10 Fun Ways to Burn Calories at the Beach


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  50 comments   :  138,296 Views

As a person who incorporates fitness into my everyday life—whether I'm at home or traveling—I sure do plan to staying active even when I'm on a relaxing vacation. After all, with no distractions and nothing but free time, what excuse do I have? The more activity you can build into any vacation, the better your chances of returning with all the good things (think souvenirs and memories) and none of the bad (extra padding around the middle). In fact, most people do want to relax and indulge a little on vacation, and that's fine. But planning for extra activity will definitely help you stay on track with your fitness and weight management goals.

While you may think that's boring, I've got news for you: Vacation exercise isn't about the treadmill. There are tons of fun, active ways you can torch calories and get a workout without even realizing it. Here are some of the many activities I can't wait to try during my own vacation (and a rundown of how many calories* each one burns).

Sitting by the water: 80 calories/hour
While this is what a lot of people think of when they imagine vacation, I'm putting this here as comparison to the ones ahead. These are not "extra" calories: Your body burns these no matter what. But if you're drinking a margarita while you sit, you're really throwing that calorie balance off its kilter. Instead, try one of the fun ideas below.

Be sure to "Pin" this graphic for future reference and scroll down for more detail.

Building a sandcastle: 100 calories/hour
indulge the kid in you by making a sandcastle. If you dig sand and carry it, and place your castle further away from the water, you'll make multiple trips to and from your castle/water using your legs, core and arm strength to heave full buckets. That'll burn 2-3 x the calories and give you an "interval" type workout.
Boost the burn: Add some isometric holds or try a few biceps curls when your buckets are full or sand or water to work your muscles!
Fishing: 120-150 calories/hour
fishing is a relaxing stress reliever for many. While it doesn't count as exercise it's one of those activity "bonuses" that keep you moving, which is always better than being totally sedentary. Plus, if you can eat the fish you catch, you're doing your body well!
Boost your burn: Stand instead of sit; walk the edge of the water instead of standing still. More movement = more calories burned.
Playing Frisbee: 175 calories/hour
Frisbee is a fun activity that engages your shoulders and arms while improving hand-eye coordination. Like fishing, it's part of an active lifestyle, but generally doesn't take the place of a workout.
Boost the burn: Add some running or jump up to catch the Frisbee. For a real challenge, try tossing the Frisbee with your non-dominant hand. That'll get your partner running like crazy to catch it, assuming your aim isn't as good as your dominant hand.
Boogie boarding: 200-250 calories/hour
Boogie boarding uses your whole body, much like swimming does, but unlike surfing or paddle boarding, you don't need as much skill, coordination or balance to do it. Plus it's FUN and it gets your heart rate up high enough to count as a cardio workout.
Boost the burn: Keep on kicking with your arms and legs as long as possible. Stays moving instead of letting waves passively pull you, and you'll blast even more fat.
Jumping waves: 300 calories/hour
Perhaps one of the most fun things about the beach, jumping in the waves uses all the major muscles of your lower body, helping you build explosive speed and power. Plus, that water acts as additional resistance for an ever greater calorie burn and toning factor than jumping on land.
Boost the burn: In addition to jumping when the waves come, mix in a little water jogging and you'll burn 400-500 calories per hour!
Beach racquetball, badminton, and paddleball: 300-450 calories/hour
These fun games use your full body, and help improve speed, agility and hand-eye coordination. One thing all of these games have in common is that they involve bursts of high-intensity effort followed by a little downtime or rest, which is also known as interval training—and a great way to train your heart and lungs while burning major calories.
Boost the burn: Play singles instead of doubles for about two times the calorie burn. You'll be running all over the court and get an even better workout!
Ocean kayaking: 350 calories/hour
The first and only time I ever kayaked was in the ocean as a teenager. What a cool experience! Using your arms repetitively to paddle in the water really ups your heart rate and challenges your body in a way that traditional (think leg-focused) cardio doesn't. You have to try it to see what it's like!
Boost the burn: Try to paddle as much as possible without taking a rest and you'll get a great aerobic workout. Work against the resistance of the current, and you'll burn even more.
Beach walking and running: 330-800 calories/hour
Walking or running on deep, loose sand challenges your balance and engages more muscle fibers, which means you'll burn 30% more calories than walking or running on a flat surface, even when working at the same speed!
Boost the burn: The deeper the sand, the bigger your calorie burn.
Swimming: 410 calories/hour
Swimming is an awesome aerobic (cardio) workout that works your whole body. The great thing about exercising in water is that it cools you off and makes your workout feel easier than it actually is (it's true—research has proven it).
Boost the burn: Work against the current to for extra resistance and challenge. You know what that means: bigger calorie burn!
Beach volleyball: 500 calories/hour
Beach volleyball calls on your hips and legs for running and jumping and your upper body for striking the ball — it also builds team spirit among all participants.
Boost the burn: The fewer people on your team, the better your workout. When you have to cover more of the court, you'll be running around and working up a sweat—but having fun while doing it!

