According to recent testing by the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and ExerciseBeat Saber (2018) may be more than just a fun way to spend an evening in. With all that block slicing, dodging and leaning, you could burn as many calories as playing tennis.

The Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise, which collaborates with professionals in the field of Kinesiology, bases their data on a game’s observed metabolic equivalent (MET) score, a standard way of defining the energy cost of physical activities.

The institute uses these observed MET scores, which they obtain by testing oxygen consumption and monitoring heart rate when playing VR games, and compares them to other activities such as tennis, baseball, or boxing—things that are already well documented.

Images courtesy Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise

Over the course of four playsessions conducted by an experienced, but not expert player, they determined a 60kg (132 lbs) Beat Saber player can burn on average 8.57 kcals to 9.86 kcals per minute during their final test—giving Beat Saber an average MET of 6.24, or the equivalent of the energy expenditure of playing tennis, which is rated between 6-8 METs.

There are a few caveats to achieve this score though; a player needs to keep movement at a constant – the higher the skill level of the player, the greater chance you have of hitting and maintaining those upper heart rate targets.

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The report suggests turning off the ability to fail songs, giving you more chance to finish a full song instead of getting stopped after missing too many notes. This essentially lets you play the fastest songs without having to build up the required skill level to reach the end.

The Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise also published a handy chart that adjusts for weight:

Image courtesy Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise

Other games that rate at a similar 6-8 METs include Hot Squat (2016), a game that forces you to squat through barriers, and Fastest Fist (2016), a VR boxing game. The highest rated MET score, which the institute rates at 15+ METs is the VR boxing game Thrill of the Fight (2016), which they rate as an equivalent to the MET observed during sprinting.

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  • Str][ker

    Some notable omissions from the list are ones which my wife and I play regularly for our cardio workout.
    1) BoxVR – Some great cardio in this.
    2) Holo Ball – Great exercise moving back and forth, smashing the ball
    3) Sparc (I mainly play this one but really get into it and get a great workout)

    • NooYawker

      I have Knock out league and it’s tough.

  • Firestorm185

    I wonder what sprint vector would get…

    • Lee McDonald

      I thought the same. That game is very physical. Haven’t played beat saber yet though. Which in you opinion is more physical?

      • Firestorm185

        Haven’t had the chance to play beat saber yet either, but I think they’d be pretty close, maybe with a slight lead to sprint vector depending on how fast you want your character running.

      • Gideon Korte

        Sprint Vector by far… only difference is I’d count Beat Saber as a better workout for less healthy people. Sprint Vector, to be good at it, is actually strenuous, whereas Beat Saber at its hardest is definitely hard, but really doesn’t strain the muscles too much.

  • impurekind

    I have no doubt about it. This is the sweatiest I’ve ever gotten playing a VR game–in the best possible way.

  • Justos

    BoxVR is a much better workout but BeatSaber brings the fun!

  • F1ForHelp

    Quoting myself from the description of a video I made: This game is the most athletic thing I’ll ever be decent at.

    I find it funny that these types of games go completely against the slouching gamer stereotype. (Which includes myself.)

  • Skippy76

    Uuhhmmm NO!!
    Tennis involves running and lunging and swinging our arm full strength.
    This game only involves flailing your arms around and occasionally dodging an oncoming wall. A normally fit person can play this without losing a drop of sweat.

    • F1ForHelp

      Yeah it is stretching the truth a bit.
      I just hope the headline doesn’t downplay the actual benefit the game has.

    • AndyP

      Certainly involves more exercise than sitting on your backside playing PC games, and never playing tennis.

      • Skippy76

        Definitely but the claims this article states are very far fetched..

        • Glyn Burton

          Really just flailing your arms around https://youtu.be/ywEh9ECEnkU

        • Jacob

          Sorry I’m late to this party. I’m decently physically fit, I have run my share of Ragnars, but almost no tennis. I got this game yesterday on PSVR. Both my partner and I were both dripping sweat after playing a few songs. To be clear, Easy and Normal can be done relatively stationary, but Hard and Expert will get your heart rate up! Keep in mind the article qualifies it’s claims mentioning it’s really going to do this for experienced players and with continuous movement.

