Image of a notched arrow with archery targets in the background.

Can Archery Help You Lose Weight?

By: Mark Jeffreys

Archery is a sport, but does it keep you active enough to help you lose weight? Most of my life, I’ve been pretty active, so I never paid too much attention to maintaining my fitness level. As I got older and stuck at a desk job, I didn’t understand the importance of making sure I remained active in my downtime. There are a lot of activities out there that are more fun than repeatedly pounding your feet against the pavement as you cruise through your neighborhood, such as firing an arrow at a defenseless target at the other end of the range.

Archery isn’t as physically demanding as other sports, but it can help with your overall fitness since you will burn more calories then if you were typing away on your computer. If you shoot a bow and arrow at an archery range - with no other activity involved - the average person will burn about 100 calories more than your resting rate. This isn’t a high-intensity workout, but if you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle, adding archery is a great start towards improving your overall level of fitness. If you’re doing a more active form of archery - such as bow hunting or archery tag - you will burn much more.

That being said, most experts agree that exercise alone isn’t enough to improve your fitness. You need to look at your diet to make sure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet to see results. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at what areas of fitness archery can help you improve.

Strength Training

The first time I went to the archery range, I was surprised how tired I was when I was done. Now, I’m not a bodybuilder or anything, but I was going to the gym regularly and I didn’t think it would have worn me out like that. I was even more surprised when I woke up the next day with most of my upper body being sore. This piqued my curiosity, so I sat down at my computer and looked into what muscles you use for archery.

Traditional Bows

When you are shooting on the range - or on a hunt - you’ll be using a variety of muscles to draw the bow. You’ll be engaging your core, your shoulders, and your back every time you draw. When you repeat this process dozens or hundreds of times, you’ll get a pretty good workout.

When you draw the bow, you’re essentially lifting the equivalent of the draw weight for each ‘repetition.’ Most women use a bow with a draw weight of 30 - 45 pounds and men will generally use between 40-55 pounds. This number can be higher if you’re using a compound bow, but because of let-off, you won’t be holding that weight at full draw. For now, we’ll stick to traditional bow types.

The bow that I was using at the range was a 45-pound takedown recurve bow, and I shot about 120 arrows while I was there. Doing the math, it was the equivalent of lifting 5,400 pounds! A lot of that was with muscles I don’t specifically target during my gym sessions - with the exception of my traps and rhomboids from doing rows. It’s easy to see why I became so fatigued from my session at the range

One thing that makes the workout even more engaging is the fact that you don’t simply draw the bow and release. When you draw, you typically hold the weight for several seconds while you aim before you release the arrow. This pause - otherwise known as an isometric contraction - while your muscles are contracted can quickly fatigue you, especially if it’s not something your body is used to.

Compound bows

If you’re shooting with a compound bow, you’ll hit the draw weight of the bow much sooner than with a traditional bow. Once the let-off kicks in, the weight of the bow will be decreased by somewhere between 50-85%, which makes the bow easier to hold at full draw. You’ll still get a pretty good workout since you still do hit the draw weight ‘rep’ during the draw, you just aren’t holding as much weight.

Since the let off of compound bows remove some of the weight from the draw, some people who use compound bows opt for a higher draw weight. This will lead to you ‘lifting’ more weight with each draw. You should be wary of using a heavier draw weight when switching to a compound bow. Make sure you aren’t struggling to draw the bow, or your form will suffer.

Archery can help with your physical fitness, but I found other benefits to the sport that are worth looking into.

Mental Health

Archery is about consistency and repetition. You can’t shortcut your way to good form, and just because you hit the target with your last arrow doesn’t mean your next one will be anywhere close to the target. You have to make sure that your form is correct on every draw. That you are concentrating on the arrow you’re shooting and not let yourself be distracted by anything. These things can be boiled down to several categories: discipline, attention to detail mental focus, and patience.

Discipline

The simple fact of archery is it takes time to improve. You might get lucky an arrow here or there, but if you want to consistently hit the target, you need to make sure that you’re practicing regularly. Many archers report that when they take a break from the range, their form is noticeably worse, and it takes them months to regain their form. Others have reported that losing weight has altered their form enough that they have to retrain their bodies to get their shot back, which brings us to our next point.

Attention to Detail

Your form in archery relies on nearly every aspect of your body to be consistent. I won’t go into all the details on proper archery form, but some examples are the degree your body is turned, the position of your feet, drawing with the correct muscles, and your anchor point. You have to do a check on yourself to make sure that each part of your form is consistent to achieve the best results. You have to be able to do a mental check on your form, ignore the physical strain, and make sure that form is perfect. This won’t necessarily give you a perfect shot, but it will definitely improve your chances and help you in the long run.

Mental Focus

There’s a lot to think about when you’re shooting at the range. In addition to the aspects of your form I mentioned earlier, you have to be able to keep track of things going on in your environment, too. For instance, if you’re shooting at an outdoor range, you have to pay attention to the wind and how it’s affecting your arrows. There’s a lot to keep track of, and in order to be consistent in your shooting, you need to be able to do a mental check on each of these for each shot until it becomes second nature.

Patience

With all the things you need to pay attention to when you’re shooting, you need to make sure you remain patient. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your missed shots - or even your bullseyes - to let yourself lose focus on your next shot. But you need to remember that each arrow is dependent on you, your form, and how consistent you are able to shoot. The previous arrow, or even every other arrow you’ve shot so far, does not have an impact on your current shot.

It will take time to improve. You need to make sure you devote the time necessary to allow yourself to improve if you want to be successful in the sport. Don’t let yourself be shaken by a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year. Shake it off, and keep at it and you will improve.

Summary

I feel like I’ve gotten a little off topic from where I started, so I want to take things back and revisit the original question. Archery can help with your overall fitness, but it should be part of a regular health plan to be effective. Archery is more than just a physical sport, so it can help improve your mental acuity, too. What you need to remember is that archery is something that you need to devote the time to in order for it to be effective. Try the sport out, keep at it, and you will improve.

I hope you found this useful. If you have anything to add, if you disagree with my positions, or just want to say thank you, please comment below. If you like my content and want to be notified when I publish a new article, sign up for my email list.

Thank you!


Mark Jeffreys

Mark has been interested in archery since he was 8 years old and tried to make a bow using a stick and a rubber band. Mark enjoys the challenge that archery provides and is constantly seeking to improve. His mission is to pass on what he’s learned to help other archers.