This article discusses the SPORT which requires the greatest demands of fitness. There are individual athletes from a large range of sports which would be considered extremely fit, whichever way you define fitness (see info about the world's greatest athlete),though here we are looking at the sports overall fitness demand.
As fitness is not defined by just one fitness component like endurance, speed or strength, the sport demanding the highest level of overall fitness would be one that requires high ratings on a wide range of factors.
We have come up with a list of factors of success in sports, and ranked just the fitness components of these for a range of sports to create our list of the World's Fittest Sports. In a similar process used by ESPN (Most Demanding Sports), by rating each of these factors for a large range of sports, the profile of each sport can be compared to determine the sport ranked highest in terms of these fitness and sport psychology factors. See also my ranking of fittest sports using the same method as below. These sports rating figures are also being used to compare sports 'head to head', with some interesting results.
Water Polo is your Fittest Sport
The following ranking is based on your ratings of just the main trainable fitness components (aerobic, strength/power, speed, flexibility and agility) of the factors of success, with a weighting giving more leverage for aerobic power, then strength and speed, with the least effect of agility and flexibility.
This table was created December 2019 - the ratings are still being made so the rankings are expected to change over time. You can add your rating too. There are over 50 sports being rated, however there may be other sports that could score as well as these if they were included.
Water polo was considered the most overall physically demanding sport based on your ratings.
|Ranking||Sport||Overall Fitness Rating (%)|
|14||Swimming (200m Free)||76.4|
|26||Football / Soccer||73.2|
Sports Ranking for each Fitness Component
The table above is based on the average ranking for all of the trainable fitness components: aerobic, strength/power, speed, flexibility and agility. We have also ranked the sports for each of these components to see what is thought to be the sport requiring the highest level of strength, speed etc. See the complete lists of factors of success sports rankings.
- POLL: What do you think is the world's fittest sport?
- A discussion about what is the Fittest Sport?
- See the ESPN Most Demanding Sports List.
- The complete lists of factors of success sports rankings.
- Some of the World's Greatest Athletes
- Who is the Greatest Athlete of All Time?
- Sports Head to Head Comparisons
- Fitness Testing for Sports
General commenting is closed on this page, though I will publish some of the feedback I receive.
- I think you greatly underestimate your ranking of Australian Rules Football and over estimate others like American football. AFL players run about 10km a game, put their bodies on the line without protection, combine elements of defence & attack requiring great presence of mind, speed, strength and agility over 4x20 min quaters. (from battistradauno, April 2023)
- Ballet ticks all the boxes and should be on the list (from Haylee, Mar 2023)
- Being an former collegiate athlete & then a fitness professional for a decade now, I can't but to disagree with so many of these rankings! Now I am a firm believer in factual scientific research, which is how these results were tallied. But there are two major factors that came to my mind - one being team sports with variable player positions (American Football, basketball) the other being sports with numerous weight classes. Is it possible these factors or outliers per say, can skew a fitness rating scale? Other oddities to me - Rugby & NFL Football share many similarities. Same with Wrestling ranked so much higher than MMA? And Field Hockey in top 15, but LaCrosse is way down at # 38? Also I can't believe how low rowing/crew, cross-country skiing, and triathlon are ranked. But do agree with the Water Polo taking #1. Nevertheless, this web page def peaked my curiosity. Very interesting & cool list to read.(from Dave Ruegg Dec 2022)
- Table tennis above volleyball? I don' t think that's right (from Sam, Nov 2022)
- This system completely ignores reaction times, mental fitness and agility. Most sports are stop start, the mind and the body have the opportunity to relax and recover. Sports such as Motorcycling, Motor Racing, Downhill Skiing, Surfing, BMX etc. require total concentration and precision from start to finish, any lapse loses you time, points, and risks injury or death. (from Graham Stone, May 2022)
- I don't think baseball or football should be over soccer. I think hockey is a bit higher. I used to play rugby and found box lacrosse to be a similar level of strength and speed, don't see it on the list. (from Taylor, Feb 2022)
- Hello; swimming? Have you any idea of the training schedule and fitness level of competitive swimmers? Ask Michael Phelps! Lisa (2014)
- I would drop American Football down the list drastically. Other than running backs, wide receivers, cornerbacks, free safeties, some line backers and the odd QB, they really aren't known for being in shape. Recent studies have shown up to 97% of NFL players are overweight while 56% of players qualify as obese. Cody Lewis (2020)
- Gaelic football (Irish football) amateur sport but fitness of professional ... has to be in there along with Australian football ... soccer or rugby union do not have the same amount of fitness. (from Jamie, Jan 2013)
- Australian Rules Football really does wipe the floor with every other sport in the world. Number one easily. (from Ashley, Oct 2012)
- Jeet Kune Do is the most demanding sport in the world! (from Daniel, Oct 2012)
- In your list have you considered AFL Australian Football? (from Keith Davis, April 2011)