    • Caven

      The individual actions in tennis are much more strenuous, but you also do a lot less of them. Nobody playing tennis swings a racket multiple times per second, but that’s something that happens almost constantly in Beat Saber, and with both hands. Even though no actual force is needed to hit the blocks, it’s often necessary to move the arms quite quickly in order to successfully complete each swing. It’s not simply a matter of waving arms around. They frequently must be quickly accelerated and decelerated, which takes much more effort than simply moving moving them at a mostly linear rate.

      I also disagree about swinging the racquet at full strength. A well-timed smash can be of great value in tennis, but most of the time whacking the ball at full power just means launching the ball way out of the court and giving the opponent the point. Also, since a smash frequently ends the point, they’re often followed by a short rest period as everyone resets for the next point. Even if somehow every swing of the racquet could be done at full strength, that’s still only one swing per return in the vast majority of cases. Legs see a lot more use in tennis than the arms do.

      It’s also worth noting that they were talking about playing on Expert, which is very unforgiving. On any lower difficulty I would agree with you, as even Hard is nowhere near the challenge level of Expert.

    • literalmeme

      You literally don’t understand, I get it the idea of something that goes against the normal idea is scary to people, but beat saber includes a lot more than just casually flailing your arms around and occasionally dodging a wall (considering you’re on a higher difficulty). There’s a lot more smaller, yet more occurring actions. Just open your mind to a new idea without completely dismissing it.

      • Skippy76

        Lmao..
        The only scary thing about this article is the lack of proof and science. It’s just pseudoscience and random babbling and false claims. Even worse than using a fitbit to determine the amount of calories you lost.

        • a

          You sound like a 46 year old in a mid-life crisis who is also a creationist and a flat earther and the only experience you’ve ever had with video games was seeing your son playing Call of Duty for 2 minutes.

          • Skippy76

            LMAO you couldnt be more wrong! I’ve been playing video games even before you were accidentally conceived by your parents! I just have a huge hate on Baseless claims like this article. Its no different than all those other weight loss gimmicks

          • a

            Now the only thing you can say at the start of every single one of your stupid comments is Laughing My Ass Off apparently which I don’t even know how it makes sense to be even using in this situation if there’s pretty much nothing funny about this. Also using age as a fucking insult? It doesn’t change a thing if you are younger or older than me your comments make no sense.
            Also I DOUBT you actually played the game yourself imo, if you haven’t played the game then you shouldn’t be posting stupid shit to try and get people away from actually trying a good VR game, I know it might be too much for your fetus brain to actually handle but basically you haven’t proven that you actually played the game if your conception of it is “flailing your arms around” I HAVE played the game for well over 30 hours and if you have even somehow played it you probably played only one song in the Easy Difficulty, I have gotten a Full Combo on all songs up until the Hard Difficulty so basically don’t make stupid assumptions about the game if you probably haven’t played it yourself, dumbass.

          • Skippy76

            I start out by LMAO because you are hilariously wrong about me and how you are such a snowflake. I’m 42 and been playing games since the arcade and Atari 2600 days! I own a VIVE witha serious gaming rig! I play so much my wife complains that I don’t spend enough time with her!! Sheesh.. You don’t need to take my comments so personally. your sense of insecurity is quite embarrassing. I don’t need to own the game to know that playing this does not equal to playing tennis! there’s countless streams out there of people flailing their arms around and occasionally ducking or stepping sideways. IT’s okay.. if you need a reason like this to play a game to feel better about your obese self. I bet you’re the type that believes all the pseudo science health headlines….

