Which sport is the best for burning calories?

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Staying in shape can be easy for some people and unfortunately harder for others. Those who want to be in peak condition will usually head down to their local gym. Choosing to spend time sweating away on the machines or lifting heavy weights to dance music. There is no denying a gym workout is great for your health, but if you don’t enjoy the gym it can be hard to find an alternative. So, before you sign up for a 12 month gym membership that you’ll probably not get your money’s worth from. Why not take up a sport? It’s a great way to get in some exercise whilst having fun.


Sport gives you the opportunity to burn off a significant amount of calories and enjoy yourself at the same time. The number of calories burned will depend on the individuals weight and their physical capabilities, along with the sport itself and the intensity to which it is being played. So, looking at the statistics of calories burned per hour, here are your top 11 options. We’ve ordered this top 11 from least to most intensive. Please remember these are from approximated statistics and if your favourite sport isn’t here or you disagree with the order – it’s fine. The best exercise is the one that you enjoy enough to actually take part in.


Go BIG or go home! Basketball is a great sport full of running, jumping and constant lateral movement. You would struggle to find a player at the end of a game that hasn’t worked up a sweat. An hour’s worth of play is considered to burn off around 500-700 calories. It’s a fun team sport open to anyone and it also helps to build endurance and improve coordination and balance.

Sport - Basketball

Ice Hockey

Our friends at Manchester Storm will be happy to see Ice Hockey make our list, but they will know firsthand how much of a workout it can be. Ice skating alone can be a fun activity for calorie burning, but add to that the rapid and constant movements of a hockey game, then you have a full body workout that burns around 660 calories per hour. There is the added bonus of increased hand-eye coordination and demand of good decision-making.

Sport - Ice Hockey


Just watching a game of tennis gives your neck muscles a work out, now think about the players. The game improves aerobic and anaerobic fitness, speed, coordination and flexibility. An hour’s play of singles tennis is considered to burn around 600 – 800 calories; doubles tennis is still a great exercise but you don’t cover as much of the court.

Sport - Tennis

American Football

American football is a fast-growing sport here now thanks to the NFL’s UK fixtures and great local teams like the Manchester Titans (only a little favouritism here) increasing its popularity. Whether you are playing offence or defence, the sprints and quick changes in direction burns off a lot of calories. However, you don’t necessarily have to put on the large pads and risk getting squashed by the opponent’s defensive line to receive the fitness benefits from American Football. There are many flag and touch football leagues which allow you to play the game you love without the painful sacking!

Sport - American Football


Just like American football, rugby is a contact team sport involving lots of running and fast changes of direction. It is the perfect team sport to build strength, bone density, improve flexibility and your body’s cardiovascular system. An hour on the field can burn over 750 calories. Becoming a member of a team also helps build discipline and help with stress reduction.

Sport - Rugby


Swimming is widely regarded as one of the best exercises you can do, it works almost every muscle in your body with no impact to the joints. However, you cannot go to your local pool and simply practice your cannonballs for an hour and reap the benefits. An hour’s worth of slow front crawl can burn around 600 calories, whereas a faster pace and a butterfly stroke can burn up to 900 calories.

Sport - Swimming

Martial Arts

Whether you’re competing or simply practicing Jiu-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Karate or any other martial art you will be constantly burning calories. The requirement for constant and quick movements ensures a great work out and toning of your bodies muscles. You don’t even have to compete against others, you can simply take a class and stay out of the ring. The calorie count for martial arts is a tough one as some are much higher than others. However, an hour of very high intensity martial arts can burn up to 1,100 calories.

Sport - Martial Arts


Boxing is an amazing and intense workout, combining speed, strength and endurance. Constant motion and fast bursts of energy are required in this vigorous and impactful sport. The amount of calories burned will all depend on the number of rounds boxed, your weight and the quality of opponent. The average calories burned in one hour across all levels is around 820. But there will obviously be a major difference between stepping in a ring with Anthony Joshua and Anthony from down the round.

Sport - Boxing


The key to football is constant movement; you will walk, jog and sprint throughout a 90 minute game. Due to the way the game is played and the size of the pitch there is always opportunities to cover a lot of ground and get involved in many races with the opposing players – with the need to always get back into position. All of this improves a players muscle tone and lowers body fat. The average calories burned in one hour’s play is around 840. However, this is a tough one to calculate as it will always depend on the level to which you are playing and which position you play in. For instance, if Manchester United played Barnet, David De Gea may not burn as many calories as a Raheem Sterling playing in a cup final game.

Sport - Football


You only have to watch a game of squash to see the intensity of this sport. The amount of calories burned during this fast moving energetic game obviously depends on the speed and quality of yourself and your opponent. An average game is considered to burn around 900 calories per hour. The constant running, jumping and diving for the ball is amazing for cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

Sport - Squash


Some may not consider running as a sport, but I think Usain Bolt may disagree and he’s bigger than us. Obviously walking and jogging are a great exercise option, but as soon as you speed up the pace you begin to burn off more calories and start toning up muscles faster. You need to keep your speed above 8 – 10 mph for best calorie-burning potential. Cycling is a similar calorie burner as running, again the speed needs to be high, around 16 – 20 mph is optimum for calorie burning. In one hour, both can burn around 900 to 1,500 calorie. Obviously, all of this depends on the speed ran/cycled and the terrain.

Sport - Running

Whichever sport you do choose, don’t start at a high-level of intensity. Allow yourself to comfortably acclimatise to what you’re doing and work your way upwards. Choose one which is suitable for your health and capabilities. There are many other sports and activities to choose from that done a certain way could burn off more calories than the ones we have suggested. So don’t take our word for it, get out there – have fun and keep fit doing so.