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Ultimate Frisbee Could Be the Best Way to Shape Up This Summer


If you've scoffed at the prospect of playing ultimate frisbee a recent study by the American Council on exercise (ACE) might make you think twice. One ultimate frisbee match could give you the same results as a few hours spent in the gym. (Here are other ways to summer-ize your fitness routine.)

ACE commissioned the independent study by researchers at Western State Colorado University, who recruited 16 healthy and physically active young adults and put their physical fitness to the test with a series of ultimate frisbee matches. Before they stepped onto the ultimate field, researchers measured participants' resting metabolic rate, heart rate, and aerobic capacity.

Ultimate frisbee matches (where two teams try to get a frisbee across the other's goal line) are made up of 10-minute quarters. Study participants played a series of eight matches each and had their cardiovascular and metabolic responses recorded halfway through the match using a calorimetric measurement system, a heart-rate monitor, and a GPS unit to record distance traveled. Peak blood pressure was measured at the end of the match and then every 30 minutes for 90 minutes post-exercise.

The results: While ultimate might look like it's just a bunch of people hanging out tossing a frisbee, the study showed that participants burned an average of 477 calories during a 40-minute match. (That's even more than the 400 calories than the American College of Sports Medicine suggests you should burn in an exercise session.) Plus, it registered as moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise, comparable to interval training or running at 5 mph.

No need to join a league; add a 40-minute sesh of ultimate frisbee to your next summer picnic or beach day, and you definitely have an excuse to skip the gym. (Try these other outdoor workouts too.) And, hey, if you get really good, you might be headed to the Olympics as an ultimate frisbee player one day. (The U.S. Olympic Committee just recognized U.S. Ultimate in 2014.)


Lauren Mazzo

Lauren Mazzo is a digital assistant editor for Shape and Fitness. She's an Ithaca College alumna, a Rochester, NY, native and an NYC transplant.  More →

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