We are reader-supported. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.Β Learn more.

Greetings, sports aficionados!

Are you up for an intense challenge?

Embark on a thrilling journey through our hardest sports list, sorted by popularity.

From elite athletes to daring daredevils, this list caters to those ready to push themselves to the limit!

Hardest Sports List

  1. Gymnastics
  2. Ironman Triathlon
  3. Ultra-marathons
  4. Free Solo Climbing
  5. Rugby
  6. Ice Hockey
  7. Water Polo
  8. Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)
  9. Boxing
  10. Wrestling

#1 Gymnastics

Gymnastics

Gymnastics has its roots in ancient Greece, where it was initially developed as a method of physical training and discipline. The sport is now popular worldwide and is a significant part of the Olympic Games, with both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics events.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) governs the sport and organizes events such as the World Championships. Gymnastics has been a part of the Olympics since the first modern Games in 1896.

#2 Ironman Triathlon

Ironman Triathlon

The Ironman Triathlon originated in 1978 in Hawaii, USA, and involves a combination of swimming, cycling, and running, covering impressive distances of 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and 26.2-mile run. The event was created in an attempt to determine the ultimate endurance athlete.

Although not an Olympic sport, the Ironman World Championship is held annually in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, attracting participants from across the globe. The sport is governed by the International Triathlon Union (ITU).

#3 Ultra-marathons

Ultra-marathons

Ultra-marathons are long-distance running races that exceed the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles. These races generally vary from 31 miles (50 kilometers) to 100 miles or more, and can take place in various terrains such as mountain trails, deserts, and forests.

While ultra-marathons can be traced back to ancient Greece, modern ultra-marathons gained popularity in the 1970s.

Some popular ultra-marathon events include the Western States 100, Badwater Ultramarathon, and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. Ultra-marathons are not part of the Olympic program.

#4 Free Solo Climbing

Free Solo Climbing

Free solo climbing is an extreme form of rock climbing where the climber ascends without the use of ropes or protective gear. The sport can be traced back to the early 20th century, with climbers such as John SalathΓ© pushing the boundaries of their capabilities.

Free solo climbing has gained significant attention in recent years due to climbers like Alex Honnold, who famously climbed El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without any protective equipment.

Although not part of the Olympics or World Championship events, it remains a popular individual pursuit for thrill seekers.

#5 Rugby

Rugby

Rugby is believed to have originated in England in the early 19th century. The sport divided into two codes, Rugby Union and Rugby League, in 1895.

Today, both codes enjoy popularity around the world, particularly in countries such as the UK, Ireland, France, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Rugby Union has been part of the Olympic program since 1900 and returned in 2016 in the form of Rugby Sevens, a faster, shorter variation of the game.

Rugby World Cup tournaments are held for both Union and League codes, governed by World Rugby and International Rugby League, respectively.

#6 Ice Hockey

Ice Hockey

Ice hockey traces its origins to early versions of stick-and-ball games played on ice in the 18th century in countries like the UK, Canada, and the USA. Today, the sport is most popular in North America, Northern, and Eastern Europe.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) governs the sport and organizes events such as the Ice Hockey World Championships. Ice hockey has been a part of the Olympic program since 1920 and has separate events for men and women.

#7 Water Polo

Water Polo

Water Polo was developed in the late 19th century in England and Scotland, initially as a form of rugby played in water. The sport quickly spread to other countries, and today, it is popular mainly in Europe, the United States, Australia, and China.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) governs water polo, and it is part of the Olympic program since 1900 for men and 2000 for women. The FINA Water Polo World Cup is held every four years.

#8 Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed Martial Arts is a full-contact combat sport combining techniques from various martial arts such as boxing, wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, and karate. MMA is believed to have roots in ancient Olympic sport pankration.

The modern form of MMA emerged in the early 1990s with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the United States.

Today, the sport enjoys worldwide popularity, with organizations like the UFC, Bellator, and ONE Championship hosting events. MMA is not currently part of the Olympic program.

#9 Boxing

Boxing

Boxing is an ancient sport, with roots in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. It was later standardized and made popular in England with London Prize Ring rules in the 18th century and later with the Marquess of Queensberry rules in 1867.

The sport involves two athletes wearing gloves and competing in a ring, striking each other using punches. Boxing is popular worldwide and has been a part of the Summer Olympic program since 1904.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) governs the sport, overseeing both amateur and professional events.

#10 Wrestling

Wrestling

Wrestling is one of the oldest sports globally, with origins dating back thousands of years to ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece.

