How does scuba diving burn calories and is scuba diving a good workout to loose weight?

How Does Scuba Diving Burn Calories Is Scuba Diving A Good Work Out

You don’t see any over weight scuba diving instructors. I’ve yet to meet one anyway. I’m pretty sure that most don’t use the gym either. So that’s a good indication that scuba diving burns calories, but how is that so?


Scuba diving burns around 600 calories per hour (more in cold water), which is more than you might think. Whilst scuba diving is relatively low impact so is not a workout, the calories burnt during a dive don't compare. The reason for the high calorific burn rate when scuba diving is down to the higher thermal transfer properties of water. In water we loose heat 25 times faster than on land. The body burns on average 70% of its daily calorie requirement keeping the body warm. So in water more energy is used up to keep warm, hence the high calorie burn when scuba diving.


Before I dive in (no pun intended) about how does scuba diving burns calories, lets take a quick look at how many calories does the average person burn a day doing nothing.

I've provided quite a lot of explanation about calories in this article, where the core question is about how does scuba diving burn calories, but I felt it was necessary for context and understanding.

In doing so I learnt quite a lot myself.

How many calories does the average person burn a day doing nothing?

How many calories does the average person burn a day doing nothing

What affects how many calories you burn each day will depend on the amount of activity you engage in. But there's something else other than exercise or activity that has a huge impact on how many calories you burn each day. You may be surprised to learn how simple this is too, but more about that later in this article.

The question "how many calories do I burn in a day where I do nothing" is difficult to answer. This is because it depends.

The factors that impact on the number of calories you burn include your weight, what your composition percentage is between fat and muscle, i.e. your physical makeup, your age, and your gender.

For example, men tend to burn more calories than women (this gender difference is due to a higher muscle mass in men), younger people burn more than older ones and the more muscle mass people have the higher the metabolic rate and the more calories they burn too.

So I think a better question to ask is "how many calories does an average person burn a day without exercise."

How many calories does an average person burn a day without exercise?

It's more sensible to look at how many calories are burnt by a person without doing exercise. As even looking at the activity of doing nothing creates anomalies. What is doing nothing, is that sleeping, sitting on the sofa watching TV, or sitting and reading a book? Because even with each of this 'non-activities' each burn slightly different amounts of calories.


An average woman aged 40 weighing 169 lbs burns around 1,722 calories per day leading a sedentary lifestyle; whereas the same aged average man of 196 lbs burns around 2,165 calories.

So let's take a look at an average woman and an average man in America and how many calories they each burn leading a sedentary lifestyle. Where my definition of a sedentary lifestyle is a desk job without any exercise.

How many calories does a woman burn without exercise - the average American woman?

According to Healthline the average American woman over the age of 20 weighs 168.5 pounds (76.43 kilos). This means that an average American woman, aged 40 and 5'5" tall, burns around 1,722 calories per day to maintain their existing weight, based upon a sedentary lifestyle.

Interestingly, if you change this to an 'active lifestyle' the calorie burn for the same woman increases to 2,476 instead.

So the answer to the question of how many calories does the average woman burn in a day, would lie somewhere between these two calorie numbers.

An easy calculator to check your own calorie burn rate per day can be found on this article here: How Many Calories Should You Eat Per Day to Lose Weight?

How many calories does a man burn without exercise - the average American man?

In an article on ABC News the average weight of an American man over the age of 20 is around 196 pounds (90.72 kg). So in comparison to the average woman above, an average American man, aged 40 and 5'10" tall, burns around 2,165 calories per day leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Interestingly, if you change this to an 'active lifestyle' the calorie burn increases to 3,112 instead.

So the answer to the question of how many calories does the average man burn in a day, would lie somewhere between these two calorie numbers.

These calculations of calorie burn have all been calculated using Healthlines calorie calculator (Thank you Healthline.)

So what has all this got to do with scuba diving and how does scuba diving affect how many calories you burn.

Well that's where the whole calorie burn rate gets quite interesting. So before I answer the specific scuba diving question, there's another question I need to answer first, which is: "Does temperature affect calories burned?"

Does temperature affect calories burned? - The science involved in human heat production

Humans, like all mammals, are warm blooded creatures. Creating that warmth, known as Thermogenesis, uses up the most amount of energy than ANY other process in the body, even more than doing exercise. This I found very interesting.


Over 70% of calories are burnt to keep your body warm, which is known as your Basal Metabolic Rate.

