Slacklining Fitness: Do you burn calories?

In this article, I’ll look at how many calories you burn during a typical slacklining session. I’ll be using data recorded on my Garmin watch to see the calories burned and how that compares to other activities I do. I have a Garmin Vivoactive which means that it uses the Firstbeat method to calculate the calories burned. This uses data I have provided for gender, height and weight. This is considered the most accurate way to record calories outside a lab environment. Whilst I will be sharing the absolute values of calories burned, it’s the comparisons that will provide insight as to how it compares to other activities you may already do yourself.

Slacklining is not a cardio activity and so does not burn a high amount of calories. It burns calories at a similar rate to an active walk. It does work fitness in other ways, similar to strength training focussed around the core and quads.

I’ll be using a specific slacklining session from this summer, looking at my heart rate, calories burned and also how that compares to other activities.

The Slacklining Session

The session itself was 30 minutes long not including setting up my equipment, and the line was set up at around 4m in length. The 30 minutes was split into; warming up, walking forwards, turns and walking backwards. I am still early in my learning and so my sessions involve basic slackline movements.

My warm-up includes some static holds on each foot. I aim to balance 5 times on each foot for 10 seconds successfully. This engages my core and quads and begins to focus me. This was followed by around 10 minutes of walking forwards along the line, aiming to achieve 5 successful attempts. I then spent 10 minutes working on turns, a static movement where I am learning to turn from forwards to backwards and vice-versa. The final 5 minutes of the session were spent trying to walk backwards.

If you’re interested in learning more about my journey of learning to slackline, I’m writing a series of blogs all about it.

Calories Burned

During the 30-minute session described above, I burnt a total of 232 calories. My average heart rate (HR) was 114 beats per minute (BPM) and it peaked at 134 BPM. This meant my average HR was 58% of my max and peaked at 68%. My average resting HR as calculated by Garmin over the last 12 months is 53 BPM. I regularly wear my watch and would estimate I have been wearing it for >90% of the time whilst I’m awake.

At no point during the session was I short of breath or breathing heavily, hence this workout hasn’t significantly worked my cardiovascular system. Garmin splits HR zones up into 5, from warm-up through to maximum. The picture above is the HR zones for the session described. It shows that I spent almost a 50-50 split between zone 1 and zone 2. Zone 1 is the warm-up zone often still relaxed and quite normal levels of breathing. In zone 2 it’s likely you will be breathing deeper recognising that activity is ongoing but conversation is still possible. This means that whilst I will there is some cardiovascular training it is at a very low intensity.

Active vs Resting Calories

Garmin splits calorie burn into two categories: active and resting. This helps to understand how many calories you actually burned during the activity. In order to function, we are all burning calories continuously, although at a much slower rate than during exercise.

Resting calories consist of the minimum calories required to support your body’s basic physiological needs, as well as your age, height, weight, and gender, plus an estimate of those calories required for activities like digestion and being mentally alert.

Garmin Support – Calorie Terminology

Whilst during this slacklining session I burnt 232 calories not all of those are directly related to the activity and a proportion would have been burnt anyway, these are the resting calories. The active calories are specific to the exercise completed.

Active calorie numbers are what is burned throughout the day only while doing physical, non-sedentary activities such as walking or working out. Garmin devices calculate active calories based on the activity level, type of activity, age, height, weight, gender, and heart rate (if available). Garmin Connect also measures active calories from manually created activities.

Garmin Support – Calorie Terminology

During this session, the 232 calories I burnt were split between 46 resting and 186 active. This is an 80/20 split, meaning the slacklining accounted for 80% of the calories burned during that time. If I had not completed the session my body would still have burnt the 46 resting calories anyway.

Calorie Comparison

Here we’re going to compare 3 other activities that I do on a regular basis; a dog walk, a park run and a round of golf. Both the dog walk and the park run I’ll be using will also be around 30 minutes long. The same as the slacklining session. However, the round of golf is over a longer period of about 4 hours. The table below gives an overview of the key figures.

ActivityActivity Time (HH:MM:SS)Avg HR (BPM)Calories BurntActive Calorie %Calories Burnt / Min
Dog Walk00:30:1910720078%6.6
Park Run00:36:5916051190%13.8
Golf (18 holes)04:44:26118170675%6.0
Activities are ordered by total calories burnt.

Dog Walking

The dog walk I completed was for 30 minutes along flat easy terrain, so the route I walked didn’t have a significant impact on increasing the calories I burnt. If you were to do a walk up and down hills you would burn more calories as you work harder as you walk on an upwards gradient.

On this walk, I burnt 200 calories with an average HR of 107 and an active calorie percentage of 78%. This is the most similar activity with similar average HR, calories burned and active calorie percentage.

Park Run

A Park Run is a globally organised event that happens every Saturday morning in loads of locations all around the world. It’s a fantastic way to get into running and not be doing it just on your own. My local Park Run is a very flat route and the total ascent over the 5K route was just 2 metres.

As you would expect this is the most cardio-intense activity on the list with over twice as many calories burnt in a similar time. This is what drives the higher active calorie percentage and almost double the number of calories burnt per minute.

This worked my cardio system much more with only 3% of the run spent in HR zone 1 or 2. The other 97% was spent in zone 3 or 4, which is where cardiovascular performance is improved.

Golf (18 holes)

This round of golf was at the club where I am a member, and I played a full 18 holes. I walked a total of 11.2Km. This was the least cardio-intense activity, as would be expected as it was over a significantly longer time frame. Whilst the average HR was similar, the active calorie percentage and calories burnt per minute were the lowest.

In summary, yes you do burn calories whilst slacklining at a similar rate to a brisk walk. It’s worth noting that these are quite simple slacklining moves. For other disciplines, it’s likely that you would get different results. I’ve written an article all about the different slacklining disciplines so head over there to learn more about this amazing sport.

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