Running a 5K is a great way to challenge yourself while toning muscles and trimming body fat. "You can't find an easier and more efficient way to burn calories than running," says Julie Isphording, Olympic marathon runner and author of Get Healthy. Get Happy: How to Make Small Changes That Give You Big Results. "Studies show that running increases your resting metabolic rate, meaning you burn more calories even at rest, improving body composition by reducing body fat."
Benefits: Running works your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, as well as the heavy-duty core muscles in your abdomen and lower back. It also releases endorphins, stimulates creativity and elevates your mood, according to Isphording.
Get started:"Start with a base run of about 15 minutes three days a week and add three minutes to your workout every seven days," suggests Isphording for new racers. Once you've worked up to about 30 minutes or a 5K distance, sign up for a race in your area. More experienced racers can train to move a little faster, incorporating intervals and speed drills into their routines.
Calories Burned: 620 per hour (running at a speed of 6 mph).
In the sweltering summer heat, swimming can be a soothing and sweat-free way to burn calories.
Benefits: This non-impact sport works your body from head to toe while building endurance, reducing blood pressure and decreasing resting heart rate. Muscles targeted vary from stroke to stroke, but most hit the abdominals, biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, chest, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves.
Get Started: Swimming a mile is a good goal, and depending on your speed, it can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to swim that distance. Build up slowly, adding more laps each week, until you've gotten up to a mile. Then incorporate a little speed work such as length and half-length sprints to improve your time. Since you're in a different medium, a thorough warm-up is essential. Take a few easy laps in the pool or jog lightly before entering the water.
Calories Burned: 496 calories per hour
The wind in your hair, the sun on your face and the thrill of speed are just three reasons to try road cycling - not to mention that it's the perfect excuse to wear spandex shorts that show off your quads!
Benefits: Cycling improves cardiovascular endurance, increases metabolism and builds a killer set of legs. It's also low-impact and works wonders for stress reduction and balance.
To stay safe while cycling, follow these guidelines:
Calories Burned: 496 calories per hour (biking at a speed of 12 to 14 mph)
Fat-Burning Tip: Sure, it's fun to ride as fast as possible on a flat road, but to bump your caloric burn and burn out those quads, tackle a few hills along the way.
Written by Lara McGlashan for Oxygen Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.