If you have ambitious workout goals and are anxious to find an exercise that burns 500 calories in half an hour, you've got your work cut out for you. Not only is it difficult to burn 500 calories in such a short period of time, but it might also be impractical based on your weight. Don't get distracted by the calorie burn of a given exercise -- as long as you're active, your body is reaping rewards.
Select an exercise that burns calories at a rapid rate and is possible to perform for 30 continuous minutes. According to data from Harvard Health Publications, very few exercises provide a calorie burn consistent with burning 500 calories in 30 minutes. The website notes that for a person who weighs 185 pounds, only bicycling, handball and running burn at least 500 calories in half an hour. For a varied workout, consider 30 minutes of interval training, in which you run and sprint on a treadmill.
Perform an exercise such as bicycling, handball and running for 30 minutes at a high tempo. Handball's calorie burn is subject to several variables of the game, while it's easier to control the calorie burn of bicycling and running. In each of these activities, keeping a high tempo is key. Harvard reports a 185-pound person must maintain a cycling pace of at least 16 to 19 mph and a running pace of at least 7.5 mph to burn a minimum of 500 calories in 30 minutes. If you choose interval training to burn 500 calories, spend 30 minutes running at a variety of paces. "Shape" magazine suggests spending three minutes warming up, and then alternating three minutes of running with 1.25 minutes of sprinting, followed by a four-minute cool-down period, for 30 minutes.
Perform the exercise several times a week to benefit your physical and mental health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week for a long list of health benefits. Benefits of this type of activity include a healthier heart and lungs, higher endurance, weight management or loss and lower blood pressure.
Your weight partially dictates how quickly you burn calories in any exercise. While a 185-pound person burns about 555 calories running at 7.5 mph for 30 minutes, a person who weighs 155 pounds burns only 465 calories during the same run. It's not always practical to exercise as a high tempo. For example, you can burn more calories in 60 minutes of jogging at a moderate pace than 30 minutes of running as fast as you can. Always consult your doctor before attempting any form of exercise, and especially an up-tempo workout.
Don't be vigilant about burning 500 calories in half an hour. If you're only able to burn 300 or 400 calories during this span, the workout is still effective. Setting an unrealistic goal can lead to discouragement or even injury.