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Marc Cressac; Chess Fact-Checked by Marc Cressac | Updated 2023-01-13
Founder of Chessily.com

Does Playing Chess Burn Calories? If Yes, How Many?

Chess is often thought of as a sedentary activity, but recent research has shown that it can actually be a good way to burn calories. In this article, we will explore the calorie-burning potential of chess and discuss how it can be incorporated into a healthy exercise routine. We will also look at some of the other health benefits of playing chess, including its potential to improve mental health and cognitive function. Whether you’re a seasoned chess player or just starting out, this article will provide valuable insights into the physical and mental benefits of the royal game.

A woman burning calories while playing chess

Can Chess Burn Calories?

The quick answer is: Yes, chess does burn calories! To understand how chess can help increase your caloric expenditure, we need to deep-dive into the physiological processes that happen in our body when playing chess. Are you ready?

Burning Calories with Mental Activity

The primary way chess burns calories is through the use of a person’s brain. The brain is a highly active organ, and it requires a significant amount of energy to function. When a person is engaged in a mentally challenging activity, such as playing chess, their brain uses more energy. This increased energy usage can lead to an increase in the number of calories burned. Playing chess also causes an increase in heart rate and metabolism. When we engage in mental activities, our brain cells use glucose as fuel to perform their various functions. This process, known as cerebral metabolism, causes the body to burn calories.

In fact, studies have shown that playing chess can burn as many calories as other forms of physical activity. A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that playing chess can burn the equivalent number of calories burned during other activities such as walking at a moderate pace or gardening.

Physical Aspects of Chess

When you play chess, you are constantly moving your hands and arms to manipulate the chess pieces on the board or reach for the chess clock. This physical activity may not seem like much, but it can actually help you burn calories and improve your physical health. These small movements can add up over the course of a game and contribute to the overall number of calories burned. It is very hard to estimate the amount of calories burnt with the physical acitivity of playing chess, but it will likely be similiar to that of sorting items on a conveyer belt.

A chess player moving on a chess board and burning calories
Chess Does Burn Calories Through Physical Activity As Well

But how can you maximize the caloric burn from playing chess? Here are a few tips:

  1. Play against a physical opponent. Playing chess against a real person requires more physical activity than playing against a computer or smartphone app. When you play against a human opponent, you have to move the pieces on the board and make your moves quickly, which can increase the caloric burn.
  2. Increase the speed of the game. The faster you play chess, the more physical activity you will engage in. Try to make your moves quickly and challenge yourself to play at a faster pace. This will not only help you burn more calories, but it will also improve your overall chess skills.
  3. Stand up while playing. Instead of sitting down to play chess, try standing up. This will require you to use more of your leg and core muscles, which can help to increase the caloric burn. You can also try walking or pacing around while thinking about your next move to add even more physical activity to the game.

Besides burning calories, playing chess can also improve your hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and overall physical dexterity. It can also help to improve your mental focus and concentration, which can have a positive impact on your physical health as well.

How Many Calories Does Playing Chess Burn?

First, let’s define what a calorie is. A calorie is a unit of measurement that is used to describe the amount of energy contained in food and beverages. When we consume food, our bodies use the calories contained in that food as fuel to perform various functions, such as moving, thinking, and even breathing.

Now, let’s look at how many calories are burned while playing chess. The number of calories burned while playing chess can vary depending on a number of factors, such as your body weight, the intensity of your game, and the length of time you spend playing. However, on average, a person can expect to burn about 80-100 calories per hour while playing chess.

A woman trying to lose weight by playing chess
How Many Calories Does Playing Chess Actually Burn?

This may not sound like a lot, but it is important to remember that any physical activity that gets your body moving can help you burn calories and improve your overall health. Plus, the mental challenges of playing chess can also provide a good workout for your brain, which is an important part of staying fit and healthy.

By the way: The “fact” that chess players can burn up to 6000 calories during a game day has been debunked countless of times already.

Can You Lose Weight by Playing Chess?

So, chess can be a great way to burn calories through mental and physical activity. While it may not provide the same physical workout as running or lifting weights, playing chess can actually be a very effective way to boost your metabolism and burn calories. But don’t expect to lose weight solely by playing chess. While it can help to burn calories, it’s important to remember that the number of calories burned during chess will vary depending on factors such as the person’s weight and how “intensely” they are playing the game. To truly lose weight, it’s important to combine regular chess sessions with a healthy diet and regular physical activity. It all comes down to being in a net caloric deficit.

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