Calories burned when playing pickleball - everything you need to know

picture of Brandon Mackie
Brandon Mackie

Updated on: Oct 21, 2022

A pickleball player runs to make a shot during a game

You’ve probably heard by now that pickleball is a wonderful way to get some exercise, which is part of the sport's meteoric rise in popularity. Whenever you can get a good workout and have a great time, you know you’ve found something special.

But how many calories can you really burn playing pickleball? Can you actually lose weight playing pickleball? How many calories does pickleball burn per hour?

The good news is pickleball can offer a great aerobic workout, burning off hundreds of calories per game. Better yet, it’s suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels, and there's a broad range participants with different pickleball player ratings.

Today, we’ll break down the calories burned playing pickleball, as well as the factors that affect how many calories you can burn per session.

How many calories are burned in a pickleball game?

The number of calories burned playing pickleball depends on several factors. They fall into two categories: How you play and who you are. Of course, playing a harder, more intense game will burn more calories than a relaxed, casual match.

And the rate at which your body burns calories when exercising is affected by your weight, body composition, and more. Don’t worry — we’ll dive deep into all the details a little later. You can use these figures to get a general range:

When playing pickleball, a 160-pound person can burn 500 calories per hour. A 200-pound person can burn 700 calories per hour. When playing harder, a 160-pound person can burn as many as 700 calories, while a 200-pound person can burn as many as 900 calories per hour.

Your step count can range from 4,000-7,000 steps, depending on your intensity and play style.

These numbers are based on information from Racquet Sports Center. They’re similar to various other sources, which all have different methods of calculating estimates. They’re also reflected in the reports of actual pickleball players who have tracked their calorie burn with fitness trackers like Fitbits and Apple Watches.

Using a METs equation that we’ll break down later, our own estimations are as follows:

Pickleball calories burned (singles)

A table showing the calories you'll burn depending on your body weight and length of play time

Tracking calories burned per hour makes sense for pickleball players, since a standard pickleball match lasts about an hour. A typical pickleball match consists of playing the best 2 out of 3 games to 11 points each, as per the tournament guidelines from the official USA Pickleball Rulebook.

Can you lose weight playing pickleball?

A pickleball player stoops low to play a dink shot

You can absolutely lose weight playing pickleball! Playing pickleball is a wonderful way to lose weight. As with any weight loss activity, your body needs to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight. In other words, you need to be burning more calories than you’re taking in from food. When that happens, your body begins burning its stored fat for energy.

It takes a caloric deficit of about 3,500 calories to burn one pound, though your activity level, age, and other factors affect this. If you play regularly, the calories burned playing pickleball can really put a dent in that number!

To know how many calories, you burn in a day, you need to estimate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), also referred to as resting metabolic rate. Your body burns calories constantly, even while you’re sleeping. Every bodily function burn energy, from breathing and digestion to cell regeneration and protein synthesis.

You’ve probably heard the generalized figure that the average person burns around 2,000 calories a day. As with everything fitness-related, that number is only a ballpark figure. Your actual resting metabolic rate depends on all sorts of other factors, from your age to your sex.

A graphic detailing how you can calculate your resting metabolic rate

The Harris-Benedict Equation is often used to calculate your resting metabolic rate:

  • For men: 66.47 + (6.24 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) - (6.75 × age in years).
  • For women: 65.51 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years).

If you don’t love math, don’t worry! There are handy online tools you can use to estimate your resting metabolic rate, like this one.

So, for any given time, you can figure out how many calories you’ve eaten. Then, subtract the calories you burn at rest as well as the calories you’ve burned from exercising. If you have a caloric deficit, then you’ve probably torched some weight.

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Other health benefits of playing pickleball

Four pickleball players chatting

The calories burned playing pickleball are great, but there are a ton of other health benefits to playing pickleball, too!

The Medical University of South Carolina points out that racket sports promote better overall cardiovascular health, which lowers the likelihood of hypertension, stroke, and heart attack.

For older players or people with previous orthopedic injuries, pickleball is ideal since it’s relatively low-impact. the best pickleball paddles are lightweight and the balls don't weigh much either, which results in less joint and muscle stress.

Additionally, exercise releases endorphins and other bioamines that boost mood and combat depression.

Not to mention pickleball is a social activity, helping you cement connections with others in healthy ways.

When you play pickleball regularly, you simply feel better, both physically and mentally.

Met estimation in terms of calorie burning playing pickleball

A graphic detailing the calories you'll burn per minute playing pickleball, tennis and badminton

A figure called the metabolic equivalent of task (MET) is used to estimate how many calories you burn performing many common physical activities. The MET formula to use is:

METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories burned per minute

What is the MET value for pickleball?

Many activities have a widely accepted MET value. Tennis is generally considered to have a MET value of 8, for example. Singles badminton ranges from 5.5 to 7, depending on whether it’s a casual or competitive game.

