Workout surprise! 'Low intensity' sports burn more calories than you think

Average 'real-life' duration of different sport activities show a better image of how many calories you can burn doing them

Low calorie burning sports
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Doing any kind of sport activity is more beneficial than sitting on the sofa watching TV. That said, some activities will burn more calories than others: we all know that HIIT workouts can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, but what if we told you that some 'low calorie burn' sports can burn more calories than running a marathon, taking their average 'real-life' duration into consideration?

Over a decade ago, Harvard conducted a study trying to find out how many calories different sport activities burn in half an hour. As always, people looked at the results and drew their own conclusions: 'general weightlifting' is not good for calorie burning, while 'vigorous stationary cycling' will most likely help you lose belly fat. The truth is, resistance training (weightlifting being the most well-known type) is great for long term weight loss as it increases muscle mass which in turn will help boost metabolism and burn more calories by raising you basal metabolic rate. However, a casual cycling session in the park will burn less calories than brisk walking, when done for the same amount of time.

Talking about duration of exercising: in a recent article, Skilled Golf looked at a range of different sport activities to see how many calories you can actually burn throughout the average 'real-life' duration of these sports because let's face it, not all sports are played for half an hour only at a time. Some, like the aforementioned HIIT workouts and pub sports such as billiard, will only be performed for 10-20 at the time, while others will be played for hours if not a whole day.

Skiing is one of those activities that's considered a 'low calorie burn' sport yet burns a surprisingly large amount of calories when done for long enough. According to the Skilled Gold research, an average 8-hour skiing day will burn whopping 3,345 calories which is almost a 1,000 calories more than what you'd burn running a marathon. Granted, running a marathon will 'only' take four hours but again, we are talking about 'real-life' duration of sports here. You are likely spend most of your time on the slopes riding your snowboard recording all your adventures on an action camera so you can brag about your skiing holiday to all your friends when you get back home.

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Even more surprisingly, playing golf can burn a lot of calories too. An average 18-hole golf game can last for up to four hours and should you opt-in for walking as opposed using the golf car, you are looking at burning over 1,600 calories per game. Carrying that golf bag around and swinging the golf club for hours on end will evidently keep you in shape.

On the other end of the scale you'll find sport activities are considered high-intensity, yet in reality, they burn very few calories (comparatively). A casual 40-minute cycling ride will only burn 260 calories and even more shockingly, a 6-round, 40-minute boxing match will burn less than 500 calories at a time. That said, boxers will burn ample amount of calories during training, just have a look at the gruelling bodyweight workout Mike Tyson used to do back in the day. At the back of the list is bowling, a 'sport' activity that barely burns 50 calories per a 10-minute session. You're better off doing boxing workouts, like this 12-minute boxing full body workout from the brilliant trainers over at FightCamp.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.