Maintaining your body temperature is a function of your metabolism. But in particular it's a part of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Your BMR is the amount of calories you burn at rest (or doing nothing), which can account for somewhere between 50-80% of all the energy you use. The percentage of calories used for your own Basal Metabolic Rate is affected by gender, your physical size (i.e. height), weight and age.

I discovered this great Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator by Active.com (Thank you Active.com).

Using their BMR calculator, I have put some interesting results together in a table below:

Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator

GenderAgeHeightWeightCalorie Burn*BMRBMR % of
Calorie Burn
MaleAge 405'10"196 lbs2,655*1,90571.8%
FemaleAge 405'5"169 lbs1,990*1,50875.8%
* The calorie burn is based on the Active.com calorie calculator. Which gave different results than the Healthline calculator. For the average man and woman leading a sedentary lifestyle both aged 40 and the woman 168 lbs and 5'5" tall and the men 196 lbs and 5'10" tall.

Basal metabolic rate vs total energy expenditure

So when we look at the Basal Metabolic Rate vs total energy expenditure, we see that the Basal Metabolic Rate accounts for a high percentage of total energy used by men and women.

The last column of the above table is what's interesting. The BMR percentage of the calorie burn is 71.8% for a man and 75.8% for a woman. The balance of the calorie burn is used for brain activity (The average brain uses around 20% of calorie count), digestion, breathing and all of the other normal daily activities.

This is where we then look at what affects the Basal Metabolic Rate.

What affects the Basal Metabolic Rate?

We've already seen the various factors that have an impact on the Basal Metabolic Rate. These include body size (height and weight); body composition (Fat vs muscle percentages); gender (Women's BMR is lower in total than a man's, but higher as a percentage of calorie burn); and age.

But there's one more factor that has a major impact on BMR, and that's climate and body temperature.

Interestingly, the BMR of people in tropical climates tends to be higher than those that live in more temperate climates, as it takes a lot of energy to keep the body cool.

Having said that, it also takes a lot of energy for a body to be kept warm in cold environments.

A study shows that 15 minutes in the cold is equivalent to an hour of exercise


15 minutes spent in the cold could be the metabolic equivalent of an hour of exercise. So could spending time in lower temperatures be the answer to losing weight?

Reading an interesting article in National Geographic headed "To Burn Fat, You Could Exercise … or Shiver," looks at a study whereby 15 minutes in the cold can be the metabolic equivalent of an hour of exercise. Both of which have an impact on our fat or Adipose Tissue.

We have two types of fat, which are white fat (white Adipose Tissue) and brown fat (Brown Adipose Tissue). The white fat stores energy and the brown fat is what generates heat.

To generate heat and to keep warm we have two mechanisms to achieve this. These are non-shivering Thermogenesis (NST) and shivering Thermogenesis (ST).

It's thought that the first of these, i.e. NST, is related to brown fat. Scientists think that the chemical reactions that happen in response to cold, but that don't result in muscle contraction (which is what happens with ST, i.e. shivering), are bought about by brown Adipose Tissue.

In 2013 scientists at the U.S. National Institute of Health found that when they monitored 10 adults at lower temperatures, they demonstrated a production of more Irisin hormone. This is a hormone that is known to boost body heat. It's also responsible for creating brown fat cells out of white fat cells. Which is thought to be good for weight loss.

Which leads us nicely on to how does scuba diving burn calories.

How does scuba diving burn calories?

How does scuba diving burn calories?

Scuba diving does burn calories, but how is that?

In my article about how to conserve air when scuba diving, I advise scuba divers to take everything slowly. This is so they conserve their air. Scuba diving is an extremely low impact sport. This is despite the fact that it's performed in a medium (i.e. water) that's around 800 times more dense than air.

When you go scuba diving, you're hardly ever out of breath. It's not like going for a jog or visiting the gym. Which is why so many beginner scuba divers are always surprised by how energy consuming scuba diving is.

However, despite the low impact levels, scuba diving does required energy. Energy is used in finning, getting on and off the boat etc. But the level of calorie burn from the physical side of scuba diving is nothing when compared to jogging.

Therefore, the secret of calorie burning whilst scuba diving lies in the area of thermo-regulation. Or what's been discused leading up to this point in this article, Thermogenesis and Basal Metabolic Rate.

The human body seeks to maintain a core temperature of between 36C (96.8F) to 37C (98.6F). And as already discovered, the majority of the calories we burn on a daily basis are actually to keep us at this temperature.

How does a human body loses heat?

The body loses heat through various methods, the obvious one is through the evaporation of sweat.

