Although some sports may seem like they do not require too much physical exertion, fitness is a key part of almost all games and elite sportspeople are among the fittest people on the planet.
Take golf, for example. Although you do not have to be supremely fit to play golf at a high level, extra gym work helps elite golfers hit the ball much further than an amateur player. Added to this, training improves a player’s powers of concentration during a five-hour round, and the average golfer needs to maintain their focus and power while walking for around 8.5k. Over a four-day competition, that’s 34k!
Of course, golf isn’t the most physically demanding sport on the planet. However, these statistics show that even the most seemingly accessible sport can be physically demanding. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the most physically demanding sports in the world.
It simply doesn’t get more physically demanding than the sport of boxing. The combination of strength, power, agility and movement required is unrivalled, and that’s before we even consider the conditioning required to withstand a constant barrage of punches from an opponent.
Although elite boxers will usually only fight two to three times per year, their fight camps are arguably the most physically demanding training routines of any sport. They involve lengthy runs at 5am, two rounds of gym work and endless rounds of sparring sessions every single day. Most amateur athletes would struggle to do three lots of three-minute rounds, but elite boxers maintain this pace for 12, all while dodging the powerful punches of another elite fighter.
Given the minimal protection offered by boxing gloves, it’s unsurprising that broken orbital bones, fractured hands and broken ribs are all common injuries for fighters to suffer while in the ring. Added to this, we also need to consider the weight cuts required for a boxer to reach the weight limit required for a fight.
It’s not uncommon for fighters to undergo intense weight cuts in the days leading up to their big bout, so seemingly endless sauna sessions, skipped meals and intense calorie deficits are all par for the course. It’s no wonder they’re all so angry and unsettled in the lead up to fight week!
#2 Rugby Union
To play rugby union, you need to have an enviable combination of speed, power, agility and conditioning. Although most people associate rugby union with crunching tackles, physically demanding scrums and intense battles, there’s actually a lot more to the sport and the punishing schedule means that rugby players must be at the top of their game on a weekly basis.
Added to this, there’s a huge psychological element to rugby union. After all, as well as being pushed to the brink physically during every game they play, rugby players are also tested tactically.
All of this is before we even consider the injury record of elite rugby players. As a physically demanding contact sport, broken bones, dislocated joints, blood injuries and concussions are incredibly common in the game and often leave players side-lined for months at a time.
That said, rugby union is also an incredibly fun sport where players and teammates often become like a family or a band of brothers. After all, sites like Rugby Onslaught show us the banter these players have with each other off the field and also highlight the bizarre lengths some players will go to in order to get under the skin of their opponents.
#3 American Football
Although American football players wear padding and helmets when they take to the field, the sport is arguably the most physically challenging in the world due to the ferocity of the tackles.
Most downs in American football only last for 5-10 seconds, but each requires players to directly challenge and tackle their opposing number. Due to the fact that there can be hundreds of these plays during each and every game, it’s easy to see exactly why the sport is usually played by the fastest, largest and strongest athletes in the world.
Due to the sport’s physically demanding nature, NFL teams only play 17 regular season games each year before the play-offs begin. However, even this shortened schedule is incredibly challenging and injuries are very common.
There are a number of common American football injuries, including sprains, bruises and dislocations. However, concussion is the most common issue faced by athletes playing the sport regularly. To give you an idea how common this serious issue is, according to Vox, there are 0.41 concussions every single NFL game.
Given that it’s technically a non-contact sport, basketball may seem like a surprising inclusion in our list of the world’s most physically demanding sports. However, in order to play the game to a decent standard, basketball players must be supremely fit and able to perform a number of high intensity bursts of movement over a long period of time. And that’s before we even consider each player’s speed, agility and vertical jumping power.
The game of basketball almost never stops. So, even though an NBA game is only 48 minutes long, it’s almost unheard of for an elite player to play the entire game. This is because basketball players tend to sprint for almost the entirety of the game. When they’re not sprinting, they’re battling for position or using their tactical nous to defend.
Oh, and did we mention the intense schedule? Not only are basketball games some of the most physically demanding on the planet, each NBA team plays 82 games a season before the play-offs even start and the majority play 3-4 times every week. To win the title, you have to play 100 games over 10 months, so there’s also only a very short off-season.
Plus, basketball players suffer from one of the worst injury records imaginable. Although sprains and strains are common and minor, the repeated jumping required to shoot night after night can cause horrendous knee and hip issues that end the careers of many basketball players before their 30th birthday.
Fancy trying one of these physically demanding sports? Taking any of them up recreationally certainly isn’t for the faint hearted, but they’re all adrenaline inducing and heart pumping activities that can make you fitter, stronger and faster than ever before.