Is Pickleball a Good Workout?

Whether you’re 8 years old or 80, you can play a match with relatively little risk of injury. Few sports are as welcoming as Pickleball, which makes you wonder if it’s a good workout.

Pickleball can be a good workout since it is a form of high-intensity interval training. Quick, intense points are interspersed with periods of short rest, just long enough to catch your breath. Intense matches force you to move in quick sprints and use powerful strokes, similar to a HIIT workout.

The good news is that pickleball scales to the player, meaning you can play as hard as you like. If you want a good workout, all you have to do is play harder. Pickleball is more accessible than higher-impact sports like tennis because of the smaller court size and reduced strain on your elbow and shoulder.

But don’t be fooled by the reduced risk of injury, pickleball isn’t any less challenging than other racket sports, you can see that clearly by how many calories you burn in a match.

Calculating Your Calories Burned in Pickleball

Unfortunately, there aren't credible resources specific to pickleball that give the number of calories burned during a game. However, using paddleball as a proxy from the University of Rochester Medical Center, we can get a relatively close idea of how many calories you would burn playing pickleball.

From the medical center's calculator, a person weight 150lbs would burn the following amount of calories during different intensities of pickleball:

  • Casual Pickleball: 422 calories per hour, or .046 calories per minute
  • Competitive Pickleball: 704 calories per hour, or .08 calories per minute

Throughout this article, we'll use this information to guide how you can calculate your calories burned while playing your favorite paddle sport.

Smartwatches give you a rough estimate of the number of calories you’ve burned during a workout, or even as you’re sitting on the couch. If your watch doesn’t have an option for pickleball, there’s a calculator above that you can use to estimate the amount of energy expended when you play.

What Goes into Calculating Calories Burned?

To calculate the number of calories burned playing any activity, you need to factor in how many calories you’d burn at rest. Then, add on the number of calories burned during your activity, taking into account your body weight and intensity level.

Variables That Factor into Energy Expenditure:

Guide: How to Calculate Your Calories Burned in Pickleball

The first step to figuring out how much energy you’re burning during pickleball is to estimate your calories burned at rest. There are two famous equations for this. The first is the Harris-Benedict equation, which is less accurate if you’re very lean or overweight. The second is the Mifflin St. Jeor equation, which is more accurate for people who are lean or overweight.

After calculating calories burned at rest, you can add to that the number of calories burned from playing pickleball. The only three factors you need to know for that are your weight, intensity of play, and time spent on the court.

  • Step 1: Get your weight in kilograms by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2.
  • Step 2: Get your height in centimeters by multiplying your height in inches by 2.54.
  • Step 3: Use the Harris-Benedict equation to measure calories burned at rest (men use step 4, women use step 5).
  • Step 4: 88.362 + (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) - (5.677 × age in years)
  • Step 5: 447.593 + (9.247 × weight in kg) + (3.098 × height in cm) - (4.330 × age in years)
  • Step 6: Divide that number by 24 to see how many calories you burn in an hour. Now, calculate the number of calories burned while playing pickleball. For casual play, see step 7. For competitive play, see step 8.
  • Step 7: Multiply your weight in pounds by .046, then multiply that by the number of minutes played.
  • Step 8: Multiply your weight in pounds by .08, then multiply that by the number of minutes played.
  • Step 9: Add the number of calories burned from an hour of rest to the number of calories burned from an hour of pickleball to see your total!

How Many Calories Do You Burn Playing 1 Hour of Pickleball?

To get an example of calories burned during an hour of casual pickleball, you can use the average weight and height for American men and women. For this example, assume the person is 50 years old. Using the calculations above, men would burn roughly 630 calories, and women 531.

These numbers are averages and based on the assumption that the people in question are playing a casual game. Plus, you’ll burn a few more calories if you warm up before you play. To get a more accurate account of the number of calories burned during pickleball, here are two more specific examples:

Scenario 1: Young Woman Playing Competitive Singles

In this scenario, the player is a young woman engaged in competitive singles play for an hour in total. The woman weighs 150 pounds and stands at 69 inches tall. Assume she’s 30 years old. Her total caloric expenditure during the match is roughly 782, significantly higher than the example above of a casual player. 

