I’ve played in lots and lots of church league softball games over the years that have left me sweaty and sore. But at no point was I under any illusion that I had done much that benefited my body. Was that assumption correct, though? That is, where does intramural softball fall on the fitness spectrum — is it more an evening of skee ball at Dave & Buster’s or anything closely resembling a workout at the gym?
I don’t know what you’re talking about! I run all the time during my softball games!
You’re certainly doing more for your metabolism standing upright and shifting around than when you’re sitting down, like when you’re riding the pine and waiting for your turn to hit. So that’s a check mark in the win column straight out of the gate.
As for when you’re in the batter’s box, let’s assume that you’re a quality doubles hitter who spends a fair amount of time running the bases. What does this do for you in terms of calories burned? If you receive four at-bats during each game, you’re probably engaging in four 15-second sprints, followed by 15 additional seconds of sprinting if you have a solid hitter behind you who is capable of sending you home.
And so, we can credit you with two solid minutes of running at or near your top speed, with potentially up to 30 calories burned — if you can manage to get on and around the bases with that level of regularity. In other words, 30 calories is your ceiling if you bat 1.000, you’re an extra-base hitter and you always score runs once you reach base.
Good luck with that, Mike Trout.
But what about all of the time I spent in the field?
Well, that’s certainly something to consider. Like I said, you’re already standing up and fidgeting around, which burns up more energy than doing nothing at all. From that point, your activity level in the field is going to vary greatly depending on a multitude of factors, not the least of which is how active your position is from game to game, and how effective your team is at recording outs.
Let’s go with the best-case scenario from a workout standpoint, and your worst-case scenario as a player. Hypothetically, your pitcher is getting absolutely shelled, you’re stuck playing center field and it seems like everything coming off of the opponents’ bats is sent screaming in your direction. For every fly ball you get underneath in order to record the outs — and you secure all 21 outs for your team during this legendary seven-inning display — you find yourself chasing down a further 42 balls that somehow make it out of the infield, whether they’re flies that are dropped into the outfield or grounders that are smacked through the infield.
I think it’s reasonable to assume that you would burn an average of five calories per play that you’re forced to make. Thus, at the end of your otherworldly defensive performance, you’ll have burned another 315 calories in the field to go along with the 30 calories you incinerated while chugging along the base paths.
But again, this is with the caveat that you manage to turn in a Hall-of-Fame caliber game worthy of Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime. In reality, I’d bet the actual caloric burn you can attribute to the game is less than half of this total. A hundred to 150 calories burned over the course of a softball game is nothing to sneeze at, but it can also be achieved in 10 to 20 minutes of walking, jumping rope, ellipticalling or swimming — to say nothing of how you can burn several hundred calories while engaged in any of these exercises over the equivalent length of time to a softball game.