Thursday, October 1, 2009

Squash, the Original Extreme Sport

‘Extreme’ sports are all the rage, so much so that there’s even a regular circuit for these X games. I’ve often mused that squash might fit into this category well. Compare the caloric demands of all the sports, below. Squash is one of only a few sports that is classified as anaerobic, in which the demand for oxygen cannot be maintained during a strenuous rally and the player must slip into oxygen debt.

Another example of the extremes in squash is the amount of time a ball is actually in play, when compared to something like tennis. The average tennis game may have 3-4 shots per rally, whereas that number is often considerably higher in squash. The time between serves, which can seem interminable for viewers of tennis, must be short in squash because of the game’s rule of continuous play. Thus the ‘match intensity,’ which is the actual time the ball is in play divided by the overall length of the match, is considerably greater in squash (and, for that matter, badminton, which tends to get short shrift from those who have never experienced it but whose intensity levels rival those of squash).

Although I’ve read a tennis player covers about 2 miles or so in actual match play, I maintain that the distance covered is often greater in squash, although I admit I can’t prove it. I can come close: On two occasions I strapped a pedometer to my waist when playing an A match, with long rallies, to see what the result would be, and in the first instance it was about 2.8 miles and in the second it was over 3. However, a pedometer is not going to give you an accurate reading in squash because of the lunging, sliding nature of squash motion, so you will have to slap a big asterisk next to those numbers.

Caloric demands of squash has a service called Calorie Count, available here:
It has figured out the caloric demands for a 150-lb person playing one hour of the following sports. Here are their findings:

Badminton, competitive:  476

Basketball: 544

Bowling: 204

Boxing, match in the ring: 816

Cricket: 340

Curling: 272

Fencing: 408

Football, competitive: 612

Frisbee, ultimate: 544

Golf: 306 (don't hurt yourself, Tiger…)

Gymnastics: 272

Handball: 816

Ice Hockey: 544

Jai Alai: 816

Judo: 680

Lacrosse: 544

Orienteering: 612

Paddleball, competitive: 680

Racquetball, competitive: 680

Rollerblading, inline: 816

Rugby: 680

Skateboarding: 340

Soccer, competitive: 680

Softball or baseball: 340

Squash: 816

Table Tennis: 272

Tennis, singles: 544

Trampoline: 238

Volleyball, competitive: 544

Volleyball, beach: 544

Wrestling, per match: 408

I was surprised by a few of the higher amounts, particularly inline rollerblading, for which one’s momentum is usually directed in one direction and thus removes the stress of shifting one’s movement, and handball, which I have played, and which the slower nature of the game (compared to squash) argues, as far as I’m concerned, for a lower caloric intensity. Golf, once again, has revealed itself to be a sport for the indolent.


  1. wow, that sure is fascinating. I never read before that squash is the most caloric consuming sport. I always thought it was backyard badminton, or bacci

  2. Do I detect snarkasm? For what it's worth, I really believe that squash might fit into an extreme-sport venue, properly marketed, with extravagant TV coverage, flashing lights and players who can say "That was cool, dude," in the right way.

  3. Have you actually watched squash on TV? do you find it easy to stay awake? I find reading technical journals about obscure medical problems more interesting

  4. Obscure medical problems? I love them!

  5. In 2003, Forbes rated squash as the #1 healthiest sport.

    It's not just "for rich kids who suck at tennis."

  6. Such a great Post!!
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