          • a

            Jesus.. stop with your hipocrisy already, you don’t even know who I am.. I am NOT even close to obese too and even if I were obese I probably wouldn’t be playing VR games in the first place! You are also making baseless claims saying that I was “accidentally conceived by my parents” even though that is completelly incorrect. True I am also being a hypocrite here but you are just trying to make you look like an idiot, boasting about you having a “serious gaming rig” just makes you look like you are trying to flex to make you somehow seem more correct and better than I am. Also you may have seem countless streams of people doing that but you still didn’t experience it yourself, further proving that your claims have almost no basis in actual facts and only in what you have SEEN, also what are you trying to say that “my sense of insecurity is embarassing” not only that you COMPLETELY missed the point of the article, it says that it COULD burn the same amount, not that IT WILL, it also is basing it on Expert Difficulty, the thing that also is not in here is play-style which differs from person to person… So here is what I want you to do, buy the game and actually play it, it’s cheap and it’s also really good! Well if you have a VIVE and a “serious gaming rig” it should be cheap! Once you beat the entire game (FC EVERY song on all difficulties) I want you to come back here and report your experience as a reply to this comment. Also don’t start with bullshit by saying that “you don’t need to experience a game if I’ve already seen streams of it”. If you took the time to read this entire comment then do it pussy! I dare you! You can do all of the things I asked you to.

    • Milkman IV

      So your completely arbitrary, vapid and compulsive assessment of these charts invalidates extensive testing that is adopting scientifically corroborated methodology–of which is universally utilized by hospitals?

      I implore you to further examine their methodology, credentials (which I’m sure far exceed your own) and establish an understanding of how exactly Kinesiological measurements are conducted:

      http://vrhealth.institute/about/
      http://vrhealth.institute/methodology/

      Then again, if your inability to read a chart, adherence to ad hominem attacks, and immediate rejection of any opposition as “pseudoscience” are any indication– perhaps you’ve lost the ease of informational consumption with age, or perhaps as a result of diminished reading speed, you only read the headline.

      Or maybe you’re just fucking stupid, in which case– if it’s not too late, I would advise against the further extension of your genes, old man~

    • Gideon Korte

      I am a perfectly healthy person. I have played matches of tennis, though admittedly not often. Beat Saber gets me just as sweaty in five to ten minutes of gameplay as one match of tennis, assuming that it isn’t 90 degrees outside. Tennis really doesn’t require you to exert yourself that much, I have a strong feeling most of the reason why people sweat during tennis is because Tennis is normally played during hot weather.

      • Skippy76

        I don’t know man.. I played beat saber plenty and don’t get anywhere near sweaty except for that 500 squats custom song.. Perhaps it’s because there’s no weight to the controllers or I don’t get super into it and exaggerate the moves.

        • Trond Henriksen

          ofc. if you just stand there just moving your wrists to hit the blocks its not much workout. but if you want a good point score you need full swing on the blocks. and if you play custom songs with expert plus levels you will get a good workout from it.

          • tom

            this! i was like what’s the point if all i have to do is just hit the blocks on time? but then i saw their scoring system with like minimum 90 dgs angle swings and aftercut points and was like WHAT??! *sweats internally and externally*

    • zengrath

      I normally do not sweat, even when i worked outside in construction work in the past my co-workers would be pouring sweat, but me i would just barely moisture coming out of my pours. I play beat saber for hours at a time, on weekends i have been able to put in a solid 4-6 hours in a session. I thought before i got the game i wouldn’t be able to last a song or two by watching people online. i got game on June 28th with index and i’m now doing only expert maps and sometime expert +. And.. i have never sweated so much in my life. I literally will be pouring sweat out of every inch of my body. so much that when i’m done i feel like i have to shower, after i replace my liquids of course :) So i was curious as to how much calories i’m burning etc. I’m 170IB playing expert and higher, have a feeling i burn more then mentioned here, tennis players don’t move their arms as widely non-stop for hours like i do. but tennis compensates by physically running around the court i’m sure. Problem is, i’m not really losing weight because i’m eating more as a result of my appetite increasing from all the playing. . oh well. At least i should be healthier and i totally feel my arms getting stronger

  • david vincent

    I already find ‘Eleven : Table Tennis’ more intense than Beat Saber (both played at the highest level), so I won’t even speak about real tennis with hard hitting and sprinting…
    But I still like Beat Saber, it makes a nice and fun warm-up before the serious stuff.
    One thing where I think everyone will agree : boxing games played seriously (heavy punches, no jabs) are the most demanding of all.

  • wotever99ninynine

    bullshit. tennis is an incredibly physical SPORT and it involves a lot of actual running.. which you dont do in beatsaber… and hitting HARD which you do not to do in beat saber, among many other things…

    beatsaber can be fun if you dont feel too stupid doing it.. although i much prefer games like onward… but no vr game is going to burn many calories…
    better than nothing though, and certainly more calories burned than pancake games.

