Which Sports Really Burn The Most Calories?

A while back, Harvard University released a scientific breakdown of various sports and the number of calories burned per 30 minutes of said activity.

While this study gave us great scientific insight into how each sport affects our body, in the real world, we don’t play sports in 30-minute increments. 

But why is that a problem? Let’s take a look at Billiards. A fun, relatively easy game. And wow! 93 Calories burned per 30 minutes of game time! Not too shabby. 

But wait…the average Billiards game only lasts 10 minutes…

Can you see the problem here?

So here’s what we’ve done. We’ve spent time investigating numerous datasets and habits of real people to understand how many calories you can expect to burn in the average real-life use case of each activity. 

Highest Calorie burning sports & activities

We’ve kicked off with some obvious ones. If you’ve spent a day on the slopes, you’ll know just how taxing this is. Given that the average person spends around 8 hours on the slopes, performing a highly demanding physical activity, it’s a no brainer that it racks up some serious calorie burn. 

Closely trailing that is Marathon running. Perhaps not as many calories as you might expect but considering the average marathon runner is done in just over 4 hours, it’s a fairly quick way to burn a huge chunk of calories. 

Then comes the most surprising one on the list. Skip the golf cart and carry your bag and you’re looking at burning a whopping 1,600 calories out on the green golfing. With the average 18-hole run lasting upwards of 4 hours, you probably aren’t aware of just much walking you’re doing alongside the usual range of golf motions. 

Then comes our typical match sports. Basketball, Soccer and Tennis all pack a considerable punch given their varying, yet generally short, match times. 

Lowest Calorie burning sports & activities 

Frankly, all of these shocked me. Despite being a high activity sport, the average boxing match just doesn’t last all that long when you take out stoppages. If we were to look at an average 6-round bout, you’re looking at breaking just over 40 minutes in the ring. That’s not to say it’s not an incredibly taxing sport but if you’re looking at pure calorie burn then you might be surprised.

Next up, a leisurely cycle around the park, while great at getting you active, doesn’t burn quite as many calories as you’d think. You’ll have to pick up some serious pace if you want to burn more than a few hundred calories for the average 40-minute ride around the park. Far more than the leisurely pace most will go at.

Next up, Billiards might seem great on paper, burning 93 calories per 30 minutes, but you’d have to play 3 matches back to back if you wanted to clock up that amount of time on average. 

Fencing is another that surprised me here. That said, when you start to dig into the strict time requirements of this sport it all makes sense. With a hard time limit of 5 minutes per period, that limits a match to just 15 minutes. Even if you decided to play a number of matches back to back, you’d struggle to rack up any meaningful calorie burn.

Finally, while it may seem like a game of bowling can last hours when you’re enjoying an evening with friends, the truth is, strip out the stop-start and social aspect of the game and you’ll find yourself spending just 10 minutes actively bowling per game – barely long enough to burn a fraction of those post-game nachos!

How do these compare to day-to-day activities?

So how do these sports stack up compared to other day-to-day activities? Well, you’ll be surprised to know that during the average 8 hour day of office work you’ll burn around 800 calories. 

Everyday chores like dinner and vacuuming will set you back between 90-120 calories. 

An average hour long drive into work will cost you surprisingly high amount of calories as will an hour of your favourite TV show.

Oh and if you’re wondering, a night under the sheets will set you back almost twice as many calories as an average game of bowling!

About this data

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but calorie count varies from person to person.

First off, we’re looking at an average, healthy and able-bodied person weighing approximately 155lbs. 

Each sport in our study takes into account the typical duration spent by the average person. We want to represent real-life calorie burn here based on the realistic amount of time spent in each sport based on various habits of real people.

Naturally, you must understand that calorie burn isn’t everything. While sports such as Boxing may not burn as many calories, Boxers still require strict diet and training regimes in order to keep on top of their game. 

What does this mean?

Look. Any activity is a good activity and we’re not here to tell you any of these activities aren’t worth it. However, it’s important to understand the impact of each exercise you partake in.

If you’re serious about burning calories, the fact is, some activities are just better than others – especially if you enjoy them. While things like Billiards and Bowling may sound great on paper, in real life, they just don’t stack up compared to sports like Soccer and Tennis, despite having a fairly similar burn rate per 30 minutes.

We hope this data will help you to fully understand the real world implications of calorie burn and how that translates into your daily routine.

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