Kickboxing is more than a pure cardio event -- it lets you release pent-up tension or aggression, improves your balance and strengthens your core. Thanks to the different muscle groups activated by your jabs and kicks, you’re also toning body parts that don’t usually get a workout when you run, walk or cycle.
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Everyone burns calories at a different rate, so the number of calories you burn in a kickboxing class probably won’t be exactly the same as other people in your class. Your sex, age and body composition all influence the rate at which you burn calories. In addition, people with larger bodies and more muscle tend to burn calories faster. For example, if your kickboxing instructor weighs the same that you do but her frame carries far more muscle than fat, she’ll burn calories faster than you will. As a result, any estimate of calories burned per session will remain just that -- an estimate -- since it doesn’t take into account your weight or body composition.
Average Calories Burned in a Kickboxing Session
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) studied four different types of kickboxing classes to determine an average calorie burn. The study, headed by Dr. Len Kravitz, looked at four types of kickboxing classes: those that emphasize the upper body, the lower body, a combination of both, and a fourth type that added conditioning training such as jumping rope. The study followed 15 women, each weighing an average of 135 lbs. In an hour, most women burned between 350 to 450 calories.
Kickboxing Styles and Calorie Burn
According to the ACE study, women burned the most calories in classes that worked both the upper and lower body. Overall, the study noted that relying on upper-body exercises burns approximately 6.45 calories per minute, while combining upper- and lower-body moves boosts the burn to an average of 8.3 calories per minute.
Boost Your Calorie Burn
As you tone up and gain muscle, your body becomes more efficient and you'll burn fewer calories during your kickboxing workout. You'll need to increase your intensity and add in strength training to burn the same number of calories you did when you were less conditioned. If you aren’t doing so already, incorporate two to three weekly sessions of resistance training into your fitness routine. According to Ross O’ Donnell, author of “The Ultimate Fitness Boxing & Kickboxing Workout,” your body burns between 35 and 50 more calories per day for every pound of muscle you pack on. Strength training, he notes, also gives you additional energy, up to 27 percent. You’ll lose up to 6 lbs. per year, he writes, just in a resistance training work alone.
Kickboxing vs. Other Activities
Harvard Medical School calculated the number of calories burned in popular gym and outdoor activities for people at three different weights. Their lowest weight studied -- 125 lbs. -- is closest to the average weight cited in the ACE study. Harvard’s study concluded that a 125-lb. person will burn 180 calories in an hour of weight lifting, 540 calories in an hour on the elliptical machine and 240 calories in an hour-long walk at a 15-minute-mile pace. In comparison with kickboxing, only intensive cardio-centric activities like jogging, fast cycling or a spin on the elliptical machine can increase your calorie burn.