Our latest experiment reveals which popular board games get our heart rates up the most, as well as which burn the most calories.
Game Night Workout: The Top Heart-Pumping Board Games
The holiday season is upon us, and with it comes an abundance of festive cheer, delicious food, and — for many of us — hours of fun playing our favourite board games.
Picture this: you’re gathered around the table, dice rolling, cards flying, and laughter filling the air. But amidst the excitement, your heart is pounding, your muscles are tensing, and your calories are burning. Yes, board games can be more than just a fun pastime; they can also be a surprisingly effective form of exercise.
Online slots Betway recently put this theory to the test by recruiting 11 participants to play eight different board games for 30 minutes each. Armed with heart rate trackers, we set out to determine which games are the most exciting to play by seeing which get our heart rates up the most — and which burn the most calories to help work off that Christmas roast.
Which board games are the most exciting to play this Christmas?
The average resting heart rate across all players was 67, so altogether there was an impressive average increase of 26 BPM (beats per minute) across all eight games while playing. But which games are the most fun to play this Christmas?
1. Cards Against Humanity
Max HR: 123
Avg HR: 101
In this twisted fill-in-the-blanks party game, players take turns playing cards with prompts or questions, and other players must match those prompts with their funniest or most outrageous answer cards.
Our experiment found that Cards Against Humanity is the most stressful game to play this festive season with average heart rate soaring to a lively 101 BPM. And that’s just the warm-up! The average max heart rate hit a pulse-pounding 123 BPM, while the highest heart rate recorded went up to 159 BPM. That’s a whopping 92 BPM more than the overall average resting heart rate among players (67 BPM).
Since laughter is known to make our hearts beat faster, it’s no surprise that this uproariously funny game caused the biggest spike in players’ heart rates. If you want to try it for yourself, the game comes with many expansion packs to explore — including a family edition, which might be more appropriate for a family-friendly game after Christmas dinner.
2nd: Trivial Pursuit
Max HR: 121
Avg HR: 93
While Cards Against Humanity reigns supreme in the heart-pounding category, Trivial Pursuit takes second place as the most stressful game to play with an average heart rate of 93 BPM and an average maximum heart rate of 121 BPM. The highest heart rate recorded during a game of Trivial Pursuit was 153 BPM — a respectable jump from the average resting heart rate of participants.
Trivial Pursuit is a quiz game that tests players’ knowledge of a variety of subjects, including history, geography, science, entertainment, and sports. The excitement of the game and the pressure to answer questions quickly can cause heart rates to increase, with its fast-paced nature and competitive spirit also contributing.
Max HR: 119
Avg HR: 96
With an average heart rate of 96 BPM and an average max of 119 BPM during the game, Monopoly comes in third.
This classic board game of buying and selling properties may seem like a low-stakes affair, but the competition and strategising can send players’ hearts racing. In fact, one participant’s heart rate shot up to 160 BPM – the highest recorded in the study.
As players navigate the board, acquiring properties and developing them into monopolies, they can experience a whole range of emotions — from the thrill of victory to the despair of defeat. These emotions can all lead to physiological changes, including a big jump in heart rate.
Max HR: 118
Avg HR: 91
Jenga is the only game in the top five that puts players’ physical skills to the test. This high-stakes game requires excellent hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, challenging players to remove blocks from the tower without causing it to fall.
The combination of physical challenge, mental focus, and the element of surprise — the tower could topple at any moment — creates a blend of excitement and tension that keeps players on edge. It’s no wonder then that we found the average maximum heart rate during Jenga was 118, over 50 BPM faster than the average resting heart rate of 91 BPM. The highest heart rate recorded was 149 BPM.
It’s a game that requires a steady hand and a sharp mind, making it a perfect choice for those looking for a fun and challenging game that will also get their hearts pounding.
Max HR: 117
Avg HR: 93
Although Articulate only places fifth, it still packs a punch when it comes to getting players’ hearts racing. The average heart rate of players was 93 BPM, shooting up to 117 BPM for the average maximum rate. One player’s heartbeat even soared to 152 BPM during a particularly intense round, which is 85 BPM more than players’ average resting heart rate.
This fast-paced game involves describing words to your teammates without using the actual words. Players only have 30 seconds to get through as many words as possible, so it’s a high-pressure game that keeps players on their toes. Add in the physical exertion of gesticulating wildly to try and communicate without speaking, and it’s easy to see why this game gets players’ blood pumping.
The most relaxing board games
On the other end of the board game spectrum, Cluedo ranks as the most relaxing game on the list. Although this classic murder mystery game did cause an increase in heart rates, with the average hitting 89 BPM and the average max rate at 114 BPM, this is a much smaller increase than for other games like Cards Against Humanity. The suspenseful nature of the game can make it tense, but without the physical challenges of Jenga or the fast-paced wordplay of Articulate, it’s a more relaxing experience overall.
