Calories Burned During Physical Activity

By Barbara Gordon, RDN, LD
Group playing basketball

boggy22/ iStock /Getty Images Plus

Are you a sports fanatic? Do you love running around a ballfield, hanging out with buddies, being part of a team and competing for fun?

Being active can help both your mind and your body. Sports and physical activities are a great way to relieve some of the stress of everyday life. Individuals who play team sports for fun and engage in physical activity may have increased levels of self-esteem and decreased symptoms of depression. According to the latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, being active may help:

  • Manage blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Reduce risk for certain cancers.
  • Slow or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduce anxiety and improve sleep.

Being a Team Player Can Help You Meet Physical Activity Goals

Adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. This includes aerobic exercises and strength-building activities twice a week. Joining a league or intramural team can help you meet that goal! For children, six to 17 years of age, one hour or more per day of moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity is recommended. Kids also need to do activities that strengthen muscles and bones three days per week.

Aerobic + muscle-strengthening + bone-strengthening:

  • Aerobic activity gets your heart going. Walking quickly, running or dashing about the handball court are examples of aerobic activities. It may include walking, skipping and jumping at different times of the day, as opposed to long bouts of activity all at once.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities for adults and adolescents may include weightlifting, some forms of yoga and resistance training exercises. Activities that strengthen muscles in children include climbing on playground equipment and gymnastics.
  • Bone-strengthening activities can also be aerobic like running, jumping rope, and playing basketball or help to strengthen muscles, such as gymnastics.

Ballpark Estimates of Calories Burned

Do you ever wonder how many calories you burn playing Frisbee with the dog and the kids, dashing around the basketball court or playing golf with friends? Most of us know that the intensity of physical activity influences the number of calories burned. But, did you know that individuals who weigh more usually burn calories more quickly than those who weigh less?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide estimates of calories burned during various activities for both moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity. The estimates apply to a 154-pound individual. Listed below are some calorie estimates for common activities performed at moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity levels for one hour.

  • Golf (plus walking and carrying clubs): 330 calories
  • Bicycling (less than 10 mph/more than 10 mph): 290/590 calories
  • Basketball: 440 calories
  • Vigorous running: 590 calories
  • Walking (3.5 mph/4.5 mph): 280/460 calories
  • Hiking: 370 calories
  • Swimming freestyle laps: 510 calories

If you'd like more information about how physical activity affects your nutrition needs, make an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). Also, consider contracting with a sports dietitian to work with your team. An RDN can give team talks about how to eat for optimal sports performance, as well as help create individual eating plans based on each team member's unique physical activity and health goals.

Find an Expert

Need serious help making a plan? The nutrition experts in our professional membership are ready to help you create the change to improve your life.

Find an Expert