How Many Calories are Burned Playing Ping Pong?
Well, well, well…John from accounting challenged you to a ping pong match during lunch, and although glorious victory was nearly within your grasp, you were left only with the acrid taste of defeat and two burning questions:
- How can I get my revenge?
- Why am I so sweaty from a simple game of ping pong, and just how many calories does ping pong burn anyway?
Sadly, you’re on your own for the first question, but if you want to know how many calories are burned while playing ping pong, you’ve come to the right place!
I will answer the question directly below, but please keep reading because although the numbers I provide are an accurate estimate based on the available science, calorie burn estimates, in general, can be misleading and don’t tell the whole story.
My goal with this post is both to arm you with accurate information about the number of calories burned playing ping pong and also to show you how to contextualize that information and use it properly within the framework of your larger health and fitness goals.
So let’s dive in!
How Many Calories Does Ping Pong Burn Per Hour?
An average adult who is lightly active and weighs 175 pounds at 25% body fat will burn around 200 additional calories per hour playing ping pong.*
To put those numbers in perspective, that would be about the same as a brisk walk at around 3.5 miles per hour on a firm surface.
Feel like this number is a little low?
Keep reading to find out why most other estimates of calories burned playing ping pong are incorrect! And if you’re a table tennis player offended I keep saying “ping pong,” don’t worry, I have you covered as well.
See the upcoming “Table Tennis vs. Ping Pong” section to see how many calories are burned playing table tennis competitively!
*This calculation is based off of the excellent MacroFactor Energy Cost Calculator.
Total vs. Additional Calories Burned When Playing Ping Pong
Some calorie burn calculators simply report the total calories burned during an hour of playing ping pong or table tennis.
Here’s why this is a mistake…
Just looking at your total energy expenditure during that 60-minute period is misleading because it fails to account for the amount of calories you would have burned anyway during that hour, regardless of whether you were playing table tennis or not.
Let’s say you spent that hour walking around the grocery store instead of playing ping pong.
Most people would not count that as “exercise” per se, but you would still have burned calories as you walked the store aisles.
Looking only at “total calories burned” also fails to account for the compensatory metabolic changes that occur AFTER the 60 minutes of exercise.
Unfortunately, your metabolism will compensate for calories burned through exercise by reducing other components of energy expenditure afterward.
So while you may think you burned 600 calories in that spin class, components of your metabolism, such as “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” (NEAT), often go DOWN for the remainder of the day.
This is why I chose to provide numbers that reflect additional calories burned.
It gives a more accurate representation of the true number of calories burned playing ping pong instead of an inflated number that simply looks at those 60 minutes in isolation.
Table Tennis vs. Ping Pong: Why Most Calorie Burn Estimates for this Sport Are Wrong…
I have mostly used the terms “table tennis” and “ping pong” in this post interchangeably. This is common practice in the United States, but they’re technically two different sports with different rules and equipment.
Ping pong is closer to the more casual basement game we all grew up playing, whereas table tennis is an Olympic sport and is more competitive.
So with that distinction in mind, if your idea of playing ping pong involves standing in someone’s basement with a drink in one hand and your trusty wooden Sportscraft paddle in the other (you know the one where half the rubber is missing and the other half is loose and flapping in the breeze), then the number I cited above will probably be accurate for you.
But if you’re a more serious player who is training for the sport of table tennis, you can burn FAR MORE calories playing table tennis than that first number would suggest!
In fact, this is where researchers make a critical mistake.
Exercise physiologists assign a MET score (stands for “metabolic equivalent”) to a given physical activity to estimate calorie burn. The higher the MET score, the more calories are burned.
The MET score for table tennis is 4.0. This is the same score they assign to a task like hand-washing clothes or sweeping your garage…
With most other sports, they make distinctions between casual/amateur play and competitive matches. See the table below for example:
|15030||5.5||badminton, social singles and doubles, general|
|15020||7.0||badminton, competitive (Taylor Code 450)|
|15500||6.0||Paddleball (pickleball), casual, general (Taylor Code 460)|
|15490||10.0||Paddleball (pickleball), competitive|
|15660||4.0||table tennis, ping pong (Taylor Code 410)|
Notice they fail to give a category for competitive table tennis.
Herein lies the problem: People who don’t understand the sport simply assign a MET value of 4.0 to table tennis and use that for the calculation of the number of calories burned when playing table tennis.
The truth is, the modality matters quite a bit! A competitive match between table tennis players who take the sport seriously will burn far more calories than a casual game of “ping pong” between friends.
For example, recent data taken from table tennis players who had at least two years of competitive experience (and who train at least twice per week) shows an average heart rate of 142.69 with a peak heart rate of 167.26 during competitive matches.
Furthermore, there are training techniques and drills that table tennis players commonly use that can burn SIGNIFICANTLY more calories than a typical match.
The Real Number of Calories Burned Playing Table Tennis
So with that in mind, if we took that same 175-pound adult at 25% body fat, an hour of competitive table tennis matches would burn closer to 375 additional calories.
And if that same player were to perform more intense footwork and/or multiball drills during most of that hour, they might burn upwards of 550+ additional calories per hour of training!