Scrabble also ranks among the slightly more relaxing games, with players’ heart rates rising to an average of 91 BPM and an average max of 114 BPM — the same as Cluedo. However, the stress of putting together a high scoring word caused two participants’ heart rates to rise to 152 BPM! On the whole, given it’s a much slower-paced game than some others on the list, it’s not surprising to see it trigger a smaller spike in heart rates.
Meanwhile, Operation caused heart rates to increase to 90 BPM on average, with an average maximum heart rate of 115. Despite Operation being a tense game, the opportunity to relax between turns with your teammates gives players the chance to sit back and for their heart rates to return to normal.
Which board games burn the most calories, and how long would you have to play them to burn off your Christmas dinner?
While indulging in a hearty Christmas roast is a time-honoured tradition, it can leave us needing to unbuckle our belts after multiple helpings of roast potatoes. Luckily for board game enthusiasts, a round or two of their favourite game could help burn off those extra calories.
As well as measuring players’ heart rates, our experiment also calculated how many calories they burned while playing each game. The results revealed just 30 minutes of engaging in a board game burns 105 calories on average, which adds up to 210 in an hour! With a roast dinner containing an average of 812 calories, you’d need to play board games for an average of 3 hours 51 minutes to burn this off.
But which board games burned the most calories of all and how long would you have to play them to burn off your Christmas day feast?
It takes an average of 1 hour 18 mins playing Cards Against Humanity to burn off a serving of Christmas Pudding, and 3 hours 15 mins to burn off a roast
Cards Against Humanity tops the board game leaderboard when it comes to burning calories, with players burning an average of 125 calories during 30 minutes of playing. That means you can shed 250 calories in one hour of playing this popular game, all without even leaving your seat.
It also means that in just 1 hour 18 minutes, you can burn off a single serving of Christmas Pudding — which contains an average of 326 calories. Sounds like a good reason to go for seconds!
With a roast dinner containing an average of 812 calories, you’d need to play Cards Against Humanity for 3 hours 15 minutes after consuming your Christmas dinner to fully burn this off.
Looking at participants that burned the most calories whilst playing Cards Against Humanity, the experiment revealed that one individual burned a whopping 209 calories in 30 minutes of play, which equates to 418 calories in just one hour!
An hour of Articulate can burn off nearly five Pigs in Blankets
Articulate ranks second among the top calorie-burning board games, burning an average of 116 calories in just 30 minutes of play. In fact, one participant burned 221 calories in just 30 minutes of play.
On average, the experiment revealed you can burn 232 calories in one hour, which is equivalent to nearly five Pigs in Blankets (which contain an average of 47.5 calories each).
Monopoly places third, with players working off an average of 111 calories in 30 minutes and 222 in an hour. In this time, you could burn off an entire mince pie which contains around 221 calories on average. Or you could extend your game time to 1.5 hours and burn off a whole single serving of Christmas Pudding, or seven Pigs in Blankets.
The table below shows how long you would have to play each game to burn off essential Christmas day foods:
Whether it’s the excitement of outsmarting your opponents in Monopoly, the tension of trying to remove an ailment without triggering the buzzer in Operation, or the suspense of solving a murder mystery in Cluedo, these games can get our hearts racing and calories burning.
So, the next time you’re looking for a fun and engaging activity, consider breaking out a board game. Not only will you have a good time, but you might also get a good workout in the process!
Sources and methodology
11 participants (two groups of four and one group of three) wearing heart rate trackers (Fitbits or Apple Watch) played each board game for 30 minutes to find out which game causes our heart rate to increase the most, and how many calories we can burn in a gaming session. Average heart rate, maximum average heart rate and calories burned were taken and averaged across all 11 participants. Average resting heart rate when not playing board games was also taken to show how much heart rates can rise when playing board games.
To find the amount of calories burned in one hour, we multiplied the average calories burned in 30 minutes by two.
The board games tested were:
- Cards Against Humanity
- Trivial Pursuit
*Due to Articulate being a 4 person game, an average across 8 participants was taken instead.
To find out how long it takes to burn off popular Christmas foods from playing each board game, we took the average calories found in a single serving of Christmas pudding, a single pig in blanket and a single mice pie from five supermarkets, as well as the average calories in a roast from myfitnesspal.
- Christmas pudding calories: Morrisons, Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose, Sainsburys
- Average calories across all five supermarkets = 326
- Calories in pigs and blankets (calories taken for one pig in blanket): Tesco, Ocado, Waitrose, Sainsburys, Coop
- Average calories per pig in blanket across all five supermarkets = 47.5
- Calories in a mice pie (calories taken for one mince pie): Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons
- Average calories in one mince pie across all five supermarkets = 221
- Average calories in a roast dinner taken from myfitnesspal = 812.
We then calculated how long it takes to burn off each item on average for each board game.
Data collected on 8/11/2023.