*Calories burned estimates based on a 150-pound female.

What's your favorite way to burn calories at the beach?

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  • 50
    There is a trail on the beach where my sister lives that I utilize for bike riding while enjoying the ocean view. - 7/18/2016   10:51:52 AM
    Thanks for the ideas. Going to Hawaii in Sept. so will definitely keep these in mind. - 6/25/2015   8:57:18 AM
  • 48
    These are all great ideas. Thanks. Makes it easier.... - 6/23/2015   9:17:59 PM
    Let's hear it for making sandcastles! Nice to know I'm burning a few extra calories while playing with the kids. - 1/1/2015   3:30:08 PM
  • 46
    I fully intent to go running on the beach and possibly will do a swim workout in the ocean for an hour, who knows maybe I'll have my own little beach triathlon or dualathon, run a few miles or more, swim, and maybe do something else, I definitely think swimming burns more than that considering the resistance of the ocean. I know that if I swim in the pool and I swim at a moderate to vigorous pace, like with the freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, etc I can get at least 500 an hour if not more. I'm around 145 too. - 7/13/2014   5:38:33 PM
  • GUIN66
    Love your enthusiasm, Nicole! great suggestions!

    To the people who think not being near the sea precludes some of the beach activities - just think of the desert sand as a beach and the mirage as the sea! You can still do the sand activites in the desert. Tossing a frizzby or ball gives you the same running on the sand exercise as at the beach. Slather on the sunscreen and carry lots of drinking water, and Bob's your uncle! You reallly enjoy the shower when you get home! (I used to live in outback Queensland - it is amazing what you can find to do!) - 6/21/2013   6:42:27 PM
  • 44
    If you think it's 410 for swimming, you're not working it and you're in a pool. Wind, waves and tide all add up. Sorry Nicole, love your stuff, this one is off. - 6/18/2013   5:54:46 PM
  • 43
    Love this post. Just looking at the images make me feel like I was on vacation. Thanks for the mid week pick-me-up! - 6/18/2013   6:33:19 AM
  • ROSEBUD1023
    Great ideas, who knew having fun at the beach could be such a pay off, - 6/18/2013   2:48:36 AM
  • 41
    Add snorkeling and scuba diving to your list - way fun, you get to see all kinds of things, and you don't even notice how many calories you're burning until a few hours later when you climb out of the water, starving! - 6/17/2013   8:51:39 PM
    These are great suggestions. Thanks for sharing. - 6/17/2013   2:47:08 PM
  • 39
    Thanks for great ideas - 6/17/2013   2:36:53 PM
    WOW, who knew building sandcastles with grandkids is exercise. - 6/17/2013   1:43:26 PM
    Oregon has some amazing beaches, full,of wildlife (tide pools and whale watching), seashells, vistas, beach houses, etc. the great thing about beach walking for me is that I tend to lose myself in the environment and walk way farther than I planned. - 6/17/2013   11:42:44 AM
  • 36
    At the beach and almost anywhere else, bring along the bocce balls and have a game. We play each year on the sand when we travel to the Coast. It's fun, easy, and the "equipment" is minimal. Try it, it's a lotta' fun! Calorie burn? Not sure, but better than just sitting, yet not too strenuous (for us "oldies but goodies" ;) - 6/17/2013   10:51:45 AM
  • 35
    Well, I am very far from any beach being that I live in the Midwest. But I will remember this activities as some of them can be done at lakes and pools as well.
    - 6/17/2013   10:48:31 AM
  • 34
    I love the beach. Even though I am far from the ocean, I am lucky to live near several beautiful lakes with sandy beaches. I could not imagine not living near water. Even just those 80 calories burned by sitting are much more pleasantly spent on the beach than in front of the TV :) - 6/17/2013   9:33:58 AM
  • 33
    Makes me so jealous. I so wish I lived by a beach. I love the ocean. But living in southern New Mexico I'm a long way from the beach LOL. However I will remember these in case I get chance to travel to one. Great ideas! - 6/17/2013   9:15:12 AM
  • DONNA088
    Great article! I love taking long walks on the beach early in the morning. - 6/17/2013   8:37:37 AM
  • 31
    Really good suggestions. - 6/17/2013   7:46:16 AM
  • 30
    All look like fun! - 6/17/2013   6:53:41 AM
    Such lovely ideas.
    I live in Trinidad and my husband and I go beach walking and swimming in the sea five days a week.I do some exercises in the sea but mostly swimming.Will definitely add some of your suggestions.Thanks Nicole. - 6/30/2011   6:34:25 PM
  • 28
    I like to walk along the shores of Lake Michigan even before it's too cold to swim. I start out wading in ankle deep water. Then, later I swim & like to wave jump when the waves are big. - 6/27/2011   2:59:22 PM
  • 27
    A fair-skinned redhead, I don't care for the sun or the beach, but if I happened to be near a beach, say, for a family gathering, I'd walk... probably in search of A/C and indoor plumbing somewhere, lol. I'm 100% urban. At a 5-day conference at the gorgeous Grand Traverse Resort in Michigan, my daughter and I dipped our toes in the bay to be able to say we had, then hopped the bus to the quaint and lovely Traverse City, homesick for concrete and asphalt. We exercised by walking through the city's zoo of animals native to Michigan, and walking a mile or so daily for provisions because we were on scholarships and couldn't afford resort meals that weren't included in the conference fees.