    • paganmist

      …what about VR tennis? Asking for a friend.

      • wotever99ninynine

        its better than sitting on a couch with a controller sure. but I don’t expect it to burn many calories. unless of course you have a massive playspace and are using an oculus quest (no wires) and are actually physically running backwards and forwards. but if you are doing that you may as well just play real tennis.each to their own though, vr is pretty cool, I use it most for sim racing and fps games like onward. and I love it. other vr games don’t seem to interest me much though.

  • paganmist

    This article came out a year ago but I recently found it and I’ve noticed that most of the comments are disbelieving. There are a few comments that defend the findings of this article but even they are more social in nature, appealing to emotion more than logic. So even though it’s a year late, I’m going to leave a comment here meant for the people who find this article in the future because it may well change their lives.

    The people who claim that the game isn’t hard enough to be exercise are either playing the game on easy mode or are ALREADY SO FIT that the game can never be a workout for them. And that’s fine! Beat Saber clearly isn’t the workout that they require then. If Expert+ Beat Saber songs are so easy for these people that they’re not getting a workout then they should move on to the more grueling exercise routines that are designed for athletes and real fitness buffs.

    This is how exercise works: no matter if you’re ripped or if you’re fat, the exercise you do has to push your body past its limits in order to be effective. For most humans, Beat Saber – when played in certain ways – is effective aerobic, cardiovascular exercise. And the reason for that is basic, real science.

    I’ll start out with the anecdote though: I bought the Oculus Rift S to play Beat Saber. It arrived May 1st 2019. I played a bit but didn’t get into it. My two sisters and younger brother came to visit for July 4th and stayed for a week. Because they’d never tried VR before, I thought it would be fun to put them in it. I showed them Beat Saber. And for the entire week they were here, we took turns playing. Early on, when we were covered in sweat and exhausted, one of my sisters pointed out that this is a real workout. At that point, I decided to weigh myself. I was 274lbs. When they left, I weighed 269lbs. That was my “Oh shit” moment.

    I’ve played Beat Saber about 4-5x a week since. It’s been a learning experience. Because Beat Saber is real exercise, you have to take the same precautions as regular exercise. I was down for days due to dehydration. I ended up getting cramps due to a lack of electrolytes. I deal with muscle soreness. Before I started taking this seriously, I would play in the morning before breakfast. BAD, BAD idea. Now I understand that before any workout, you must have complex carbs, protein, and electrolytes (I typically have almond butter on a slice of whole grain bread full of seeds, and slides of banana for potassium– this is a classic). The difference is incredible– I go from exhaustion to having sustained energy. Furthermore, after the workout, I understand now that I have to replenish fluid and electrolytes and load up on protein. I do these things because Beat Saber IS A LITERAL WORKOUT.

    It’s July 26th (the same month, the same year) and I now weigh 255lbs.

    There are those who are so invested in their inaccurate (and self-serving) belief that a “mere” game can’t be exercise that they will never believe me. These are people who have bought into the idea that exercise should feel like hard work and that only the worthy – those with the willpower to endure the pain and misery of traditional workouts – deserve the prize of being healthier. To these people, the idea that a fun game with light sabers can be legitimate fat-burning exercise bothers them for reasons that are more psychological than scientific.

    Well Beat Saber, when played the way I play it – which happens to be the way that this article is talking about – IS pain. It’s exhausting and sweaty and breathless and aching sore muscle pain– but it makes the pain so incredibly fun that you WANT to do it. It manages to make real exercise feel like a rewarding and exciting and satisfying game, which diminishes the need for the sort of grim determination and military discipline that we typically associate with exercise. And for that reason, when you’re into it, you end up workout out more often and for the length of time that experts say humans should be moving.

    Here’s the science:

    Anything you physically do expends energy, whether it’s swinging a tennis racket, having sex, moving your fingers across a keyboard, or lying absolutely still and doing nothing more than breathing and thinking. If you’re alive, you’re burning calories. So the real question isn’t whether or not Beat Saber burns calories – everything you do does – but does it burn as many calories as tennis. That’s what this article is claiming and that’s what people are doubting.