Why You May Want to Reconsider Tracking Calorie Burn from Ping Pong and other Forms of Exercise
I hope you can see now how complicated it can be to accurately calculate the number of calories burned while playing ping pong. Perhaps you think you can beat the system, though…
Maybe you picked up one of those fancy wearable activity trackers that factor in your body weight, heart rate, and step count?
Unfortunately, even though these wearable devices have improved in recent years, they’re still not all that accurate. Recent studies have shown that even some of the more popular name-brand wearables can be off in their group-level calorie burn estimates by more than 50%.
And even if the calorie burn estimates were accurate, there is a potentially deeper issue at play…
In my 10+ years of training people online to lose weight and get fit sustainably, one of the most common issues I’ve seen is a BROKEN relationship between exercise and food.
Too often, exercise is used as a form of punishment: A binge the night before is “paid for” with an extra intense exercise session the next day. A big holiday meal is “earned” by attempting to burn an extra 800 calories beforehand with a big workout.
This “burn it off” mentality creates a vicious cycle where an unhealthy relationship with both food and exercise can begin to develop.
Here’s How to Actually Lose Weight with Ping Pong and Table Tennis
If you want to use table tennis as a tool to assist with weight loss, here is what I recommend:
First and foremost, remember that weight loss only occurs when a calorie deficit is achieved, and the most direct way to accomplish that is by improving the quality of your diet. There’s a lot of wisdom to the phrase “you can’t outrun a bad diet”!
A good place to start is to begin consuming 2-4 protein-focused meals per day with an emphasis on whole food sources with minimal processing. Round those meals out with plenty of fruits and vegetables (around 5 or more servings per day is a good basic target).
From there, you can monitor your body weight and begin to dial things in further as needed.
Next, you should consider tracking your daily step count rather than attempting to figure out the number of calories burned during isolated exercise sessions. This will be more accurate and will better reflect your global activity levels throughout the day.
You should also perform 2-4 resistance training workouts per week to send strong signals to your body to burn FAT and keep (or even build) muscle. This will give you that lean, “toned” and athletic look that so many of us are after!
Finally, instead of adding traditional forms of cardio, engage in fun, low-impact activities that can be used to keep overall activity levels up. And for this, table tennis fits the bill perfectly!
How Many Calories Does 30 Minutes of Ping Pong Burn?
Taking the same scenario mentioned at the beginning of the article, the average adult can expect to burn around 100 additional calories per 30 minutes of ping pong.
If you are a more competitive table tennis player with a bit of training under your belt, this number can be quite a bit higher.
Is Ping Pong Good for Weight Loss?
Ping pong is an excellent tool for weight loss for one reason above all others—it’s fun! This means unlike that treadmill collecting dust in the corner of your guest bedroom; you’ll actually find yourself looking forward to playing.
It’s the perfect way to stay active & burn a few extra calories while having a blast!
Is Ping Pong a Good Workout?
Basement-style ping pong is an excellent way to increase your heart rate and stay active. As mentioned, it’s roughly equivalent to brisk walking. As your skills increase, however, ping pong turns more and more into a full-body workout that can do wonders for both your physical and mental health!
Is Table Tennis a Full Body Workout?
Table tennis is a full body workout that engages all the major muscle groups of the lower body, the core, and the upper body as well. In fact, it’s so “full body” that it even exercises your MIND!
Studies have shown that table tennis can be a powerful strategy to prevent cognitive decline and dementia in the elderly.
Which Muscles Are Used in Table Tennis?
As mentioned above, table tennis engages nearly all of the body’s major muscle groups. It is a fast and dynamic sport that involves frequent lateral movement, lunging in-and-out, and positional hops and steps.
This actively engages all of the major muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, tibialis anterior, and particularly the adductors and abductors of the hips and thighs, which work together to assist with lateral movement.
Because table tennis is a rotational sport, the core muscles are also extremely active during play. As you turn and twist to hit the ball, your core muscles act as a conduit to transmit the power generated from the lower body up the kinetic chain and into the ball. They also work to stabilize the torso in between shots as you maintain the “ready position.”
Moving further up the body, the pectorals, upper back muscles, and muscles of the shoulder must work together to move your playing arm into position to hit the ball. Simultaneously, the biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles also contribute as you flex and extend the arm during each stroke.
Is Table Tennis Considered Cardio?
Yes, table tennis is an excellent form of cardio. Because of the intermittent nature of the game, it is most similar to interval training. Research gathered at high-level table tennis tournaments reports an average heart rate of 142.69 during matches with a work-to-rest ratio of around 1:2-1:5.
I realize you probably came to this article simply to find out how many calories you can burn playing table tennis or ping pong, but I hope you’ve found some of this extra context and nuance valuable. There’s nothing wrong with being curious about your energy expenditure, but you should also be informed about what to do with that information!
It’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom.
So use this information well, and make sure you keep coming back to Ping Pong Ruler to continue upping your table tennis IQ!
“John from accounting” won’t know what hit him!
Kevin Finn is the owner and creator of Peak Performance Table Tennis. He helps both casual and competitive athletes improve their performance and play pain-free with custom online workouts, nutrition plans, and consultations. Visit PeakPerformanceTableTennis.com to download a free chapter of his best-selling book!