article, which gives the low down on this hidden gem of a sport.  Check it out to get caught up on everything from the rules of squash to the equipment you’ll need for your next match!

9. Swimming Laps
700 calories per hour

What’s a better way to cool off on a warm spring day than to jump in a refreshing pool?  Might as well get the most bang for your buck and swim laps in the pool to get a serious cardio workout. This is a great alterative to the cardio machines at the gym because you burn the same calories without all the sweat!

10. Running 
680 calories per hour

It seems simple, and may be as dull as the elliptical, but running is a timeless method of exercise and there’s reason for it. Running, we’re talking about a 10 minute mile here, keeps your heart rate up, tones your legs, works your core and provides that overall feeling of ‘ahh’ after. Whether it’s a painful ‘ahh’ or an ‘ahh’ of relief, running never fails to do a body good.

It’s always great to set a goal for yourself. For example, plan to train for a 5k and then ultimately work your way up to a half marathon. Collegietteä Allie Niebur tells of the benefits of her half-marathon training regimen: “I have a training schedule that starts about 10 weeks before the race. It includes weight lifting and cross training along with the running. I have already started noticing that my running time is getting faster and that the longer mile runs are getting a lot easier.”

This HC article explains all the necessary components that go into training for a 5k run. You can find details on everything from what type of shoes to wear to a specific training schedule to keep yourself on track. Work in weight lifting and stretching with the running routine and you’ll be in shape in no time!

Other fun activities that you didn’t know could burn calories:

  • Sex (yes, it’s fun AND a workout! Just remember to use protection!): 102 calories per hour
  • Playing Frisbee: 204 calories per hour
  • Stretching (think light yoga-esque stretching): 170 calories per hour
  • Snorkeling: 340 calories per hour

So next time you want to get in a good workout, try some of these exercises and switch up your typical routine. Not only will it be a nice change of pace, but it’s always good to exercise different muscle groups.

And if you REALLY don’t want to give up the elliptical just yet, you can always incorporate different speeds and intervals to keep it interesting. You know, not just stay at level 5 the entire time. Here is a great step-by-step HC guide on how to get the most out of your elliptical workout.

Jeff Ackler – student at the University of Oregon
Megan Bianchetti – student at the University of Oregon
Allie Niebur – student at the University of Oregon

Photo Sources

Ainslie Forsum is in her junior year at the University of Oregon, majoring in Journalism with a focus in Magazine and Public Relations. The last two summers she has completed marketing internships with Variety in Los Angeles and Seventeen Magazine in New York. Although she loves the exciting lifestyle of event planning and public relations, she has always had a soft spot for writing. She enjoys a good challenge of wit, preferably over a cup of coffee, which has become a dietary staple in her life. When she’s not at Starbucks, she can be found perusing travel magazines planning her next adventure abroad, trying out a new recipe in the kitchen or catching up with her favorite celeb gossip site, Perez Hilton. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in magazine journalism.
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