    In order to burn as many calories as tennis, literally all you have to do is burn as many calories as tennis. Calories are calories. They will get burned off no matter what activity you’re doing. Calories do not care if the exercise you’re doing is a high-brow, well-respected sport or if you’re twerking your ass on the dance floor all night. If you are twerking so much, so hard, and so long that your heart-rate is elevated to 55-85% over its resting rate, then you are doing aerobic exercise, and that exercise may well be as much or more than tennis.

    Tennis doesn’t have some special ability to burn more calories. It is simply an activity that requires a higher amount of movement than sitting at rest. Tennis isn’t even the best way to burn calories, if that’s your aim, due to the fact that there are a lot of stops and starts in tennis. Other things such as biking and rowing require constant exertion of energy because your body is moving non-stop and usually for longer periods of time than a tennis match.

    Perhaps you start to understand then that there is nothing special about tennis when it comes to the act of burning calories.

    Now that you understand that anything and everything can, if done long enough and hard enough, burn as many calories as tennis, the question becomes more specific: can Beat Saber burn as many calories as tennis within the same duration. If we were talking about the calories expended during breathing, the answer is no: no matter fast or hard you breath in an hour, you cannot and never will burn as many calories as playing tennis for an hour. Some activities burn so few calories per hour that they will never match up.

    But Beat Saber isn’t breathing. Beat Saber is a physical activity that requires actual movement over sustained durations. Furthermore, Beat Saber when played on certain higher level modes, requires AS MUCH OVERALL ENERGY as tennis. And THAT is what this research confirmed.

    This research measured the energy require to play tennis (and a variety of other activities, including simply resting, or rowing, or biking, or elliptical) for an hour. And then it tested how much energy is expended while playing Beat Saber for that same duration. What they found is this:

    If you play the expert level songs for an hour,
    If you play the expert level songs on No Fail mode (which means that the song won’t stop because you’re not hitting the notes perfectly),
    and finally, if you play the expert level songs the way they’re meant to be played– with your full body and fairly wide swings of your arms versus standing completely still and lazily flicking your wrists,
    you will expend as much energy as if you were playing tennis for an hour instead.

    When you take ego and social unwillingness out of the equation, this is actually obvious and makes sense– the type of activity doesn’t matter to calorie burn, only how much energy is required for that activity. Beat Saber played at Expert and Expert+ levels requires an insane amount of energy because you are moving. You’re moving fast. You’re moving hard. And you’re moving for a long period of time. For most people, these movements push their body beyond their limits, making them an effective form of exercise. An effective and most importantly FUN form of exercise, exercise that is SO FREAKING FUN that many people are motivated to keep doing it every day, and to in many cases do it for much longer than the 30-45 minutes that traditional exercise is usually done for.

    But for those who aren’t convinced by numbers and basic physics, I have one more sanity check.

    Place two browsers side by side. In one, put a video of someone playing Beat Saber on expert or expert+ mode. In the other, pull up a video of a 45-minute cardio aerobics routine (one meant for a normal person, no someone who’s already ripped). Although the movement in a workout routine is more diverse, the vigorousness and speed of movements will typically be higher in Beat Saber. Multiply that Beat Saber video by 45 minutes and it will become clear who’s actually expending more energy.

    Oh right– the sweating myth. How much a person sweats during exercise doesn’t indicate the amount of exercise they are or are not getting. How much you sweat depends on your own body and even things like how hot or cool the room is. Someone sweating buckets during a workout could have burned only 300 calories while someone who just burned 600 barely has a sheen. You can’t accurately determine the effectiveness of a workout by looking at two people and picking the one who sweat more.

    And if we’re talking about your own personal sweat, well– if you typically sweat during a challenging workout and you find you’re not sweating the same while playing Beat Saber– then you aren’t playing it hard enough, long enough, or you’re simply too buff for Beat Saber to ever be a challenge so you should just play the game for fun and instead Google ‘most challenging workouts’ for your own source of exercise. For the rest of us fat (and not so fat) asses, Beat Saber is an effective exercise routine.

  • Misty Stoll

    I think this is cool. It’s funnier than tennis. Don’t you think so?