Exercise can be boring, we all know that. The only problem is that exercise is necessary to burn calories and someone can only run on the treadmill, lift weights or swim laps in a swimming pool a certain amount of time before the natural human attention span begins to drift elsewhere. If only there was an alternative that not only burned calories but was fun, engaging and even exercises the competitive nature inside of is participants… there is — basketball. It sounds too good to be true and you may be asking “can I really burn calories playing basketball?” Yes, yes you can.
The growing sport of basketball is not just reserved for the six-foot-six, super athletes of the world. It is a game that only requires a ball and something to shoot it in, and most likely, you can find that at your local gym. You don’t need to be a sharpshooter like Stephen Curry or a dominant force like LeBron James to enjoy the benefits of playing basketball. Basketball is a fantastic calorie-burning exercise that won’t have you asking yourself when it will be over — instead, you will be asking yourself when you can fit in a game of pickup next.
First Things First: What is a Calorie?
Ah, Calories. The thing that every person in America hears about and knows to limit the consumption of, with most not knowing what it is. Calories are the fuel that our bodies burn to operate. Every time that we take a bite of that delicious maple bar donut or that savoring T-bone steak we are consuming our fuel for the day. Us humans need calories to operate, so while they have a negative connotation, they are not harmful in their own right.
Calories become harmful when you consume too many of them. Unlike the cars that we drive and fill up at the gas station (or charge at home for those that drive an electric car), our bodies will not stop the pump when capacity is reached. It is our responsibility to limit calorie intake. The human body can only burn so many calories in a day and when we consume too many calories, we begin to gain weight.
It is not that simple, though, as there are different types of calories that we consume, similar to the different types of gasoline that you can pump into your car. Different types of calories have different temperatures in which they burn inside the body. Some calories are considered empty calories, which provide the body little to no nutrients inside of the calories.
Calories are misunderstood in their nature as well. One calorie is not simply one calorie but is 1,000 smaller calories. So when we see that a donut is 200 calories we are consuming 200,000 of these smaller calories. The term ‘calories’ is also interchangeable with kilocalories.
It is not wise to simply cut a majority of our calorie intake to lose weight, as our bodies still need that fuel to operate and maintain things such as muscle mass during a dieting period. That is where burning more calories come into play.
How are Calories Burned Typically Calculated?
The golden thing to remember when it comes to burning calories is an acronym called MET, which means metabolic equivalent. The baseline for MET is the most simple way someone can burn calories: sitting quietly and not using much effort or energy. This is considered one MET and is equal to one kilocalorie burned per a person’s body weight in kilograms per hour. For example, a 100-kilogram person performing a one MET exercise for one hour would burn 100 calories. A 50-kilogram person performing a two MET exercise for one hour would also burn 100 calories.
How Many Calories Do You Burn Playing Basketball?
This is a pretty vague question as there are various levels of participation that one can have while playing basketball. There are half-court games, full-court games, shoot around and simply practicing the craft individually. How many calories you burn depends on the type of basketball activity, luckily, no matter the activity, basketball is a good source of burning calories.
So — how many calories does basketball burn?
According to the Compendium of Physical Activities, the basketball activity that burns the fewest calories is simply shooting around, which is graded as a 4.5 MET activity. A non-game of basketball is graded as a 6.5 MET exercise, while a game is graded as an 8.0 MET activity. The most vigorous basketball-related exercise is running drills, which is graded as a 9.3 MET exercise.
How Many Calories Do You Burn Playing Half-Court Pickup?
Half-court basketball is a much different game than full-court basketball. While the same muscles are being exercised, participants are not sprinting up and down the court, which makes a difference in how many calories are burned. Data from Dietbites.com indicates that a half-court game of basketball is roughly a 6.0 MET exercise. This means that, in an hour of half-court basketball, we burn:
- 296 calories for a 110-pound person
- 340 calories for a 130-pound person
- 408 calories for a 150-pound person
- 464 calories for a 170-pound person
- 516 calories for a 190-pound person
- 572 calories for a 210-pound person
- 624 calories for a 230-pound person
- 676 calories for a 250-pound person
How Many Calories Do You Burn Playing Full-Court Basketball?
Full-court basketball is more vigorous, as indicated by the exercise having an 8.0 MET rating compared to the 6.0 MET rating for half-court basketball. This means that we naturally burn more calories in full-court than the number of calories burned playing half-court basketball. The breakdown is as follows:
- 419 calories for a 110-pound person
- 495 calories for a 130-pound person
- 572 calories for a 150-pound person
- 648 calories for a 170-pound person
- 724 calories for a 190-pound person
- 800 calories for a 210-pound person
- 876 calories for a 230-pound person
- 953 calories for a 250-pound person
You will burn 33 percent more calories playing a full-court basketball game than a half-court basketball game.
How Does the Number of Calories Burned Vary By Time Played (30 Minutes, 1 Hour, 2 Hours, etc.)?