    Glad to see the variety of active fun for beach-lovers in the blog and comments. Just not my cup of tea. - 6/26/2011   7:37:30 PM
  • 26
    Great tips now if only there was a beach by me! - 6/26/2011   3:39:21 PM
  • 25
    hmm... I notice pinball isn't on the list. LOL !! when I was a kid, when I wasn't playing in the water or building sandcastles, I was playing pinball and skee ball in the arcade !!

    - 6/26/2011   12:59:29 PM
  • 24
    Great blog. I am one of those people who lives near the beach year round and fails to take advantage of all it has to offer. When we go to the beach (which isn't often), we take a couple of beach chairs and sit and people watch. We also talk about the things that caused us stress enough to demand a beach trip ... and we try to match our breathing to the ebb and flow of the waves. But all that was before I became a "gym rat," (smile) so stress relieving trips to the beach might take on new activities. You've certainly given me plenty of ideas. Thanks! - 6/26/2011   6:19:45 AM
  • 23
    I just came back from the Bahamas, where we did water aerobics in the water. so much fun, and the benefit of exercise too. - 6/25/2011   9:53:43 PM
  • 22
    These ideas sounds like fun! I don't get the beach but I will try! - 6/25/2011   5:17:25 PM
  • 21
    My family's favorite hot spot is Myrtle Beach. We like to jump the waves. I love the feel of the sand under my feet. We usually rent a beach house and head to the local Kroger, saves money and thanks to spark I now know how to save calories as well. Next month we may be going to Miami so I'm thinking about a good game of volley ball. - 6/25/2011   4:24:28 PM
  • 20
    Nicole, Loved your list. We have vacationed at the beach for years but I enjoy it so much more now that we are active while we are there. You didn't mention my favorite activity though: biking on the beach...or the boardwalk...its great fun to feel the breeze in your hair as you ride. I also like the fitness center where I can treadmill while watching the ocean..in AC.... hope your trip was awesome. We are going down to the beach next weekend and I'm going to run (and walk) my first 5k there!!!! - 6/25/2011   2:28:18 PM
  • 19
    I grew up within 15 miles of the beach as a youngster. In high school I ran Cross Country and Half mile in track, and every weekend the weather was good (or when it was just marginal) I ran on the beach.

    Weaving from the soft sand to the packed sand every 1/4 mile or so gave me stamina for the distances (soft sand) and speed for the finishes (packed sand).

    Now, 1500 miles from the closest real beach, I have a great deal more difficulty getting the pounds off. Of course a broken back with compressed disks in the boundary of S and L lumbar doesn't help. On vacation last year back in Southern California, long walks on the beach every morning helped me lose 3 pounds in about 10 days, and it was not 'work' or 'exercise' at all - just fun relatively quiet (the ocean overpowers all but the most shrill of sounds).