The modern sport features two main styles, freestyle and Greco-Roman, each with distinct rules and challenges. Wrestling is popular in many countries, including the USA, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Japan.

The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) governs the sport. Wrestling has been a part of the Olympic program since the first modern Games in 1896.

More Hardest Sports

  1. Alpine Skiing: Originating in the European Alps, alpine skiing is a popular winter sport that involves sliding down snow-covered slopes on skis with fixed-heel bindings. Alpine skiing has been part of the Winter Olympic program since 1936, and the International Ski Federation (FIS) governs the sport. Popular events include the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
  2. CrossFit: CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness regimen that incorporates elements from various sports and exercises, including weightlifting, gymnastics, and aerobic activities. Founded by Greg Glassman and Lauren Jenai in 2000 in the United States, CrossFit has gained global popularity through its affiliated gyms and the annual CrossFit Games, which started in 2007. The sport is not part of the Olympic program.
  3. Australian Rules Football: Established in the late 19th century in Victoria, Australia, Australian Rules Football is a fast-paced sport played on an oval field involving kicking, catching, and handballing an oval-shaped ball. It is most popular in Australia, where the professional Australian Football League (AFL) holds annual competitions. Australian Rules Football is not currently part of the Olympic program.
  4. Rowing: Rowing is a water sport dating back to ancient Egypt that involves athletes propelling boats (called shells) on water using oars. It is practiced around the world on rivers, lakes, and in coastal areas. Rowing has been part of the Summer Olympic program since 1900, with the International Rowing Federation (FISA) governing the sport. The annual World Rowing Championships are also a popular event.
  5. Hurling: One of the oldest field sports globally, hurling dates back to pre-historic Ireland and is played using wooden sticks (called hurleys) and a small ball (called sliotar). It is mainly popular in Ireland and is governed by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The All-Ireland Hurling Championship is the premier competition for the sport. Hurling is not an Olympic sport.
  6. Squash: Originating in the early 19th century at Harrow School in England, squash is a racket sport played in an enclosed court with a small, hollow rubber ball. The sport is popular in countries such as the USA, UK, Canada, and Egypt. The World Squash Federation (WSF) governs the sport, which is not part of the Olympic program. Major tournaments include the World Squash Championships and the British Open.
  7. Bobsledding: Bobsledding is a winter sport that originated in Switzerland in the late 19th century. Teams race down ice-covered tracks in gravity-powered sleds. Bobsledding has been part of the Winter Olympic program since its inauguration in 1924. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) governs the sport. The Bobsleigh World Cup and World Championships are popular events.
  8. Synchronized Swimming: Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, synchronized swimming is a hybrid of swimming, dance, and gymnastics, performed in water to music. It is popular worldwide and is governed by the International Swimming Federation (FINA). Synchronized swimming has been part of the Summer Olympic program since 1984, featuring both duet and team events. The FINA World Aquatics Championships also include synchronized swimming competitions.
  9. Equestrian: Equestrian sports involve horse riding and can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Greece, Persia, and Egypt. The most popular equestrian disciplines are dressage, show jumping, and eventing. The sport is governed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and has been part of the Olympic program since 1900. The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years.
  10. Decathlon: The decathlon is a track and field competition comprised of ten events, testing athletes in various disciplines such as sprints, jumps, throws, and distance running. The sport’s origins date back to ancient Greece, but the modern decathlon was developed in the early 20th century in the United States and Sweden. The decathlon has been part of the Summer Olympic program since 1912. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) governs the sport, with the IAAF World Championships also featuring a decathlon competition.
  11. Parkour: Parkour is a training discipline that developed in France during the 1980s, combining elements of gymnastics, martial arts, and obstacle course racing. Practitioners, known as traceurs, aim to move swiftly and efficiently through complex environments, using various movements such as jumping, climbing, and rolling. Parkour is not an Olympic sport, but it has gained global popularity as both a recreational activity and a competitive discipline, with organizations like the World Freerunning and Parkour Federation (WFPF) hosting events.
  12. American Football: American football originated in the late 19th century as a combination of soccer and rugby. It is most popular in the United States, with the National Football League (NFL) being the main professional competition. American football is not part of the Olympic program, but the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) organizes events such as the World Championships.
  13. Rugby Sevens: Rugby Sevens is a shorter, faster variant of Rugby Union, with seven players on each team instead of the traditional fifteen. The sport originated in Scotland in the 19th century and is now popular worldwide. Rugby Sevens has been part of the Olympic program since 2016. The annual HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series is a popular event, with both men’s and women’s tournaments.
