Can You Lose Weight by Playing Basketball?

Men playing basketball on outdoor court
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Basketball may not be the most efficient weight-loss tool, but it can be one of the most effective. Those who have a distaste for something as austere and demanding as running may nevertheless find basketball useful because it is an activity that is both fun and capable of burning calories. With enough effort basketball can easily help you shed fat.

Calorie Deficit

The purpose of any exercise is to burn more calories than you consume. This is known as a calorie deficit. Diet is the most fundamental and important part of weight loss because it is very difficult to create a calorie deficit if you consume too many calories. The quality of the calories also matter. You should eat a healthy diet full of fiber and whole foods to ease digestion and suppress hunger.

Calories Burned

According to Harvard Health Publications, a 155-lb. person can burn about 298 calories in 30 minutes of playing basketball. However, a person with a higher body weight will expend more energy, so body weight and calorie expenditure are correlated: a 185-lb. individual will burn about 355 calories in 30 minutes.


Your calorie expenditure is based upon a number of factors such as genetics, age, gender and intensity of the exercise. However, there is a formula you can use to calculate a fairly accurate calorie expenditure total. Multiply your body weight in pounds by the number 3.6. This will proffer a general idea of how many calories you will burn in an hour of basketball. If you play less than an hour, then you can reduce this number accordingly.


Most sports, including basketball, are start and stop in nature. They may require considerable effort to play, but in general they will not burn as many calories as a continuous exercise such as running or cycling, as long as these are done at a vigorous effort. For instance, a 155-lb. person running 7.5 mph will burn 465 calories in 30 minutes. A 155-lb. person cycling about 16 mph will burn about 446 calories in half an hour.


A single pound of body fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. It would require about six hours of basketball for a 155-lb. person to burn 1 lb. of fat and less than five hours for a 185-lb. person to do the same. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week, but this is merely a baseline. You should feel free to play basketball for five or six hours a week if necessary. However, basketball might work better as a supplement rather than a cornerstone of a weight-loss program. It can be a way to keep weight loss entertaining, but it is not as efficient at burning calories as simply running.