15 Summer Activities That Burn the Most Calories

Updated: Mar. 30, 2022

When the sun is shining, a whole new world of fitness activities offer fun and an excellent way to maintain your beach body. Our exercise expert weighs in on the summertime activities that burn the most calories.

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Rock climbing

Indoor or outdoor, this summer activity packs some serious punch. For the average woman (all the calorie counts are for a middle-aged, 125-pound woman; your mileage may vary), the benefit is 790 calories burned in an hour-long session. With gravity working against you, you’re working some serious muscles. The main muscle group used for rock climbing is the latissimus dorsi, the broadest back muscle, says Tricia Somma, CPT with a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Science from Montclair State University in Exercise Science. “In addition, the biceps, forearm flexors, calves and soleus muscles are also used.” For those afraid of heights, consider bouldering or indoor climbing. Similar to the vertical outdoor sport, climbers move horizontally across a rock or gym wall, with gymnastics mats beneath them.

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Walking or running on the beach

According to the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, calorie burn is 1.8 times greater on sand than on compact surfaces like concrete. Somma points out that walking at 4 miles per hour on a firm surface will account for a calorie burn rate of 328 calories per hour, while walking on sand at the same speed would burn about 590 calories per hour. Up the ante by running on the beach, increasing your calorie burn by the same factor of 1.8. Running and walking focuses mostly on the lower body, engaging the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominal, and gluteus muscles. Looking for somewhere to engage in these summer activities? These are the best beaches to visit this summer.



Because of the downward force on the paddle and the isolation of the upper body, core and back muscles, canoeing eats up a surprising amount of energy. Paddling a leisurely 2 miles an hour will burn off 286 calories for each hour you’re out there. This upper-body workout predominately engages the upper back, shoulder, and arm muscles when you’re paddling, according to Somma.

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A great summer activity to engage the whole family, biking is also excellent exercise. “This lower body powerhouse workout uses your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes,” says Somma. An hour of cycling at 12-14 miles per hour will burn 554 calories. Choose a scenic route, or to amp up the calorie burn, hit the hills. If it’s raining, a spinning or cycling class can net you a similar calorie burn. Safety is key during this on-road activity.

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Ultimate Frisbee

Grab a group of friends or family and set up a game of Ultimate Frisbee. “The quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves and obliques are used for running during the game,” says Somma. “Plus, when handling the frisbee, you’ll use your wrists, biceps, triceps, deltoids and back muscles as well.” All told, an hour of this constant movement sport will burn nearly 540 calories. Need to brush up on the rules of the game? USA Ultimate, the governing body of the sport, has some tips.

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Scuba diving

“Your body must work to keep you warm when you submerge into the cooler water, which means an increase in overall calorie burn,” says Somma. Add in the action of swimming, and you’ll burn 470 calories an hour in water. New to scuba? Here are the six best places in the world to learn how to dive.

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Horseback riding

Most of the challenge from horseback riding comes from staying stable and upright in the saddle. “Riding requires the rider to fully engage their core, and hips,” says Somma. In addition, the quadriceps, hamstrings and glute muscles are activated when a rider uses their legs to squeeze against the horse. During this full-body workout, calorie burn comes in at just under 200 per hour, though that increases when the horse trots or gallops.


Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)

If you’re looking for an excellent core workout, SUP should be your summer sport go-to. According to Somma, paddling engages both the obliques and abdominals, sculpting a strong core. “Your lower body muscles are used to stabilize your body as your upper body is put to the test,” says Somma. “Paddling also engages your triceps, biceps, chest, and back muscles.” In an hour, you’ll burn more than 400 calories. These are the workouts that don’t burn as many calories as you think they do.



By swimming at a moderate pace, you can expect to burn around 386 calories per hour, says Somma. However, the muscles used when swimming will vary depending on the stroke. Freestyle swimming uses predominantly chest, arm, core, and upper leg muscles. For an added challenge, swim in the ocean as the motion of the waves and current will add more resistance. However, make sure you’re in a safe location and check local conditions before heading into the water. Here are some other simple tips to keep you safe during your summer workout.



While calorie burn during hiking is fully dependent on the intensity and incline of the hike, an average hiker will burn 378 calories per hour with a combination of walking up and down hill. “Hiking focuses on your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominals, hip and ankle stabilizers,” says Somma. Be sure you’re prepared with these essential hiking tips.



“Snorkeling uses the same muscles as swimming,” says Somma. You’ll engage your arms, chest, core, and the big muscles in your upper legs to burn 336 calories an hour. Says Somma: “Wearing flippers will increase the intensity and up the calorie burn.”



While finding a local skate park would be ideal, you can pop an ollie on your board anywhere on the road or sidewalk—just check local ordinances for where it’s allowed. Bending at the knees and steering with your lower body will net a calorie burn of 319 per hour. “Skateboarding focuses on your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, core muscles, calves, and ankles,” Somma says of this great lower body activity. These are the summer bucket list activities you don’t want to miss out on.


Inline skating

Like skateboarding, roller blading focuses heavily on the lower body, but also salts in some serious core work. Somma says this 90’s-style summer sport will have the average woman burning more than 300 calories per hour. Just don’t forget the fanny pack!

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Like canoeing, paddling a kayak engages the arms and shoulders, but will also light up the core, back, and chest, torching 319 calories per hour in a single-handed kayak. If you want more of a challenge, try sea kayaking, where paddling against waves and current will up the intensity of your workout. If you’re gonna try any extreme summer activity, make sure you know these summer first aid tips.



Surfing is the quintessential summer sport. Sun, sand, and waves come together in this full-body workout that will burn up to 193 calories per hour. “The upper body and core muscles are used mostly when paddling out,” says Somma. “Then, your lower body is engaged as soon as your feet touch the board.” Thinking of catching some waves? Check out 9 of the most unusual surfing locations in the world.