How many calories burned playing basketball all comes back to the formula for a MET exercise. The longer you play perform the activity the more calories you will burn and the increase is pretty linear and easy to figure out. “How many calories do you burn playing basketball for 30 minutes,” you may ask.
Thirty minutes of the exercises above will yield exactly half the number of calories burned while two hours will yield exactly twice as many calories burned. An hour and a half will yield 50 percent more calories burned. This is because the data above is all set to one hour of activity.
All this math might seem tricky, but the one thing I would always keep in mind is that basketball calories burned are the exact same calories burned performing any other activity.
Other Common Fitness-Related Questions about Basketball
Not everything exercise-related is solely related to burning calories. Here are some other fitness-related questions to keep in mind about basketball as an activity.
Is Basketball a Good Cardio Workout?
Whether or not basketball is good cardio depends on how seriously you are taking the game. Simply shooting the ball around with no other physical exertion is not going to provide much of a cardio workout. However, even if you are not playing an organized game, the natural movements of basketball all qualify as cardio-related exercises and will improve your cardio.
The blend of sprints with jogging is a great rhythm-disrupter for the body and basketball provides no real breaks from that cardio exercise. Even a half-court game, which does not include the lengthy sprints that are included in a full-court game, presents plenty of moments where participants will be exploding and sprinting for short distances, whether it is to the basket or away from the basket.
It is not just the running that is beneficial, however, as the constant jumping and change of direction help increase cardio as well.
The great thing about basketball is that you can run distances similar to if you went outside for a jog and you may never realize it because of the constant action that is going on in the game. The length of a basketball court is 50 feet. If both teams have 25 possessions, assuming you are running up and down the court on each possession, you will have run 5,000 feet, 208 short of a mile.
The most important thing to keep in mind when using basketball as a cardio exercise is that it is all dependent on how much effort you put in. Cherry-picking on defense or deciding to take certain possessions off is not going to be as beneficial as keeping the pace up. Even if you do not have the ball, try and keep your body moving in some capacity, taking breaks only when the game itself is paused. The more and more you do this, the longer and longer you will be able to play.
So, is basketball good cardio? The answer depends on you.
Does Basketball Count as a HIIT Workout?
High-intensity interval training, otherwise known as HIIT, is a popular method of working out that relies on different intervals of varying intensity that is meant to bring the participant to exhaustion. The best part about HIIT workouts is that they do not have to be time-consuming, there are a plethora of guides online of different HIIT workouts that can be performed in 15-30 minutes.
A pick-up game of basketball is likely not going to serve as a HIIT workout. Unless you go out on the court and break out several full-out sprints down the court and to the basket, you likely will not be performing at a high enough intensity. But hey, that is a good thing, because nobody wants to play a game of pickup basketball for only 15 minutes.
However, there are basketball drills that can be utilized outside of a game setting that would serve as a HIIT exercise. Things such as sprints down the court can be followed by constant dribbling, shot taking and intense passing.
Keep in mind, though, that if you want to develop a true HIIT workout routine that is inspired by basketball then you likely will need to mix in more traditional forms of exercise, such as squats or lunges, to mix in with the basketball drills.
Is basketball a HIIT workout just by itself? No. Can basketball inspire and weave itself into a great HIIT workout? Absolutely.
Can Basketball Help You Lose Weight?
Absolutely. Just like any other form of exercise, though, you also need to do the work outside of the gym and eat healthily and limit certain things in your diet. Losing weight just playing basketball won’t be as intense as other forms of training, but if you are looking for something to shed a few pounds while also having fun, basketball would be the perfect workout regime for you.
Again, it all depends on how serious you are taking it out there as well. If you are jogging slowly up and down the court and camping yourself in the post then you are not going to burn that many calories and thus will not lose much weight. But if you manage to keep the intensity-level high for an entire hour, then the results can follow.
Wrapping Things Up: Calories Burned Playing Basketball
So after reading this article, you are no longer asking how many calories does playing basketball burn and are ready to lace up your basketball shoes and drive to your closest gym to play some pick-up hoops, which is great. As we outlined, basketball is a viable form of exercise and is much more than a childhood game that we would all play during recess.
Should you cut everything else out of your routine to make room for basketball? Probably not. If the goal is to build muscle mass then basketball is not going to help much. It can still serve the same calorie-burning purpose, but it is not going to build enough muscle to make a difference.
Even if your workout regime is entirely calorie-burning and cardio-based, you should not replace your entire method with basketball. The body benefits from change and switching it up the sprinting and resting of basketball to a long-distance, slower-paced running-style would be beneficial to the body.
So instead of running on the treadmill for the fifth time this week and staring at that small treadmill screen, you absolutely can mix some basketball into the routine. As long as you take the basketball as serious as you would the treadmill then the results are still going to follow and you can turn working out into something fun that you look forward to every single day. Now, for us, it is time to lace up our basketball shoes and hit the court — first to 21 wins.
If you found this post helpful, you’ll probably find our post on the best activity tracker for basketball useful.
Did you find this helpful? You may also like our other basketball FAQ articles here.