Can You Burn Calories By Playing Chess?

Chess Guides / By Andrew Hercules
Can You Burn Calories By Playing Chess

Chess is a board game where players sit and move chess pieces while playing. The game is mentally draining and can go on for days especially if the opponents are grandmasters.

Basically, all a chess player has to do is arrive at the gaming venue, make himself comfortable and he is good to go. When it comes to losing weight, most people would not consider playing chess to be a way to achieve this.

People will always choose sports that are physically engaging such as playing football, running round a track, or simply, hitting the gym. Here, we determine whether or not playing chess can help you burn calories.

Can You Burn Calories By Playing Chess?

The outright answer to this question is, yes, you can burn calories by playing chess. According to Robert Sapolsky, Stanford professor of neurology and neurosurgery, a grandmaster chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories per day.

True to his word, some elite chess players have stated that they have lost some pounds after participating in a chess tournament.

Famous Cases of Chess Players Losing Weight

During the World Chess Championships in 1984, the tournament was called off after both opponents, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov, lost over 20 pounds. The sudden weight loss made them feel exhausted and unable to continue with the tournament.

Some grandmasters have also stated that they lost some weight after participating in draining tournaments.

How Chess Helps You to Burn Calories

As aforementioned, chess is a game that requires players to sit comfortably and move pieces around a board. So how does a game with so little physical involvement help you burn calories? Check out the facts below:

1. Chess is Stressful

Naturally, stress can cause weight loss. Chess is a very stressful game, you have to think about your next moves and analyze your opponent. In serious tournaments with serious opponents, making moves or tracking your opponent can be very hard.

When you can’t figure out a perfect move, it can be very stressful. The stress is twice as much if your opponent seems to get his moves easily and is on course to beat you.

Constant stress leads to significant weight less. Playing 2 or more such games in a tournament will definitely take a toll on you.

2. Increased Heart and Breathing Rates

The intensity of a chess game increases with every move. Suddenly, the game is not as straightforward and you have to think. Once stress kicks in, you become anxious and you lose your calm. The pressure increases your breathing rate and your heart pounds faster. In the end, you shed some calories because of these internal body activities.

3. Increased Blood Pressure

If you have some underlying conditions such as issues with your blood pressure, playing chess can trigger the sensitivity. It is always okay when you are winning and you have your opponent by the scruff of the neck.

However, when it is your back against the wall, the results can be devastating. Increased blood pressure can cause significant burn of calories and eventually, it can lead to weight loss.

How to Play Chess Comfortably

If you want to shed some calories, there are healthier ways to do that. Nobody ever plays chess so that they can lose weight! However, with the cases that have been reported about the game’s ability to burn your calories, it is important to put in some measures to avoid that. Consider the tips below:

Train for the game

Yes, that’s right, engage in physical training for your next chess tournament. Just like any other sport, you have to be physically fit going into a game of chess. Hit the treadmill, lift the weights and do some squats.

Today, the grandmasters have professionals who help them train, keep fit and maintain a balanced diet. This puts them in the best form and shape before participating in any game.

Make yourself comfortable

Before seating on that table, make sure that you are as okay mentally as you are fit physically. The game requires you to focus, anticipate and at times, make split second decisions. If you have other issues in your mind, they can impede your ability to make the right decisions and may cause stress.

Losing is a possibility

Even if you believe that there is a 10% chance that you can lose a game, it is still a chance. There are good and bad days in chess. The moment you realize that your opponent is about to checkmate you, remain calm. Yes, it is easier said than done. However, remaining calm under pressure is a skill that chess players strive to have.

In fact, you have better chances of making a comeback when you are calm than when you are stressed. Always go into a game knowing that one person will win and the other will lose. This way, you can avoid stress and heart issues that will make you burn calories and lose weight.

Stick to your tactics

In chess, your opponent will always try to distort you. You must stick to your tactics and only switch if you think that there is a genuine chance of winning the game.

Many are the games where chess players abandoned their philosophies and ended up losing terribly. Losing a game because of an error that you should have seen or should not have made can cause stress and mental breakdown, which eventually causes weight loss.


Even though chess is a board and sitting sport, it has its fair share of troubles. Studies show that you can burn up to 6,000 calories per day while playing chess.

The game requires you to focus and read your opponent’s moves. In some cases, this can be very stressful and may lead to increased breathing and heart rates thereby burning calories in the process.

If you do not want to lose weight when playing chess, always prepare well for the game, make yourself comfortable and have it in mind that there is a possibility that things will go south. With chess, always be prepared for anything.

Andrew Hercules

Hercules Chess, launched in 2020, is a website that teaches you about chess. We started as a chess blog and became a chess training platform in early 2022.

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