Here at Topend Sports we have been through a long process to determine the World’s Fittest Sport. We used a head-to-head competition format to compare sports (similar to the ESPN World’s Greatest Athlete competition which compared athletes). Starting from an initial list of 32 sports from around the world, each sport went head to head in an online vote, until only one sport was left. After many rounds of voting (it started two years ago), the most physically demanding sport was found to be ironman triathlon!
In the final, ironman triathlon beat MMA, with swimming and water polo taking up the next two places. You can see all the results here. This was not scientific research – there was no actual measure of fitness, the results are just based on the opinion of this website’s visitors. There will be bias of course, as fans and participants of a particular sport will be more inclined to vote for their sport or a sport they are familiar with, and a geographical bias as the majority of this site’s visitors come from USA, England and Australia. Despite these limitations, it was an interesting exercise nonetheless.
Although there is no doubting the extreme physical demands of ironman triathlon, the results were still unexpected. In ironman triathlon, the extreme physical demands are almost exclusively aerobic. I personally put boxing at the top of the list for its all-round fitness requirements. Previous votes and analyses have found the most demanding sports to be boxing, squash and gymnastics, and actual testing has found alpine skiing to be the fittest. So there is no consensus.
Is ironman triathlon really the world’s most physically demanding sport? To reinforce the results, we have listed all 32 of the sports in a single poll, where you can again cast your vote for “Which Sport Is The Most Physically Demanding?“