Here’s where it gets interesting, though. Popularly accepted MET values usually come from the 2011 Compendium of Activities, which does not include pickleball. A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology entitled The Acute and Chronic Physiological Responses to Pickleball in Middle-Aged and Older Adults measured METs in pickleball players. In that study, the MET response to pickleball averaged 4.1, and ranged from 1.5 to 7.7.

Most pickleball players seem to think that a 4.1 MET value is too low, and we agree. The IJREP study focused specifically on middle-aged and older adults, which affected the average findings.

Accounting for all age ranges, we’d put a more accurate pickleball MET value at 6.5, which is more intense than badminton, but less intense than tennis. This also brings the calories burned playing pickleball per minute close to the ones we cited from Racquet Sports Center at the beginning of this article.

So, using our 6.5 value, you can use METs to calculate your calories burned per minute by using this formula:

6.5 x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories burned per minute

What burns more calories, pickleball or tennis?

In general, the calories burned playing pickleball are lower than tennis. In tennis, the ball moves faster, players travel further distances to cover the larger court, and players strike the ball harder. All that translates to using more energy.

However—and you’re probably seeing a trend here—your results may vary.

Ultimately, the sport that burns more calories is the one you play the best, since you’ll play more intensely, and points will last longer. The ball is easier to keep in play during a pickleball game, which means players are moving and striking for longer periods of time.

Calories burned singles vs. Doubles

Playing singles pickleball burns more calories than playing doubles pickleball. When playing doubles pickleball, you don’t have to move as far, and you’re not hitting the ball as often.

There’s no hard data on this yet, but it’s generally accepted that you exert 25% less energy playing doubles. That’s based on the same energy-use ratio between singles and doubles tennis, which has been thoroughly studied over the years.

That gives us the following estimates for calories burned playing doubles pickleball:

A table showing how many calories you'll burn playing pickleball doubles

Tips to burn more calories with pickleball

Pickleball player Brandon Mackie stretches to connect with the ball
  • Play longer: Every minute you spend exercising burns more calories. Try customizing your games to suit your goals! Instead of playing to 11 points, play for more. Or, instead of playing best 2 out of 3, play best 3 out of 5.
  • Play more often: Develop a healthy pickleball routine, then stick to it. If you’re playing every Saturday, try adding a second day, for example. Playing on the weekdays after work or in the evenings is a great way to break up the monotony of the week and relieve some stress. It’s always a healthy idea to make more time for fun and exercise.
  • Play more intense matches: The harder you exercise, the more calories you’ll burn. So, push yourself to play harder! Also, try playing against people who are a little more competitive. You’ll make each other better, stronger, and faster.
  • Wear a Weighted Vest: An easy way to increase the calories burned while playing pickleball is to wear a weighted vest. Usually, you can adjust the weight of training vests, so start without any weight in the vest at all. Slowly add weight until you find a weight where you’re getting a good workout, but your mobility isn’t too compromised. You can increase the weight over time. For safety, a good rule of thumb is to never use more than 10% of your body weight.
  • Use a Fitness Tracker: Fitness trackers like those made by Fitbit or Garmin—or incorporated into a smartwatch—are a fantastic way to take control of your fitness. A fitness tracker can help you monitor exactly how many calories you burn playing pickleball, as well as how many you burn as a part of your normal daily routine.

Factors affecting calories burned while playing pickleball

  • Weight: Typically, the more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn when working out. It takes more energy to move a heavier body than a lighter one.
  • Body Composition: The topic of body composition and calorie burn can get complicated, but the higher your Lean Body Mass, the higher your resting metabolic rate. Lean Body Mass includes muscle, water, and minerals. So, for example, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn when exercising.
  • Intensity: Of course, how hard you play pickleball helps determine how many calories you burn. If you want to burn more calories, push yourself to play a little harder. Turn on the gas and move those feet to reach shots you might usually let pass by. Run faster and work up a sweat!
  • Duration: The longer you exercise, the more calories you burn. Play a few extra games! Or, if you normally play best 2 out of 3, try playing best 3 out of 5. The difference between playing pickleball for an hour and playing for two hours is small in terms of scheduling, but it burns twice as many calories!
  • Single vs Double: As we’ve mentioned before, playing singles matches burns 25% more calories than playing a doubles match.

Bottom line

To review, the calories burned while playing pickleball depend on how intensely you play, as well as factors like your age and weight.

But we recommend that you don’t get hung up on the numbers too much. Instead, find a pickleball court near you and just play your heart out regularly. The most important thing is that you're having fun!

When you start to develop your pickleball strategies and skills, you'll begin to enjoy the game – your pickleball sessions will become increasingly frequent, longer, and more active, all of which lead to better exercise.

And never forget: The best workout routine for you is the one that you can stick with.

How has pickleball affected your fitness? What health benefits have you seen from taking up the sport? Let us know! Until next time, we’ll see you on the court!


About the author
Brandon Mackie
Brandon is an avid writer and co-founder of Pickleheads™. Once a competitive tennis player, Brandon can now be found these days honing his dinks on pickleball courts near Phoenix, Arizona.
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