The biggest difference in this example is increased intensity, which causes the player to burn more calories. Another factor is that, in this scenario, the player is younger and taller than average.

Scenario 2: Middle-Aged Man Playing Competitively

In this scenario, the player is a 45-year-old man playing a competitive match. Assume he’s a little larger and uses this as an activity to lose weight. His height is 74 inches and he weighs 235 pounds.

After an hour of playing, this man would burn a whopping 1,050 calories. Surely this individual would have an easy time losing weight if they played competitive pickleball often. As with the above example, the key factor is that the intensity of play is higher. Plus, in this scenario, the man is of larger than average size and slightly younger, which results in more calories burned.

Comparing Calories Burned in One Hour of Moderately Intense Pickleball

To provide some context for how many calories pickleball burns, it’s time to take a look at other activities. By now you should have a rough idea of how much energy you’ll expend on the pickleball court, but it helps to have a comparison.

Pickleball Compared to the 5 Most Popular Calorie-Burning Activities

You might’ve heard that some popular workouts are excellent for burning calories, but until you see the numbers, it’s hard to picture how effective they are. The number used for comparison will be the total energy burned per pound of body weight per minute. For comparison, pickleball burns roughly .08 calories per minute per pound of body weight.

Here are comparable activities:

  • Running - 8-minute mile pace = 0.1 calories per minute
  • Cycling - 14-16 miles per hour = 0.08 calories per minute
  • Weight Training - High intensity = 0.048 calories per minute
  • Tennis - Average intensity = 0.056 calories per minute
  • Hiking - Average difficulty = 0.048 calories per minute

While these numbers seem small, if you multiply them by your body weight in pounds and the number of minutes you’ve exercised, they become fairly large. Keep in mind that running burns the most calories, but that number assumes you’re holding an 8-minute mile pace for an hour. It can be much easier to play pickleball for that amount of time or more.

Pickleball burns almost as many calories as running, and certainly more than lifting weights or hiking. It’s roughly on par with cycling.

Calories Burned in Doubles vs Singles Pickleball

There’s no reliable research to show whether singles or doubles pickleball is more intense. You may or may not notice a difference, since doubles can be faster but singles play requires more court coverage.

Interestingly, a study of badminton during the 2016 Rio Olympics found that doubles matches had longer set and match durations, which could mean more time on the court and more calories burned.

It could also be the case that doubles matches are more competitive, forcing players to play for more points. Although research on badminton doesn’t directly translate to pickleball, they’re similar enough that you shouldn’t assume one type of play burns more calories than the other.

Which Racquet and Paddle Sport Burns the Most Calories?

Since pickleball is still young, there’s very little data on calories burned while playing. Similar sports include both paddle and racquet sports. Paddleball and racquetball are the most intense paddle and racquet sports, respectively, and burn roughly .08 calories per minute per pound.

Tennis is a close second, but since the court size of pickleball is similar to paddleball, it’s more accurate to say that pickleball is closer to paddleball. Of course, many other factors, including intensity, make a big difference in the number of calories burned.

Is Walking or Pickleball Better Exercise?

Walking is a popular form of exercise. It can help you decompress, clear your mind, move your body, and even lose weight. However, pickleball is much more intense and burns more energy. Walking at 3 miles per hour on moderate terrain burns about half as many calories as pickleball.

Now You Know - Pickleball Is a Good Workout!

If you’re looking to stay active and improve your health, you can play casual pickleball with minimal injury risk. If you’re looking for a workout, you get that too. The more intense you play, the more energy you use. Get on the court and play a competitive match to maximize your calorie burn.

Check out the calorie calculator above to figure out just how much energy you’ll expend during a pickleball match. It might be more than the other forms of activity you’re doing. In fact, it might be more than other racquet or paddle sports you’re playing.

One of the best things about pickleball is its versatility. You can use it as a way to meet new people, get outdoors, and move around. Or, you can use it as the core of your fitness routine, since it burns so many calories. The key difference is in how much effort you put into each practice and match.