  14. Lacrosse: Lacrosse is a fast-paced sport that originated in indigenous North American communities as early as the 12th century. It is played with a small rubber ball and a long-handled stick called a crosse. Today, the sport is popular in the United States and Canada, with professional leagues such as Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and the National Lacrosse League (NLL). The sport is not part of the Olympic program, but the World Lacrosse Championships take place every four years.
  15. Greco-Roman Wrestling: Greco-Roman wrestling is a style of wrestling that originated in ancient Greece and Roman Empire. In this style, wrestlers may only use their upper bodies to attack, focusing on grappling techniques such as throws, holds, and pins. Greco-Roman wrestling is popular worldwide and is governed by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA). It has been part of the Olympic program since the first modern Games in 1896.
  16. Judo: Judo is a martial art and combat sport that originated in Japan in the late 19th century. It focuses on throws, grappling, and submissions to defeat an opponent. Judo is popular worldwide and has been part of the Olympic program since 1964 for men and since 1992 for women. The International Judo Federation (IJF) governs the sport, and the World Judo Championships are held annually.
  17. Taekwondo: Taekwondo is a Korean martial art and combat sport that emphasizes high, fast kicks and jumping and spinning techniques. It was developed in the 1940s and 1950s and has since become popular worldwide. Taekwondo has been part of the Olympic program since 2000. The sport is governed by the World Taekwondo Federation (WT) and features annual World Championships.
  18. Karate: Karate is a martial art that originated in Okinawa, Japan, focusing on striking techniques such as punches, kicks, knee strikes, and open-hand techniques. It has gained worldwide popularity and made its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The sport is governed by the World Karate Federation (WKF), which also organizes the World Karate Championships.
  19. Kickboxing: Kickboxing is a hybrid combat sport that combines elements of boxing and karate. It originated in the 1960s in Japan and the United States and has since gained popularity worldwide. Kickboxing is not part of the Olympic program, but various organizations such as the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) and the International Kickboxing Federation (IKF) host events and tournaments.
  20. Handball: Handball is a fast-paced team sport where two teams of seven players each pass and bounce a small ball, aiming to throw it into the opponent’s goal. The origins of handball can be traced back to ancient Greece, but the modern version was developed in Northern Europe in the late 19th century. Handball is popular worldwide, particularly in Europe, and has been part of the Olympic program since 1936. The International Handball Federation (IHF) governs the sport and organizes events such as the World Handball Championships.
  21. Figure Skating: Figure skating is a winter sport that involves performing choreographed routines on ice. It originated in the 19th century in Europe and North America and is now popular worldwide. Figure skating has been part of the Winter Olympic program since the beginning in 1924. The International Skating Union (ISU) governs the sport and organizes events such as the World Figure Skating Championships and the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating.
  22. Speed Skating: Speed skating is a winter sport where athletes race on ice, aiming for the fastest time over a set distance. It originated in the 18th century in Northern Europe and is now popular worldwide. Speed skating has been part of the Winter Olympic program since 1924. The International Skating Union (ISU) governs the sport and organizes events such as the World Speed Skating Championships and the ISU World Cup Speed Skating.
  23. Whitewater Kayaking: Whitewater kayaking is an extreme water sport where athletes navigate a specialized kayak through turbulent rapids and obstacles. The sport’s origins can be traced back to the mid-20th century, and it is now popular in countries with fast-flowing rivers such as the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. Whitewater kayaking is not part of the Olympic program, but the International Canoe Federation (ICF) organizes World Cup and World Championship events.
  24. Skateboarding: Skateboarding is a sport and recreational activity that involves riding and performing tricks on a skateboard. It originated in the United States in the 1950s and has since gained worldwide popularity. Skateboarding made its debut in the Olympic program at the 2020 Tokyo Games. The International Skateboarding Federation (ISF) and World Skate govern the sport, organizing events such as the X Games and Street League Skateboarding (SLS).
  25. Surfing: Surfing is a water sport that involves riding waves towards the shore on a surfboard. It has ancient origins in Polynesia, particularly in Hawaii, and is now popular around the world, especially in countries with consistent wave conditions such as Australia, the United States, and Brazil. Surfing made its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games. The sport is governed by the International Surfing Association (ISA) and features various international competitions such as the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour.
  26. Snowboarding: Snowboarding is a winter sport that involves descending snow-covered slopes on a flat board. It was inspired by surfing, skiing, and skateboarding and was developed in the United States in the 1960s. Snowboarding has been part of the Winter Olympic program since 1998. The International Ski Federation (FIS) governs the sport, and popular events include the FIS Snowboard World Cup and the Winter X Games.
