Best Sports for Weight Loss
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Best Sports for Weight Loss

It’s not a secret that regular exercise is integral in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but this article will look specifically at sports, exploring which sports are best for weight loss.

A healthy lifestyle consists of regular exercise and a balanced, nutritious diet. However, there are many different types of exercise, and this article will focus primarily on sports, as opposed to aerobic/cardiovascular exercises or workouts. The term ‘sports’ differentiate to other types of exercise because they’re physical activities or games that are either played in teams, or competitively against other players, unlike other exercises which are generally performed alone. This article will investigate a selection of different sports that are believed to be the most beneficial for weight loss, using clinical studies to explore the potential of the sports and the validity of their claims.

Which sports are the best for weight loss?

Swimming

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Swimming is a popular aerobic sport because it’s a full-body workout, said to target all areas of the body. It’s also popular because it can be adapted to suit any body type, any age and people of any strength and skills, and it’s believed to be more beneficial to the joints than other sports, due to the lack of impact with the ground.

Swimming is said to be effective at burning calories; Harvard Medical School claim that an hour of ‘general swimming’ can burn up to 446 calories in somebody weighing 155lbs, although this may be higher in people weighing more. Some say that although breaststroke and freestyle could burn up to 863 calories per hour, the butterfly stroke may burn the most calories at approximately 949 calories each hour, but this depends on the intensity of the swim. For more information on swimming for weight loss, please read our article.

People can access swimming facilities fairly easily, as most towns have a leisure centre which will provide a swimming pool that is available to the public. Most swimming pools are open to the public at most times throughout the day, but they may host aqua-aerobic classes or swimming groups for a particular group of people which you can attend, depending on what you’re looking for.

Using a sample of 24 middle-aged women, this study explored the effects that regular swimming had on the body, looking specifically at physical composition, strength and blood lipids. The women were divided evenly into 2 groups; the first group performed 3 lots of swimming exercises per each, with each session lasting 1 hour, totalling to 3 hours each week for a total of 12 weeks. The remaining women were the control group, and therefore didn’t partake in regular swimming sessions.

Results showed that the swimming group experienced a reduction in body fat, as well as having a significant difference in flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. The swimmers also saw a decrease in bad (LDL) cholesterol, and an increase in good (HDL) cholesterol. These results indicate that regular swimming could have a positive impact on body composition, and it may contribute towards weight loss.

Tennis

It’s said that tennis is an effective sport to aid in weight loss because it targets multiple areas of the body. Predominantly, tennis is believed to work the muscles in your arms when you serve and hit the ball with the racket, but the sport also requires different movements and actions, meaning that the whole body is affected.

According to Harvard Health Publications, an average game of tennis lasting an hour can burn around 320 calories for somebody who weighs 155lbs, while an hour of competitive, intense tennis can allegedly burn 520 calories in a 155 pound individual. They claim that people who weigh more may burn more calories quicker, as they suggest that somebody weighing 185lbs may be able to lose roughly 622 calories doing the same competitive activity.

Tennis is a very versatile sport, and can be played in a number of different places. Many sport centres have inside tennis courts, or you can choose to visit an actual tennis court. Some tennis courts are free to be used by the public, while others can be hired for a certain length of time. Alternatively, causal games of tennis could be played in your back garden.

The following study used a sample of 19 tennis players, each with an equivalent skillset to examine any hormonal or metabolic changes. 9 of these were young players with less experience, while the remaining 10 were veteran players, indicating that they had more experience. Participants took part in a series of tennis games, all of which were carried out in the summer where conditions were kept as similar as possible throughout.

Measurements were taken and results found that heart rate increased more rapidly in the older participants, where it was raised to a very high level at the end of the match, implying that tennis is cardiovascular and subsequently affects heart-rate. Both the young and veteran players saw a similar amount of weight loss, but levels of blood plasma dropped more significantly in older players, and they also had greater levels of free fatty acid.

Running/sprinting

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Running is a very popular sport and while it can be done competitively, most people like to do it alone or with a companion, without it being treated as a competition. It’s said that completing 30-90 minutes of running each day may help to burn fat and calories to potentially promote weight loss because it works the whole body. More information on running for weight loss can be found here.

As running is faster than walking, it’s believed to burn calories much faster, and some say that high-intensity running can have long-lasting effects even after you’ve rested. This is allegedly because your resting energy expenditure is said to remain elevated for a while after running, which suggests that your body is still burning the fat after you’ve stopped.

One reason why running is so popular is because it’s so easy for anybody to do, and you don’t have to spend money to do it. While it may be advised to buy appropriate running clothes, you can choose to run wherever you like, when you like. Lots of people like running because it gives them the opportunity to take in nature and explore new landscapes, and they can do it at a pace that suits them.

The following study investigated the relationship between ‘running sprint interval training’ and fat loss, using a sample of 15 ‘recreationally active’ women with an average age of 23 years old. The women participated in sprint interval training on a treadmill 3 times each week for a total of 6 weeks.

