STUDY: Which Sport Burns the most calories? Which Has The Most Injuries? Which Has the Highest Fatality Rate?

Dylan Cautela |
Beautiful sunlight
Enjoying the exposure of rock climbing. Source;

In a study conducted by Harvard Health, daily routine activities as well as sports and outdoor activities were compared by calories burned in a 30 minute window. Of all these activities, Outdside Magazine took the top five strenuous outdoor activities, ranked by total calories burned in a 1 hour period, and pitted them against one another based upon injury rates per 1,000 hours of activity, fatality rates per 1 million participants, and the total calories burned in 1 hour of activity.

Olympic competition Nordic Skiing burns insane amounts of calories. Source;

They also examined each outdoor activity through the eyes of world-class professionals, in their respective categories, and requested each of the pros choose a sport besides their own that they deemed the most difficult. Here are the activities; Mountain Biking, Nordic Skiing, Open Water Swimming, Rock Climbing, and Ultra-running. Five very challenging sports in their own rights and ones that each burn high quantities of calories.

Mighty fine fall foliage.
Peaceful forest runs. Source;


The graphs below examine each sports calorie rate, injury rate, and fatality rate.

Those are some extensive calories across the board
Calories burned per 1 hour of activity in each of the five outdoor activities. Source; Outside Magazine/Highcharts



Mountain Biking dominates this category
Injury rate per 1,000 hours of activity in each of the five outdoor activities. Source; Outside Magazine/Highcharts


Rock Climbing with a clean sweep in this category
Fatality rates per 1 million participants in each of the five outdoor activities. Source; Outside Magazine/Highcharts


The verdict of the seven professional panelists came with Open Water Swimming claiming 3 out of the 7 votes as the most difficult sport, followed by Ultra-running as a close second with 2 out of 7 votes, and Nordic Skiing and Mountain Biking tying for 3rd with a vote each. Outside Magazine ranks them as follows;

  1. Nordic Skiing- Picked as number one based on the high quantities of calories burned as well as the strength and endurance required to perform the activity at a competition level. Match that with situations of real exposure to the elements and Nordic Skiing takes the cake.
  2. Rock Climbing- A solid second place deemed by skill level required, both mental and physical, as well as a fatality rate well beyond those of the other sports. The fatality rate is so far beyond, in fact, it’s the most major factor in this second place standing.
  3. Open Water Swimming- Taking the third place position, Open Water Swimming requires stamina well beyond the rest of these sports both physically and mentally accompanied by many element challenges that need to be faced while in the water such as consuming enough calories for energy and battling the thought of sharks, jellyfish, and other marine life that share the deep waters. Not to mention the slow tedious pace that can last for extended periods of time.
  4. Mountain Biking- Although it’s not necessarily an extremely strenuous sport as far as calories burned, it does entail a high degree of technical skill and in downhill situations the consequences can be very dire should a crash occur. Ranked well above the rest in injuries per 1,000 hours of activity, this sport takes the fourth position.
  5. Ultra-running- Coming in last solely based on the ease-of-access compared to the other sports, Ultra-running is still superbly challenging. Ultra-running requires such a strong mental game when competing in a marathon, or 50, or even 100 mile races it’s absolutely ludicrous. Add that to the strength required to endure such a long period of strenuous activity in all kinds of elements and that creates some of the toughest champions around.
Looks killer!
Lush surroundings during a gnarly downhill mountain biking descent. Source;

Unfortunately, many activities did not meet the standards for calories burned, difficulty based upon skill and fitness, a high rate of danger or fatality, and a strong competition base and therefor were not considered for the study. These five activities were chosen upon the fact that they meet or exceed most of the requirements.

Don't need to get eaten today...
Forget the cold! What about the Polar Bears? That’s some extreme swimming. Source; Outside Magazine

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