Study: Frolicking in Surf Burns More Calories Than Running

A new study has found that capering and cavorting at the ocean’s edge burns more calories than running and is easier on the joints to boot.

The study, which appears in the journal Sports ’n’ Stuff, involved 409 healthy men and women randomly assigned to one of two groups. Researchers put the first group on treadmills set to a gentle incline and “moderate” pace, then recorded everything from impact forces to calorie burn. The second group was bused to a nearby beach, where they were issued swimsuits and instructed to scamper about playfully in the shallow water.

The treadmill group, on average, burned about 12 calories per minute. The beach group burned about 22 calories per minute. In addition, the average peak force on the joints of the leg and ankle was almost twice as high in the treadmill group as in the frolic group.

“These findings are great news for anyone seeking alternatives to running,” said Brian Wilson, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. “Gamboling and prancing among the crashing waves is a safe, effective way to burn calories—indeed, more so than many traditional outdoor activities.”

Wilson noted that the study’s frolic group also reported higher levels of enjoyment, having 1,850% more fun than the treadmill group. They also felt 640% more carefree and 715% more playful.

The beachgoers did lose out to the treadmill group in one respect, however—they were a million times more likely to go home with sand in their butt cracks.

Still, said Wilson, the study’s conclusions were clear.

“Engaging in giddy, childlike play in saltwater surf is an outstanding way to stay active,” he said. “We encourage everyone from exercise newbies to avid runners to give it a try.”