By Scott Vines
Trying to lose weight? The following are the best and most fun sports (or activities) for weight loss. And for many of them, you don’t need expensive equipment or a monthly gym membership.
To lose one pound a week, you have to burn approximately 3,500 calories. But working out for hours won't necessarily result in weight loss—you also have to consider your heart rate and the amount of effort you’re putting in. The MAX heart rate you should hit is 220 minus your age, but your target heart rate is what gets you in the fat-burning zone.
Below you also will find estimates for how many calories you can burn participating (with vigorous effort) in each activity for 30 minutes. Your results will vary.
- Swimming (Breaststroke): 458 calories per 30 active minutes
Swimming is a cardiovascular powerhouse that works the entire body. It's a particularly good choice for those who benefit from low-impact exercise. You don’t need much in the way of gear—just a swimsuit, goggles, and access to a pool. The breaststroke burns the most calories, but freestyle/front crawl is a close runner-up.
- HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training): 444 calories per 30 active minutes
While not technically a sport, HIIT is one of the best ways to burn fat and lose weight, and you can choose movements based on the sport(s) you play. Simply put, HIIT is workout made up of repeated rounds of exercises performed at max effort for a given interval, followed by a short recovery period. For example, you could one minute of squats, followed by 20 seconds of rest, followed by one minute of skater hops, and so on. You don’t HAVE to buy anything to do HIIT, but many trainers recommend some resistance bands and floor sliders to enhance the body weight resistance challenge (a $30-45 purchase) and a clock or another way to keep time.
- Running: 394 calories per 30 active minutes
All you need to run safely is a good pair of sneakers. The staff at specialty running stores are great at assessing your needs and recommending the right running shoes for you. If you’re new to running, try run-walk-run intervals. And remember, for weight loss, it’s key to check your heart rate to make sure you’re getting a vigorous workout. Many new devices are available to help you track your heart rate as well as count your total steps. You also can consult a website like MapMyRun to measure the distance of your favorite route, and divide that by the time you ran to assess your speed and effort.
- Rock Climbing: 320 calories per 30 active minutes
Rock climbing is a rock star among body weight resistance training exercises. It can be intimidating to get started, but indoor rock gyms are a first great stop if you want to eventually enjoy this activity outside. Those gyms rent the basic equipment to scale a rock wall—a harness and climbing shoes. They’re also staffed by people with the know-how to recommend local spots for beginners and beyond.
- Flag Football: 345 calories per 30 active minutes
Professional football may be steeped in controversy, but flag football is unlikely to cause injury, with little impact and no painful tackling involved. Search for a co-ed flag football league near you; many are geared to young professionals and 30-somethings. Something to keep in mind: as with many team sports, there’s a lot of downtime spent waiting, resting or, in football, huddling. A 1-hour game might only provide 20-25 minutes of vigorous movement.
- Kickball: 296 calories per 30 active minutes
Kickball leagues are also growing in popularity and, as with football, all you need is a comfortable set of play clothes and a good pair of shoes. There’s a lot of downtime, but you’ll also have a lot of fun. And, this means either your team or the opposing team will be more likely to demand a rematch, keeping everyone active longer.
- Zumba: 271 calories per 30 active minutes
While not technically a sport, Zumba is an infectiously popular group exercise class that’s great for burning calories. It’s generally offered at gyms, but some will let you pay-per-class for a reasonable fee. Zumba for weight loss means putting your all into mimicking the instructor’s movements; if you’re not sweating throughout the class, you’re definitely not going to burn those 271 calories. Best of all, you can take your new dance moves to your next social event.
Basketball (Playing a Game): 345 calories per 30 active minutes
Basketball (Shooting Hoops): 176 calories per 30 active minutes
As you can see above, basketball is best played in a group if you’re looking to lose weight. The challenge of facing off with other players almost doubles the calorie burn. Many towns and cities offer free access to outdoor courts, so all you’d need to bring is a properly inflated basketball. Again, check your shoes. They should be replaced every 6 months if you’re using them to exercise regularly.