12 Sports and Recreational Activities and the Calories They Burn

man swimming
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Everybody wants to burn the most calories in the least amount of time, so it would be helpful to know which sports and rec­reational activities do the job. Here are 12 activities and the approximate number of calories they burn. Before launching into any of these activities, be sure to consult your doctor -- and always remember to warm up and stretch.


1: Running

Woman running on path
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­Burning about 450 calories every 30 minutes (based on an eight-minute mile), running also gives a fantastic cardiorespiratory workout. Leg strength and endurance are maximized, but few benefits accrue to the upper body. Warm up thoroughly, wear the proper shoes and keep a moderate pace to avoid injury.


2: Rock Climbing

Men playing outdoor sport.
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Rock climbing relies on quick bursts of energy to get from one rock to the next. It won't do a lot for your heart, but your strength, endurance and flexibility will greatly benefit, and you'll burn about 371 calories every half hour.


3: Swimming

olympic swimming

­Swimming provides an excellent overall body workout, burning up to 360 calories in a half hour depending on the stroke used. However, most people have difficulty maintaining proper form for that long. The best swim workout is based on interval training; swim two lengths, catch your breath and then repeat.


4: Cycling

olympic cyclist

Cycling is an excellent non-weight-bearing exercise (meaning that your weight isn't being supported by your body). Depending on your speed, it burns around 300 or 400 calories in a half hour. Cycling provides a great cardio workout and builds up those thighs and calves. However, it doesn't provide much in the way of an upper body workout.


5: Boxing

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­If you're game enough to step into the ring, you'll be rewarded with a 324-calorie deficit for every half hour of slugging it out boxing. In addition, your cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular endurance will go through the roof. Make sure you're match fit, though, or it may be all over before you build up a sweat!


6: Racquetball

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Churning through about 300 calories in 30 minutes, racquetball gives you a fantastic cardiorespiratory workout, builds lower body strength and endurance, and, with all that twisting and pivoting, develops great flexibility around the core (back and abs). Just warm up first to avoid twisting an ankle.


7: Basketball

Tow young men playing basketball
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­The nonstop action of b-ball will see you dropping around 288 calories every half hour, while at the same time developing flexibility, endurance and cardiorespiratory health. But warm up properly because the sudden twists and turns can be high risk for the unprepared.


8: Rowing

surfboat in australia
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Burning about 280 calories per half hour, rowing is a very effective way to rid yourself of extra energy. It also builds up endurance, strength and muscle in your shoulders, thighs and biceps. The key to rowing is in the technique -- coordinate the legs, back and arms to work as one. Kayaking and canoeing each burn around 170 calories in a half hour.


9: Tennis

tennis net
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Here's a fun game that demands speed, agility, strength and reaction time. It consumes about 250 to 300 calories in a half-hour session, providing a great opportunity to burn excess calories while developing cardiorespiratory fitness. Wear proper footwear to avoid ankle injuries.


10: Cross-country Skiing

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­The very fact that you're out in the snow has already fired up your metabolism. As soon as you start mushing through it, you'll be churning through those calories at the rate of 270 every half hour. The varied terrain will provide a great interval training workout, too!

11: Ice Skating

ice skates

­Ice skating gives you all the benefits of running without the joint stress. A half hour on the ice consumes about 252 calories. Skating provides an excellent workout for your thighs, calves, hamstrings and buttocks. The twists and turns also tighten and tone your abs. Holding out your arms helps you balance and also works the deltoids, biceps and triceps.

12: Swing Dancing


Yes, y­ou can dance your way to fitness! Swing dancing burns about 180 calories in a half hour and gives you a moderately intense aerobic workout. You'll be developing flexibility, core strength and endurance -- and you won't even feel like you're exercising. So, get out there and celebrate the joy of movement!

To learn more, check out 20 Everyday Activities and the Calories They Burn.