However, heat is lost in other ways, with radiation being one of them. The process of radiation of heat away from the body usually occurs in temperatures lower than 20C (68F). Which is why we tend to live with an average room temperature of around 21C (69.8F).

The use of convection increases heat loss, which is why we use fans to cool us down.

The next process of heat loss is via conduction, which would occur if we lie on cold ground.


We lose heat 25 times faster in water due to its higher density than air. Plus water below 21C (70F) is regarded as dangerously cold and could lead to hypothermia without adequate thermal protection.

Conduction is why water always feels colder than air. This is true, even if the temperature of the water is the same as the air. Water is a better conductor of heat because of its greater density.

Why do you lose body heat faster in water?

Water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air due to its greater density. This means that in water we lose heat much more quickly than we do on land.

For example, hypothermia which occurs when a body loses heat faster than the body can make it, will set in at different temperatures on land and in water.

On land body temperature can drop to low levels in air temperatures of around 10C (50F). But in water the same can happen in temperatures of 21C (70F) or below. In fact water between the temperatures of 15-21C (60-70F) is regarded as dangerous.

In this article on 'What is cold water?' this is how it's described: "Controlling your breathing and holding your breath becomes progressively more difficult as water temperature falls from 70°F to 60°F (21°C to 15°C)." In the same article: "Total loss of breathing control. Maximum intensity cold shock. Unable to control gasping and hyperventilation. Happen at 60-50F (15-10C) Very Dangerous/Immediately Life-threatening "

The official water temperature of an Olympic swimming competition is between 25-28C (77-82F). Interestingly, in waters below 25C (77F) breathing begins to be affected

So despite the fact that scuba divers wear exposure suits, heat loss still occurs more when we dive than happens on land. Our body's Non-Shivering Thermogenesis increases. Our Basal Metabolic Rate increases, and as a result we burn more calories.

How many calories are burnt scuba diving?

How many calories are burnt scuba diving?

It's thought that as much as 600 additional calories are consumed per hour during a scuba dive. This number will be affected by a number of factors. Not least by the water temperature and what exposure suit is worn, either a wetsuit or dry suit.

More Reading: What is the difference between a wetsuit and a dry suit?

When I compared this to running, it would appear that men burn around 124 calories and women 105 calories per mile. This will also depend on a number of other factors, which include the weight and age of the runner and the weather.

So in order to achieve the same result as scuba diving, you'd have to run between 5-6 miles.

I know what I'd rather do. I hate running and love scuba diving, so the choice is easy. However, I prefer to dive in the warm blue waters of the Caribbean, which is not something I can do every day, as I live in the UK.

How can I burn 500 calories a day?

The question of "how can I burn 500 calories a day," which I know people ask, is why not learn to scuba dive. But if you ask how can you burn 1000 calories a day? First get scuba diving certification, and then go for two scuba dives a day instead.

Include scuba diving in your weight loss program

If you are looking for an alternative weight loss program, and one that's fun and exciting, you may want to consider taking up scuba diving.

As already discussed, scuba diving burns plenty of calories, despite the fact that it's a low impact sport.

Why am I so hungry after scuba diving?

The reason why you are so hungry after scuba diving is because of the extra energy you've consumed as a result of Thermogenesis and the increase in your Basal Metabolic Rate.

A good recommendation is to have a supply of snacks to eat between scuba dives. A good option is to eat a banana in between dives, as they provide good energy.

How many calories do you burn in an hour of snorkeling?

Arguably, the number of calories you burn in an hour of snorkeling would be similar to scuba diving.

Physically you are finning like you are scuba diving, although you don't have the same weight of equipment to carry. However, you are immersed in water so conductivity of heat and the loss thereof will be similar.

If you are not able to scuba dive, then consider snorkeling as another weight loss option to burn extra calories.

Scuba diving in cold water is your answer to burning those calories!

The answer to burning those extra calories is to dive in cooler waters.

The best solution to burning the maximum amount of calories would be to scuba dive with a thinner exposure suit in cooler waters. But to increase the calorie burn rate you need to be living somewhere like the Caribbean too.

The body consumes more energy keeping cool in temperatures experienced in places like the Caribbean.

How many calories do you burn scuba diving in cold water?

The number of calories you burn scuba diving in cold water will be more than in warmer waters. Plus it does depend on what type of exposure suit you're wearing too.

However, you are likely to be burning up to 700 calories per hour while scuba diving in cold water.

I hope you enjoyed this article about how does scuba diving burn calories…

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or scuba diving (or specifically about how does scuba diving burn calories), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.

Have fun and be safe!


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