Results found that while running had no significant effect on appetite, the training reduced body fat by 8% and waist circumference by 3.5%. They also saw a 1.3% increase in ‘fat free mass’, indicating that while the running reduced body fat, it built muscle mass.

Cycling

Cycling is said to be a calorie-burning cardiovascular exercise which is believed to benefit the heart, as well as having a positive impact on mental health. It’s said that the amount of calories that are burnt from cycling varies depending on the intensity of the exercise, and this can be adjusted by using different gears, speeds and cycle routes.

Some think that the most effective results come from using higher gears as it uses more strength. While this is true and higher gears may burn fat quicker, it is also said to use up blood sugar quicker, making you feel tired and less energetic much more quickly. Therefore, it’s believed that using lower gears and faster speeds may be more beneficial, as you can essentially cycle for much longer before feeling tired, and it spreads the workload across the body. More information can be found in our ‘Cycling for Weight Loss’ article.

A sample of 8 male off-road cyclists aged between 24-32 years old were used in the following study, where the effects of a ketogenic diet were examined in terms of its impact on aerobic performance and exercise metabolism.

Participants each had a minimum of 5 years training experience in off-road competitive cycling, and they were assigned either a mixed diet, or a ketogenic diet that was rich in ‘polyunsaturated fatty acids’. Each cyclist participated in an exercise regime using a stationary exercise bike, and the intensity of their exercise was determined by the diet they were assigned.

Measurements were taken and results revealed that the cyclists who consumed the ketogenic diet experienced improvements in lipid profiles, their body mass and their body composition. The researchers implied that long-term consumption of a ketogenic diet rich in fatty acids may prolong exercise performance and improve endurance in long- distance cycling events that last between 2-5 hours.

Football

Football is said to build muscle and burn fat in a unique way, because when you play it, you switch levels of intensity and constantly exert different amounts of effort. It’s said that when you play football, you switch between using your aerobic energy pathways and your anaerobic pathways, and this allegedly burns more calories and prevents muscle loss.

It’s believed that half an hour of a football game can burn around 260 calories in somebody that weighs 155lbs, but this number depends on your weight and the amount of effort you put in to the game. Football is said to burn fat and gain muscle because it works both ‘fast-twitch muscle fibres’ when you’re running, jumping and changing direction, and your ‘slow-twitch muscle fibres’ when you’re waiting around for the ball to come your way.

Working the muscle fibres is said to help the muscles grow because you’re using muscles all across the body. Working the fast-twitch muscle fibres allegedly stores glucose for energy, and this is said to encourage the body to keep burning fat even after playing.

Football is easy to play, as it just requires a field, a ball, goalposts and two teams. There are many clubs that you can join, or, if you don’t want to take it too seriously, you could resort to playing it in your garden with your friends, using a makeshift goal from garden chairs.

Basketball

Basketball is a fast-paced sport which is said to be both fun and effective in burning fat, if played fairly regularly. It’s said that 5 hours of basketball each week may burn enough calories to induce weight loss, and this can allegedly be achieved by partaking in basketball sessions 3-5 times a week.

However, the rate in which basketball can potentially promote weight loss depends on the intensity of the game. It’s believed that while standing and simply shooting hoops may burn calories and fat, you’re perhaps more likely to experience effective, quicker results by running and jumping around and changing direction to shoot.

For this reason, it’s said to be more beneficial to play a full-court game so that it’s faster-paced and you have more room to run around. It’s said that an hour of playing full-court basketball could burn up to 996 calories in somebody weighing 200lbs.

However, it may not be as easy to use a whole court and/or find enough people to create 2 teams, which is why you may be advised to join a team or attend a club so that you can also meet people. It is said, however, that the same 200lbs person could burn 744 calories in an hour of half-court basketball, or 408 calories in an hour of just shooting hoops, which you can even do in your back garden with a basketball hoop.

How to get involved in Sports

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There are a huge range of sports that you can participate in, and there are generally lots of places and events you can go in order to take part. Once you’ve decided on which sport is best for you, you can then look online to find where you can go to partake in it.

Many of the sports mentioned above can be played individually as opposed to on a team or competitively, and you may find that your local gym/sports centre have the appropriate facilities needed, so that you can partake in that exercise regularly and whenever suits you.

However, if you’re more interested in joining a team, or competing against others, then you might have to follow a more restricted schedule. While this may not be as convenient or accessible, it does mean that you can be more ordered, as well as being able to socialise at the same time.

Conclusion

In conclusion, participating in sports may have a number of benefits to your health, as well as your social life and general wellbeing. The sports listed above are said to be the most effective for weight loss, as they allegedly work the whole body and all the muscles. Whether they work the upper body, lower body, arms or legs, they’re believed to burn calories and use up a lot of energy. There’s a diverse selection of sports mentioned in this article, all of which may appeal to different individuals with different interests, and the majority of these sports can be played regularly and, for most people, locally.

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