Exactly What is the Toughest Outdoor Sport?

Trip to Skorafjell 1

Have you ever wondered what the toughest outdoor sport is? Outside magazine did and put that question to some experts to find out. The results might surprise you, but you’ll discover exactly which activities but the most demands on your body, and what some well known outdoor athletes consider the most grueling activities. 

In this article, Outside compares rock climbing, downhill mountain biking, ultrarunning, open water swimming, and nordic skiing to one another in terms of calories burned per hour, as well as injury rate and fatality rates. Using those statistics, they then analyzed each of the activities and spoke with experts on the sports to determine which ones are the most demanding.

In terms of calories burned per hour, those sports ranked in ascending order as downhill mountain biking (632/hr), ultrarunning (768/hr), rock climbing (818/hr), nordic skiing (952/hr), and open water swimming (957/hr). This gives you a bit of an idea of how much energy you expend while doing each of these activities on a high level. It explains why these athletes are in such impressive shape too. Burning those levels of calories on an hourly basis is intense, particularly when done for an extended period of time. I can tell you that when I go on one of my longer runs (10-15 miles) on a weekend, I ended up being hungry the rest of the day.

So just which of these sports was deemed the most difficult? According to Outside nordic skiing takes the crown because it requires strength, stamina, speed, and a level of cardio performance too. Next up, was rock climbing in no small part because of the technical skills required, followed by open water swimming and downhill mountain biking. Ultrarunning came in last of the five sports listed, although everyone involved with the article admitted that it is still an incredibly tough and demanding sport too.

What do you think? Did Outside get it right? Which of these sports do you think is the hardest? Is there one that didn’t make the list that deserves a mention?

Kraig Becker

1 thought on “Exactly What is the Toughest Outdoor Sport?”

  1. I've only done very basic rock climbing once, but having done the other activities at fairly low levels, I'm not sure how rock climbing isn't the hardest.

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