What Is the Best Sport to Lose Weight?

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, MFOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Vanessa Gibbs

Published 04/13/2024

Losing weight doesn’t have to be all about sweaty gyms or expensive personal trainers. Sports can help you lose weight and keep it off while having fun — win-win, even if your team doesn’t win. But, there’s no one best sport to lose weight.

There isn’t much research comparing individual sports for weight loss, and the best sport will most likely be the one you enjoy most and can do regularly. That said, we rounded up some of the best sports to lose weight if you’re looking for something new to try.

If you’re in the market for a new hobby, consider these sports for weight loss:

  • Running

  • Cycling

  • Swimming

  • Basketball

  • Soccer

  • Golf

  • Brisk walking

  • Weight lifting

Read on for more on the sports that help you lose weight, how many calories you can burn doing them and what else you need to do on your journey toward a healthy weight.

FYI, a quick disclaimer: It’s almost impossible to say the amount of calories you’ll burn doing a particular sport. It depends on your baseline body weight and body composition, as well as how long and how intensely you’re doing the activity. We’ll give you some rough estimates below, though.

1. Running

Number of calories burned per hour for a 154-pound person: 590

Other than a decent pair of sneakers, you don’t need much equipment to run. You also don’t need a team, a court or prior knowledge. You can simply get out there and run a few laps around your favorite park or try out the treadmill in a gym.

Research shows running can help you lose more weight compared to walking.

If you’re just starting out, consider jogging and slowly increasing how long and fast you run. You can also alternate jogging with walking every minute or every city block.

As your fitness level increases, try throwing some sprint sessions into the mix.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) — which could be anything intense that gets your heart rate up, but sprinting works well — is best for improving body composition in people with overweight and obesity.

HIIT might also be better than aerobic activity at improving cardiorespiratory fitness, total cholesterol and fasting blood glucose.

What’s more, HIIT can help you burn more calories than running or cycling at lower intensities or weight lifting.

In a head-to-head match, HIIT and low-to-moderate aerobic activity are about as effective as each other at reducing fat mass, though.

2. Cycling

Number of calories burned per hour for a 154-pound person: 590

Is cycling good for weight loss? Whether you’re cycling the streets or on a stationary bike, cycling is great aerobic exercise.

Not all research agrees, but aerobic exercise has been found to be the best type of exercise for reducing body weight and body mass index (BMI) in those with overweight and obesity.

You might also find cycling is gentler on your knees, ankles and joints than running.

Cycling can help improve your cardiovascular health, reducing your risk of coronary heart disease. And you can turn it into a HIIT session by adding faster cycling efforts to your workout.

3. Swimming

Number of calories burned per hour for a 154-pound person: 510

Does swimming help you lose weight? Swimming is more low-impact than running and cycling, yet it can still help you get some aerobic activity to promote weight loss.

One study compared swimming and walking in 116 previously sedentary women (meaning they sat most of the day and got little to no physical activity) aged 50 to 70. The participants did three sessions a week of either moderate-intensity swimming or moderate-intensity walking for a year.

After six months, those who’d been swimming had a greater reduction in waist and hip circumferences.

After a year, the swimmers lost more body weight than the walkers and had lower total cholesterol and lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — aka “bad cholesterol.”

Not bad if you don’t mind getting wet.

4. Basketball

Number of calories burned per hour for a 154-pound person: 440

Is basketball good for weight loss? It sure is. It’s been shown to lead to weight loss, and depending on how intensely you’re playing, it counts as aerobic activity or HIIT. You might find a game is a mix of the two.

Basketball has the added benefits of playing on a team and focusing on a skill you can improve — which you might find gives you the extra motivation needed to stick with it.

The same goes for sports like badminton, martial arts, gymnastics and volleyball.

5. Soccer

Number of calories burned per hour for a 154-pound person: 590

What about soccer for weight loss? Since soccer primarily involves running, it burns about the same amount of calories as going for a run.

And since this sport combines sprinting, jogging and walking, your body can benefit from the varying intensities.

Of course, midfielders will burn more calories than goalies, but in general, soccer players get the kind of exercise that supports weight loss. It’s a great sport to add to your routine once or twice a week.

Plus, being on a team and competing against others can make this form of exercise fun. And when you’re having fun, it may not feel like you’re exercising.

6. Golf

Number of calories burned per hour for a 154-pound person: 330

Just like basketball, golf combines physical activity with socializing and skill-building.

But is golf good for weight loss? Swinging aside, you’ll certainly get your steps in when walking a golf course.

A 2022 systematic review found that golf has health benefits beyond weight loss.

Playing golf can lead to improvements in:

  • Systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure (with each heartbeat and in between beats)

  • The ratio of high-density lipoprotein (the not-so-good cholesterol) to total cholesterol

  • Body composition like muscle mass and fat mass

It may not improve your BMI, however. More research is needed on that front.

