Can you guess how many calories an average pillow fight burns?


My alma mater, West Point, made the news recently about a raucous and violent pillow fight that took place on campus.  The pillow fight is a tradition for plebes, or first year students at West Point. Essentially all of the plebes burst into central area and start hammering each other with pillows.  It is a way for plebes to burn off steam after surviving cadet boot camp, affectionally nicknamed Beast.  Perhaps the plebes were trying to emulate The Hunger Games, but whatever it was,  several of them ended up loading their pillows with metal lock boxes and kevlars ( helmets). Cadets on the receiving end ended up with concussions, bloody noses, welts, wounded egos…etc.

I don’t remember the pillow fight being that violent when I was a plebe, however I do remember getting hurt trick-or-treating on Halloween. West Point trick-or-treating is not like normal trick-or-treating. People dress up, yes, but instead of gently handing out candy to your buddies, a candy war ensues inside the barracks. People are hiding behind makeshift barricades,  low-crawling and sneaking up on each other, and fast-pitching tootsie rolls and peanut butter cups at each others’ faces.  My left eye got nailed with a peppermint candy. But, I survived. And it was still fun and games since I didn’t actually lose an eye. 😉

The West Point pillow fight story made me wonder how many calories an average pillow fight burns. I’m considering adding “pillow fights” to my lifestyle. I live alone with my dog, and since I would never ever hit him with a pillow, I’m considering inviting my new neighbors over ( I can totally take them) or resorting to whacking cheap, inanimate objects I purchased from Ikea ( like all of my furniture)  Why?  Because pillow fights are active, they’re fun, they’re competitive, they’re a whole body workout  and if you don’t trust your opponent, you can always wear a helmet. (Safety first.) Plus, they have to be great sources of anger management. After browsing the scholarly side of the web for statistics, I came to the understanding that no one has done any randomized controlled studies on the health benefits of pillow fighting.  I wasn’t that surprised. Scientists probably don’t care that much, and until we can stuff a pillow in a prescription bottle, the drug companies definitely won’t fund a pillow study.

The lack of evidence on the scholarly side of the web took me to websites manned by delinquents, individuals avoiding real responsibilities in life and sorority houses. I got somewhere with those sites.  So, it seems, an average pillow fight lasting approximately 20 minutes can burn up to 755 calories. There are definitely ways to up the burn if you so desire. For instance, you can start sleeping on sand bags or make all participants do 10 squats before each pillow strike. Or, like West Point, you can turn your pillows into weapons of mass destruction and try to kill each other.  The West Point pillow fight probably burnt closer to 2000-3000 calories and just trying to stay alive is at least another 450 calories gone.   Those numbers aren’t bad at all, although I recommend avoiding any serious injuries, because ER waits these days are atrociously long.

It might be a good idea to take a break from SoulCycle, Crossfit, Spin or treadmill running, and throw in a fun, old-fashioned pillow fight to your workout schedule. Why not? Give it a whirl and see how you feel.  Variety is the spice of life! 😉






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