  27. Ski Jumping: Ski jumping is a winter sport that originated in Norway in the 19th century. Athletes descend a take-off ramp, launch into the air, and aim for the longest possible distance while maintaining style and form. Ski jumping has been part of the Winter Olympic program since 1924. The International Ski Federation (FIS) governs the sport and organizes events such as the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup and the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.
  28. Biathlon: Biathlon is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. It originated as a form of military training in Scandinavia and has been part of the Winter Olympic program since 1960. The International Biathlon Union (IBU) governs the sport, and popular events include the Biathlon World Cup and the Biathlon World Championships.
  29. Badminton: Badminton is a racket sport that originated in British India in the 19th century. It involves striking a shuttlecock over a net between two opposing players or pairs of players. Badminton is popular worldwide, particularly in Asia, and has been part of the Olympic program since 1992. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) governs the sport and organizes events such as the BWF World Championships and the BWF World Tour.
  30. Tennis: Tennis is a racket sport that originated in England in the late 19th century. It is played on a court, with opposing players or pairs of players hitting a ball back and forth over a net. Tennis is popular worldwide and has been part of the Olympic program since 1988 (after a hiatus following the 1924 Games). The International Tennis Federation (ITF) governs the sport, and major tournaments include the Grand Slam events – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open.
  31. Beach Volleyball: Beach volleyball is a variant of indoor volleyball and is played on sand with two players per team. It originated in the United States in the 1920s and has since gained global popularity. Beach volleyball has been part of the Summer Olympic program since 1996. The sport is governed by the FΓ©dΓ©ration Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), which also organizes events such as the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships and the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour.
  32. Rhythmic Gymnastics: Rhythmic gymnastics is a form of gymnastics that incorporates elements of ballet, dance, and apparatus manipulation. It originated in the early 20th century in the Soviet Union and has since gained worldwide popularity. Rhythmic gymnastics has been part of the Summer Olympic program since 1984. The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) governs the sport and organizes events such as the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships.
  33. Fencing: Fencing is a combat sport that originated in Europe during the Renaissance period. It involves two opponents wielding bladed weapons, aiming to score points by touching their opponent’s target area. Fencing is popular worldwide and has been part of the Olympic program since the first modern Games in 1896. The International Fencing Federation (FIE) governs the sport and organizes events such as the Fencing World Championships.
  34. Table Tennis: Table tennis, often called ping-pong, is a racket sport that originated in England in the late 19th century. It is played by two or four players who hit a lightweight ball back and forth using small rackets on a table divided by a net. Table tennis is popular worldwide, particularly in Asia, and has been part of the Olympic program since 1988. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) governs the sport and organizes events such as the ITTF World Championships and the ITTF World Tour.
  35. Track Cycling: Track cycling is a type of bicycle racing that takes place on specially designed tracks called velodromes. The sport originated in England in the late 19th century and is now popular worldwide. Track cycling has been part of the Olympic program since the first modern Games in 1896, with various events for men and women. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) governs the sport and organizes events such as the UCI Track Cycling World Championships and the UCI Track Cycling World Cup.
  36. Curling: Curling is a winter sport that originated in Scotland in the 16th century. Two teams of four players each slide heavy granite stones across an ice surface, aiming to land their stones as close as possible to the center of a target area. Curling has been part of the Winter Olympic program since 1998. The World Curling Federation (WCF) governs the sport and organizes events such as the World Curling Championships and the World Curling Tour.
  37. Golf: Golf is a sport that dates back to 15th-century Scotland, in which players use various clubs to hit balls into a series of holes on a course using as few strokes as possible. Golf is popular worldwide and was part of the Olympic program in 1900 and 1904 before being reintroduced in 2016. The International Golf Federation (IGF) governs the sport, and major tournaments include the four Men’s Major Championships – The Masters, the US Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship – as well as the Women’s Major Championships.

FAQ

What are some of the hardest sports in terms of physical and mental demands?

Some of the hardest sports in terms of physical and mental demands include Ironman Triathlon, Ultra-marathons, Free Solo Climbing, Gymnastics, Boxing, Wrestling, Alpine Skiing, Rugby, and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

How many different hardest sports are included in the list?

Our hardest sports list features 47 unique and challenging sports.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments