Is Ultimate Frisbee A Good Workout?

It seems like there's a frisbee in every American household. They're given away as promotional gifts, set out as barbecue entertainment, and they are an almost iconic part of summer fun. But in the '60s, a group of high school students decided to take their frisbee games to a new level. They went on to create ultimate frisbee, often known simply as "ultimate" according to the American Council on Exercise.

The game has since become a popular college pastime and even has an official league, known as USA Ultimate. This organization covers everything from youth leagues to Team USA, an elite team that competes in the World Games, a competition akin to the Olympics (via The World Games).

As USA Ultimate says on their site, they are an organization dedicated to character building, sportsmanship, and inclusion. But that is not where the benefits of ultimate end, as showcased in a 2016 study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise itself.

A science-backed sport

Most people assume that ultimate frisbee is essentially a normal game of catch but with a little more running. In truth it is a complex sport that builds up agility, as well as conditions players through both sprinting and endurance running, according to Health Fitness Revolution.

These benefits might sound overblown but a small study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise backs them up. And, surprisingly, it found even more benefits. It's important to note that the study had a very small sample size of less than 20 ultimate players. But it is still a good foundation for research into the sport, especially given the study's findings.

Researchers found that, on average, a 40 minute game of ultimate burns around 477 calories. Gameplay also creates the same training benefits as players would get if they performed "moderate to vigorous-intensity exercise" for the same amount of time. For comparison, the ACE said that a round of ultimate has roughly the same health benefits as running five miles. The players also showed signs of cardio health training on par with interval training sessions that lasted the same amount of time.

Ultimately the ACE concluded that three games of ultimate a week would meet the recommended amount of exercise for the average adult. The sport's social nature also adds a positive mental health boost to the physical benefits, making ultimate a great way to stay healthy and have fun at the same time.