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Sports That Burn a Lot of Calories

by Jay Schwartz

About Jay Schwartz

Jay Schwartz has had articles printed by the "Chicago Tribune," "USA Today" and many other publications since 1983. He's covered health, fitness, nutrition, business, real estate, government, features, sports and more. A Lafayette, Pa. college graduate, he's also written for several Fortune 500 corporate publications and produced business newsletters.


The number of calories you burn while playing sports depends on how active you are during the game or event. In baseball, the average pitcher will burn far more calories than the average right fielder, because pitchers generally exert far more energy and effort. Participants in individual sports such as track and field generally burn far more calories than participants in team sports, for the same reason. The more you weigh, the more calories you burn in any activity.


Running burns more calories than any other sport, according to "Calories Burned" stories by the Harvard Heart Letter and the state of Wisconsin. Running a mile in 5.5 minutes is the No. 1 weight-loss activity in Wisconsin's study of 175 activities. You burn 1,553 calories, or almost half a pound, if you weigh 190 pounds and run that fast, 10.9 mph, for an hour. This equates to 143 calories per mile. A marathoner running at this pace will burn about 3,750 calories. Bicycling and swimming are the second- and fourth-best exercises for burning calories in Harvard's study of 150 activities. Handball is third. Bicycling more than 20 mph burns 1,466 calories per hour if you weigh 185 pounds, while swimming the freestyle and butterfly strokes burns 976 calories per hour.


One-on-one sports often burn hundreds of calories, because each individual needs to expend a lot of energy to compete against the opponent. Boxing burns 1,035 calories per hour if you're 190 pounds, according to the Wisconsin study. This means that a 12-round, 36-minute fight will burn 621 calories. Judo, karate, kickboxing and taekwondo all burn 863 calories per hour in 190-pound people, according to the Wisconsin study. Wrestling wasn't measured by the Wisconsin study, but it burns 532 calories hourly, according to the Harvard Heart Letter.

Racket Sports

The importance of individual sports is demonstrated in the statistics for racket sports. Singles tennis burns 690 calories per hour if you weigh 190 pounds, but doubles tennis burns 518, according to the Wisconsin study. You would also burn more calories if your match consists primarily of long rallies rather than points that ended after the serves. Jai alai and squash are both excellent weight-loss sports; you will burn 1,035 calories per hour playing them if you weigh 190 pounds. Racquetball burns 863 calories hourly, while badminton burns 604.

Team Sports

Most team sports burn significantly fewer calories than individual sports. The top weight-loss sport in the Harvard study is water polo, which ranks tied for 11th. It burns 888 calories per hour if you weigh 185 pounds. Football ranks second among team sports, but is tied for 20th overall. It burns 800 calories per hour. Beach volleyball, field hockey, ice hockey and basketball burn 710. Soccer burns 622, but a midfielder who runs back and forth will burn more calories than goalies who aren't required to save many shots. Billiards is last at 222 calories per hour.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.