    Plus, I could look behind me and see marks in the sand where stress literally drained from my body (OK, maybe the marks were imaginary, but the stress relief wasn't). - 6/25/2011   1:38:46 PM
  • 18
    We took our vacation to the beach earlier this month.I stayed very active with walks on the beach and playing in the ocean.Another form of great exercise is looking for seashells.You do lots of bending over while looking for the seashells.Sure wish we lived a little closer to the beach since we are almost 400 miles to the closest beach.Another good hint to an active beach vacation is to go earlier in June.It's not as crowded which means lots of room to walk.It's also cooler and the sand isn't so hot! - 6/25/2011   11:53:47 AM
  • 17
    great article! i want to add hiking to the list. my goal this summer is to get out and see places my boyfriend and i have never seen. for 4th of july we are going to TWO popular tourist areas, the mystery spot in santa cruz, ca and hearst castle in san simeon, ca. (talk about getting your walk on!!!) please check them out if you're ever in the CA area.

    www.mysteryspot.com /
    www.hearstcastle.org / - 6/25/2011   10:22:49 AM
  • 16
    My beach vacation isn't until November, but I do like to walk on the beach. I hate to admit this, but my idea of a beach vacation is to lie on a beach chair with a good book and a cold drink :) BUT, the place we go offers yoga, kickboxing and other classes and has a great gym, so I make sure I get there at least 3 times. I also swim everyday. Counting the days................ - 6/25/2011   6:51:24 AM
  • 15
    I have been at the beach on vacation this week as well. I have run on the beach every morning. This morning I ran barefoot in the surf. It was awesome! - 6/24/2011   4:11:00 PM
  • 14
    Being an old ****, walking on the beach and/or wave jumping sounds great.
    - 6/24/2011   2:14:00 PM
  • 13
    i love going to the beach and we take long walks and play in the waves and just have a blast who knew building a sand cassel you could burn cal - 6/24/2011   1:52:26 PM
    I love walking on the beach. It is so effortless- walking 3 miles no problem where at home 1 mile is an effort. - 6/24/2011   11:58:22 AM
  • 11
    I too love walking on the beach especially after a long day at work . . . I love getting home and my girls are asking if we can go to the beach for a walk! - 6/24/2011   11:27:30 AM
  • 10
    I love walking on the beach more than anything, and just letting my feet get wet. I wish I lived closer to the beach!! - 6/24/2011   10:33:32 AM
  • 9
    My week at the beach last year actually kickstarted my 38 pound weight loss. We rode our bikes every morning on the boardwalk. We go back tomorrow and I cannot wait!!! I am actually hoping that I can break my plateau while on vacation. - 6/24/2011   9:53:45 AM
  • 8
    We go to Prudence Island every Summer, & the cottage we rent is a nice 1 mile walk from the beach! Carrying our coolers, gear & such helps for a little extra cardio/st boost~& while we are there, we dig for clams & catch blue crabs.
    Lots of fun & a great way to stay active. - 6/24/2011   9:33:28 AM
    You forgot one basic beach exercise: dodging other people - on the beach and in the water!

    Hope you had a great vacation. - 6/24/2011   9:30:39 AM
  • 6
    I love the beach and it's so easy to be active all at the same time you're having fun! - 6/24/2011   9:10:21 AM
  • 5
    I live in Michigan, and we visit Lake Michigan. we swim, jump waves, walk on the beautiful beach, and added bonus.... we climb sand dunes! I wonder how much calories that burns? I'm going to the beach next weekend as a matter of fact! Can't wait ! - 6/24/2011   9:05:13 AM
  • 4
    Thanks for the tips!!! My vacation will definately be about staying fit. I love walking/jogging while at the beach. It will be my part of my morning routine!!!! - 6/24/2011   8:33:22 AM
  • 3
    I think I've done the type of beach walking/running that burns 800 calories per hour before--ever tried climbing a dune? Every time you take a step up, the sand beneath your feet rolls down so your feet continuously slide back, almost like nature's stair stepper. This forces you to be very fast about climbing the dune, otherwise you'll make no progress. What looks like an easy climb from the bottom will have you sweating and your heart racing in no time! - 6/24/2011   8:19:37 AM
  • 2
    I LOVE the BEACH and do so much more walking and playing and eatting healthy that I always LOSE weight on my vacation EVEN with a few more than normal cocktails!! It WILL be my future lifestyle once i stop working in the rat race of life! - 6/24/2011   7:50:38 AM
  • 1
    Nicole, Based on one of your previous blogs, I'm guessing you wore your swimsuit all vacation. I am hoping to look good in a swimsuit one day...well I will be satisfied not to get harpooned. lol My favorite way to burn calories at the beach is just to walk. I will walk until I don't want to walk anymore and call my wife to pick me up. It turns into a game to see how far I can go. I love it!
    - 6/24/2011   6:48:11 AM

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