Is Basketball More Physical Than Soccer?

Some sports can be more physically demanding than others, but soccer and basketball are often touted as some of the most physical of them all. However, there have been disagreements on whether basketball or soccer is the more physical sport, as both require strenuous training from their athletes.

Basketball can be more physical if you consider the physical effort needed from players. However, soccer can be more physical if you consider the amount of running and endurance players must have per game. As for the calories burned, the answer there actually depends on which source you trust.

In addition, various factors can affect how much physicality is required in a given basketball or soccer game. Below, we’ll discuss these considerations and how they can make basketball seem more physical than soccer and vice versa. 

Is Basketball More Physical Than Soccer? 

Athletes depend on their bodies’ physical abilities for their livelihoods; therefore, they must obtain and maintain a level of athleticism that surpasses most of the world’s population. Basketball and soccer have been ranked among some of the most physically demanding sports globally, but which is more demanding?

In truth, basketball can be more physical in some areas, while soccer can be more physical in other areas. 

With that said, below are a few ways in which basketball or soccer may require greater physicality. 

Calories Burned 

The first one is the one where there is a less clear answer on the sources found online. It is a pity because this could give a very good indication of which sport is more “physical” since the number of calories burned is a very good indication of how strenuous a sport is.

According to, you will burn around 480-710 calories per hour of basketball and around 420-622 per hour of soccer. The number of calories you will burn will depend on your playing intensity, how long you play, and how fast you burn calories.

However, if you check, which takes its data from the Compendium of Physical Activities, the results are a bit different. There, a game of soccer burns more calories than a game of basketball. The following are the results of one hour of play for a person weighting 150 lbs.

Type of ActivityMETCalories Burned
Soccer, casual, general7501
Soccer, competitive10716
Soccer calculator
Type of ActivityMETCalories Burned
Basketball, shooting baskets4.5322
Basketball, non-game, general6430
Basketball, general6.5465
Basketball, officiating7501
Basketball, wheelchair7.8558
Basketball, game8573
Basketball, drills, practice9.3666
Basketball calculator

As you can see, when you compare game to game, a soccer game burns 716 calories while a basketball game burns 573 calories.

Amount of Running 

Both basketball and soccer require a lot of running from point A to point B, and running tends to be a strenuous activity for those who aren’t used to running long distances. So how much does one run during a basketball game or a soccer game?

Basketball players, on average, run around 2.55 miles per game. Soccer players, on the other hand, tend to run around 7 miles per game. 

The average basketball game runs for 2 hours and 18 minutes, and the average soccer game runs for a little less than 2 hours. Therefore, it is safe to say that soccer requires more running in a short period than basketball.

Physical Demands 

Basketball and soccer are both physical exercises, whether in practice or in-game, but they have different demands for your body. 

Physical Demands of Basketball

Basketball is certainly physical when you consider the amount of strenuous effort put into a standard game. There is constant jumping, cutting, quick acceleration, and lateral movements, lots of upper body strength, and constant physical contact. 

  • There is an extreme amount of dexterity required as well as the ability to see and assess a lot of movement in a very confined space. Basketball requires hand-eye coordination for the entire game, as focus is the key to getting that perfect shot in the hoop. 
  • It requires more upper body strength due to the use of your arms and agility to maneuver against your opponents while keeping your eye on the ball.
  • Basketball players also have to be able to catch, handle, and shoot the ball while being quick and light on their feet. If a player is strong in one and weak in another, it makes it harder for them to be as effective on the court.

Physical Demands of Soccer

On the other hand, soccer requires higher endurance levels, as you are almost constantly on the move during a soccer game. Soccer also requires a great amount of cardiovascular health, as all that running around is certain to get your heart beating at a faster rate than normal. 

However, soccer does not require more upper body strength, as only goalies tend to touch the ball with their hands. Instead, it requires lower body strength, as you are reliant on your legs and feet to get the ball towards the goal.

Other Factors That Affect Physical Effort

It’s also worth considering a few factors that can influence how basketball or soccer can be more physical than the other: 

Environmental Effects

This may not initially seem like a factor of which sport is more physical, but where you exercise can make a sport more or less physically excruciating. 

Basketball games are usually indoors. Indoor exercise is in a controlled environment, which allows you to have a higher intensity workout while not being exposed to the elements.

In contrast, soccer games are usually outdoors. Depending on the weather in your area, outdoor games may require a lot more endurance than usual, as hot weather can wear you out more easily, and exposure to the elements can hinder your performance in-game.

Amount of Downtime

Rest is very important if you will be exercising for a while. However, there are different amounts of rest available, depending on if you play basketball or soccer.

In basketball, there is usually around 90 minutes of “downtime” or inactivity per player, per game. Considering that the average basketball game is around 2 hours and 18 minutes, that means each basketball player is only active for 35% of a game. This gives them enough time to regain their stamina between quarters. In addition, there are more breaks between each quarter of basketball. 

In contrast, in soccer, you get about 57 minutes of inactivity per game, meaning players are active for 50% of a roughly 2-hour game, on average. With a higher level of activity, soccer players are forced to build up enough physical stamina to constantly be on the move with very little room for rest. 

Soccer players don’t get official timeouts like basketball, nor can they stop for a quick swig of water. Besides halftime, and unless there is a serious injury or hazard on the field, play does not stop until the game end. Even if the referee finds a valid reason to call a timeout, the time in which the game is paused is added back to the clock (stoppage time) at the end of each half so a full game can still occur. 

Is Basketball Overall the More Physical Sport?

Overall, it seems that basketball is the more physical sport in terms of what parts of your body get a workout. However, soccer is technically the more physical sport, considering how much time players are on the field per game and how much they run.

Despite this, both basketball and soccer take an incredible toll on one’s body and are both very physically demanding sports. So it depends on what you define as “physical.” As we mentioned above, basketball is more physical than soccer in some ways, and soccer is more physical than basketball in other ways.


So there you have it, ways basketball can be more physical than soccer and vice-versa, from distances ran to the amount of downtime during games. Whether basketball or soccer is better for you personally, though, depends on what you want to achieve by playing sports.

If you liked this post, be sure to check “Can Basketball Be Played All Year Long?” & “Is Basketball a Contact Sport?“.

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