Hate going to the gym? Looking for a way to stay active without slogging through a boring workout? Pickleball may be the answer! This fun, easy-to-learn sport is not only an enjoyable way to get outside and move your body, but it can help you burn calories too!
How to Calculate Calories Burned
First, let's dig into the details. Calories are units of energy made up of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. When we exercise or engage in physical activities like pickleball, our bodies use these energy sources to fuel movement.
Burn enough, and you'll lose weight – burn too few, and you'll put on the pounds!
Understanding Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET)
To calculate the number of calories burned while playing pickleball accurately, you'll need to use the metabolic equivalent of task (MET) formula. The MET value is a measure of the intensity of physical activity.
It can be used to estimate how many calories are burned by any exercise for a given period.
This equation is based on the amount of oxygen used during activity. The more intense an exercise, the greater the MET value – thus, the more calories burned.
Below, we'll take a closer look at just how many calories you can burn while playing pickleball. We'll also help you understand the different factors that affect calorie burning, so you can get the most out of your next game of pickleball!
Calculating Calorie Burn Using MET and Body Weight
Now that we understand MET, let's use it to calculate some calorie burn. To do so, you'll need your body weight and the MET value for your activity. Several online resources list dozens (if not hundreds) of activities and their accompanying MET value.
To find out the per-minute calorie burn, the formula is:
Calorie burn/min = (MET x 3.5 x bodyweight in kg) 200
Plug in our numbers for a 180-lbs person (81.6 kg) running at a five mph pace (MET of 8.0), and you get a per-minute calorie burn of 11.4. That means on a half-hour run, you’d burn more than 342 calories!
Using Activity Trackers or Online Calculators to Estimate Calorie Burn
Luckily, you don't have to do the math yourself!
If you want a quick estimate of the number of calories burned, you can use a fitness tracker or online calculator. All you need to do is enter your body weight and the duration of your activity – and voilà! You'll have a calorie count in no time.
Remember that these calculations are just estimates, though. An online calculator doesn't have much information about your physiology, so the numbers you get may not be 100% accurate.
How Many Calories Does Pickleball Burn?
Now that we've gone over the basics, we’re back to the original question: How many calories do you burn playing pickleball?
Well, it’s not so simple.
Factors That Affect Calorie Burn in Pickleball
The number of calories you burn while playing pickleball depends on several different factors. These include:
- Intensity level: The more intense the game, the higher your calorie burn.
- Body weight: Heavier players will usually burn more calories than lighter players during a given activity because they have to work harder to move their body weight around.
- Duration of playtime: Logically, the longer you play pickleball, the more calories you’ll burn.
Other factors like your fitness level, age, and gender may also affect calorie burn.
How to Measure Your Caloric Expenditure When Playing Pickleball
That first part is easy – just step on the scale! The second part is a little more tricky because not all sources agree on the MET value for pickleball.
For this exercise, let's use the numbers listed in study by Smith et al. (2018). The combined average MET for men and women was 4.1 (though the range stretched from 1.5-7.7).
In the case of a 180-lbs player, we plug those numbers into the same formula as above and get 5.85 calories burned per minute. That’s over 350 calories for a typical 60-minute session.
The best part? Many pickleball players think that MET number is low, as it is based on an older demographic. The game has evolved since 2018, with younger players innovating and making it more competitive.
The Difference Between Professional and Casual Matches
As it has risen in popularity, the competitive and professional scenes have grown. Professional pickleball players train extensively and participate in high-intensity tournaments that require a lot of physical exertion. As such, these athletes will burn more calories than the average person just playing for fun.
A tournament can last hours, with players running, jumping, and hitting for the entire match. That will raise the MET number and, in turn, the caloric expenditure.
Does the Skill Level of the Player Matter?
Not directly, though skilled players may move around the court more and play longer rallies, raising the number of burned calories. But like any other sport, beginners can sometimes be inefficient with their movements and end up running around or making mistakes that can tire them out and burn more calories.
Still, the higher the skill, the more intense the match will be, and the more calories will be burned.
Intensity vs Duration
Speaking of, there is a trade-off between intensity and duration when it comes to calorie burning. A long match can sometimes be more beneficial for calorie burn than a shorter, high-intensity match.
Just like a marathon will expend more calories than a sprint, a whole day at the courts will burn more calories than just a short, competitive match.
How Does Pickleball Compare to Other Sports in Terms of Calorie Burn?
For a comparison with other sports, all you have to do is look at the MET number. Here are some of the most common activities and their MET numbers to give you an idea:
- Softball: 5.0
- Basketball: 6.0
- Golf (with cart): 3.5
- Skiing: 5.0
As you can see, pickleball’s 4.1 (which is likely low) falls right in the middle of other popular activities when it comes to calorie burning – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great option! Not only is it a good way to burn calories, but it’s also an excellent social activity.
At the end of the day, pickleball is a great way to burn calories and stay in shape. While exact calorie-burning numbers can vary depending on factors such as intensity level, skill level, and duration of play, it can be a great addition to any fitness routine.
So grab some friends, find a court near you, and head out for an enjoyable game of pickleball – your body will thank you!
- Smith, Leslie & Buchanan, Christina & Dalleck, Lance. (2018). The Acute and Chronic Physiological Responses to Pickleball in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology. 13. 21-32.
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