Our advice? Don’t let the numbers stop you from playing a round of golf. But, if you’re looking to lose weight, think about incorporating other types of movement into your routine too.

7. Brisk Walking

Number of calories burned per hour for a 154-pound person: 460

Is this technically a sport? Maybe not — but hear us out. Brisk walking can be a great way to lose weight and improve your health.

If you’re just starting out with doing more movement, brisk walking can be much more accessible than diving head-first into a vigorous sport.

Plus, you can fit it into your routine more easily. Walking to work, walking on your lunch break, walking the dog — it all adds up.

There’s science behind it too.

A 2022 meta-analysis of more than 47,000 participants found that walking as much as 10,000 steps a day can lower your risk of all-cause mortality (death from any cause).

8. Weight Lifting

Number of calories burned per hour for a 154-pound person: 440

Weight lifting is a great full-body workout that can help you maintain and build muscle — this is good because you may lose muscle when trying to lose weight. Plus, it can actually boost your weight loss efforts.

How does weight lifting help with weight loss, you ask?

In one study, 64 participants were divided into four groups: a control group, a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise group, a resistance exercise group and a combination group who did both aerobic and resistance exercise.

They did their prescribed workout routines for 30 minutes five days a week. After 12 weeks of exercising, the results were in.

Combining aerobic exercise with resistance exercise resulted in:

  • Weight loss

  • Body fat loss

  • Improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness (meaning they didn’t get as winded as before)

These benefits were greater than doing aerobic exercise or resistance exercise alone, or doing no exercise — although you probably guessed that one.

The lesson? Adding strength training like weight lifting to the cardio exercise you get from your sport of choice can round out your weight loss efforts.

Daily movement can help you lose weight and prevent weight gain, but that doesn’t mean you’re limited to sport alone.

Here’s what you should aim for:

  • At least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity a week or a mix of moderate and vigorous

  • Muscle-strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups throughout the entire body (think: upper body, lower body and core muscles) two days or more a week

To maintain weight loss in the long run, aim for 200 to 300 minutes — between three hours and 20 minutes to five hours — of weekly physical activity.

That sounds like a lot, but you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) do it all at once. Try incorporating more movement into most days of the week.

As we’ve said, regular physical activity doesn’t have to come from sports. You could grab a jump rope, take a yoga class, hike with friends, do some physical chores and incorporate more steps into your day.

And movement is just one piece of the weight loss puzzle.

Here’s what else to keep in mind on your weight loss journey:

  • Eat nutritious foods. Stock up on fruits, veggies, whole grains (like brown rice and quinoa) and lean proteins, such as chicken and tofu.

  • Get enough sleep. Aim for seven hours or more a night. This will help you perform your best during all those sports while supporting your weight loss efforts.

  • Drink plenty of water. If you’re playing sport — or doing any other kind of movement — you’ll want to stay hydrated. Drinking water can also help suppress your appetite and boost your metabolism.

If they’re right for your health needs and lifestyle, weight loss medications could help your weight loss journey. These include injections like Ozempic® and tablets like metformin.

Curious how these two popular weight loss drugs compare? Check out our guide to Ozempic versus metformin.

Sorry to disappoint, but it turns out there’s no one best sport to lose weight.

Here’s what to keep in mind about sports and weight loss:

  • Some of the best sports for losing weight include running, cycling, swimming, basketball, soccer, golf, brisk walking and weight lifting.

  • Each of these sports can burn anywhere from 300 to 600 calories an hour.

  • But don’t worry too much about what sport makes you lose weight the fastest or the best exercise to burn calories.

  • Focus on playing a sport you enjoy and incorporating more movement into your routine — whether that’s sports or general physical activity.

Regular exercise undoubtedly has a place in any weight loss journey, but don’t neglect the other key components of weight loss: nutrition, sleep and hydration.

If you’re looking into your options, there are plenty of weight loss treatments to help — no sports equipment required.

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Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Dr. Craig Primack MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA is a physician specializing in obesity medicine.

He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois and subsequently attended medical school at Loyola University — The Stritch School of Medicine. 

He completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and in Pediatrics at Banner University- Phoenix, and Phoenix Children's Hospital. He received post-residency training in Obesity Medicine and is one of about 7,000 physicians in the U.S. certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine.

In 2006, Dr. Primack co-founded Scottdale Weight Loss Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he began practicing full-time obesity medicine. Scottsdale Weight Loss Center has grown since then to six obesity medicine clinicians in four locations around the greater Phoenix Metropolitan area.

From 2019–2021, he served as president of the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA), a society of over 5,000 clinicians dedicated to clinical obesity medicine. He has been on the OMA board since 2010, currently serving as ex-officio trustee.

Dr. Primack routinely does media interviews regarding weight loss and regularly speaks around the country educating medical professionals about weight loss and obesity care. He is co-author of the book, “Chasing Diets.”

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