Does Sim Racing Burn Calories? (The Truth)

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If you have ever wondered whether or not playing your favourite sim racing game actually burns any calories, you are definitely not alone. It can certainly feel like sim racing is a workout at times, but does it actually burn any calories?

Sim racing does burn calories, and it’s estimated to burn between 150 and 250 calories per hour. This is roughly 2-3.5 times the number of calories burned compared to when you are inactive. It’s not going to burn as many calories as real racing, which can burn as many as 500+ calories per hour.

The number of calories you burn when sim racing varies widely depending on a number of factors. Below, we consider some of these factors and take a closer look at just how physically demanding sim racing can be.

How Do You Calculate How Many Calories An Activity Burns?

First of all, you have to think about how to calculate how many calories any particular activity burns. This is usually worked out as an hourly rate, and numbers vary significantly depending on the activity. Fortunately, a lot of research has been carried out to find relatively easy ways to estimate energy consumption.

Note: We tend to use the word 'calorie' when we actually mean 'kilocalorie' or 'kcal,' which is equal to 1000 calories. However, for the sake of general use, calorie and kilocalorie are interchangeable. 

The first thing to take into account is called the MET value. This stands for “metabolic equivalent,” with one MET being roughly equal to the amount of energy required to sit without doing anything. It is widely accepted to be around 1 kcal/kg/hr, and this means that if a person weighs 70 kg, they would burn around 70 calories per hour of sitting.

Of course, this won’t be 100% accurate, but it is a good place to start. Different activities have assigned MET values, and this is the value that is used to calculate how many calories that activity burns per hour. The equation is a simple one, being just the product of the MET value and the weight of the person doing the activity.

So, once we have a MET value and a weight, we can get a fairly good estimate of the number of calories an hour of a certain activity would burn.

How Many Calories Do Common Activities Burn?

There’s effectively an unlimited number of different activities we could look at, each with their own MET value. For example, a light walking pace of around 1.7 mph has a corresponding MET value of 2.3. This means that a person weighing 70 kg walking would burn around 161 calories by walking for one hour (70 x 2.3 = 161).

In contrast, the MET value for a 6 mph run is 9.8, which would lead to around 686 calories burned per hour. Values vary greatly depending on other factors like terrain and equipment used, and the more complex the activity the more difficult it becomes to calculate an accurate rate of energy consumption.

However, if you know roughly what is involved in an activity in terms of physical exertion, you can associate a MET value with it and thus calculate the number of calories that activity would burn per hour.

KEY POINTS

• Every activity has an associated MET value

• You can use this MET value to estimate the number of calories burned per hour of that activity

• Sitting burns around 70 calories per hour, while walking burns about 160

How Many Calories Does Driving Burn?

Driving burns anywhere from around 150 to 250 calories per hour under normal circumstances. Race car drivers will burn more calories per hour as this involves more physically demanding maneuvers and high levels of stress. F1 drivers burn 1200-1500 calories per race.

First, we need to find the MET value associated with driving, which is easier said than done. Some estimates put the MET value for driving a car or small truck somewhere around the 2.5 mark. This means that driving involves around two and a half times as much exertion as sitting doing nothing.

If we take that figure for the MET value and use our arbitrary weight of 70 kg, we find that driving burns around 175 calories per hour. When compared with the value of sitting doing nothing – 70 calories per hour in this case – it seems that driving involves more ‘exercise’ than you might think.

Racing Drivers

But what about race car drivers? Surely driving faster and taking corners with more force requires more energy than simply driving in a straight line at 30 mph? Well, once again it becomes quite difficult to estimate, but a popular example to use would be a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Some estimates say that the drivers would burn as many as 1500 calories over the course of a 90-minute race. That works out to be around 1000 calories per hour – much more than the simple sitting behind the wheel of your daily driver.

The conditions involved in a race are almost never experienced anywhere else in the driving world, with temperatures inside the car reaching upwards of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also, the speeds and G-forces experienced by F1 drivers far exceed the normal forces felt even in rally racing, another form of driving that requires a lot of bodily movements. So, it really is an extreme example of how many calories can be burned through driving.

What Does Sim Racing Involve?

There are a lot of things that make sim racing comparable to the real thing. You can use a force feedback steering wheel, which will require you to work against belts or motors that make it feel like you are really struggling to take the car around corners at high speed. Direct drive wheels emulate real driving the best, and their high-torque motors can be exhausting to use!

Then of course you could have a gear shifter and handbrake setup, which adds more movements to the equation. But that is probably where the comparisons stop. Unless you have a very expensive setup, such as a full-on simulator that throws you around with the car in-game, you won’t feel any of the pressure or G-forces on your body that contributes to a lot of the physical strain put on racing drivers.

How Many Calories Does Sim Racing Burn?

Sim racing likely burns around 150-250 calories per hour. This is based on how many calories normal driving burns, but obviously taking into account the fact you’re likely putting more physical exertion into your sim racing as the driving is far more intense.

The average sim racing setup involves at least a force feedback wheel, some pedals, and perhaps even a gear shifter or handbrake. This means that, unlike other video games, you are involving your hands, arms, feet and legs while you play, which definitely contributes to the burning of extra calories versus just using your thumbs and fingers.

More Movements Required

Although you aren’t in a moving vehicle, you are undoubtedly going to be moving your arms and legs much more and much faster than if you were just driving to the shops and back in real life. Also, the mental side of things requires more concentration, and so your brain will be using more energy as well than if you were just sitting watching the road.

This all contributes to a very messy calculation, one that involves far too many variables to be reliably carried out. However, taking the estimate of real driving – 175 calories per hour for a 70 kg weight – and bearing in mind all of the extra exertion involved in rapid steering wheel movements and pedal switching, we would put the value for calories burned through sim racing at about 150-250 calories per hour.

Lots Of Variables At Play

This value is definitely a very rough estimate, and the reason for the large range is that it will not only depend on the person’s weight, but it will also depend on their play style, setup and their metabolism too. Some people also burn calories faster than others, which will skew the numbers significantly.

So, although it is obvious that sim racing requires more energy than simply sitting doing nothing, it is very difficult to determine exactly how large that energy difference is. There are lots of variables involved, and accurately calculating the number of calories burned during any activity is already a difficult task.

Can Sim Racing Be Considered A Sport?

Sim racing is not usually considered a sport. While there is some physical exertion involved, and it can obviously be done competitively, there just simply isn’t enough of a physical demand for most people to class it as a sport. Real race driving can be considered a sport though.

One definition of a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment,” and physical exertion may be defined as “the activity of exerting your muscles in various ways to keep fit.”

Although sim racing is definitely both competitive and entertaining, there is no doubt that it is not an activity that one would perform in order to keep physically fit. Mentally sharp perhaps, but not physically fit.

How Many Calories Do Other Video Games Burn?

The answer to this question is much easier, as it will be very close to the base rate for someone sitting still. Of course, playing video games involves a small amount of physical activity, but that activity is mostly just the pressing of buttons on a controller.

However, perhaps more important in this case would be the increased mental focus needed to play video games. The base rate of 70 calories for someone that weighs 70 kg sitting down for an hour would most likely be a good estimate for playing most video games, but the intense concentration involved could increase that value by 10-20%, depending on the game of course.

Final Thoughts

Sim racing does burn calories, probably somewhere in the range of 150-250 calories per hour. The exact value will largely depend on how much physical exertion you put into your sim racing, but it definitely burns more calories than simply sitting doing nothing.