When it comes to exercises that can help you lose weight, swimming probably isn’t at the top of your list.
Running, yes. Strength training, definitely. But swimming?
Is splashing around really a serious fat burner?
According to Stacy Caprio, a former swim coach and Red Cross water safety instructor, “Swimming is one of the most agreeable activities you can do to tone and slim your entire body.”
You use your arms and legs to stay afloat and your back muscles to get you moving. Plus, if you’re burnt out on other cardio forms like walking or jogging, swimming can be a welcome diversion.
Best of all, you don’t have to do a Michael Phelps-style training routine to reap the benefits.
It is not surprising that weight loss is the common reason people swim, run, walk, or cycle. Different exercises have a different impact on our waistline. But there are some popular myths when it comes to losing weight while swimming.
So let’s start this post by giving you more ideas, scientific results, and reasons for those myths about swimming.
How swimming can help you lose weight
Like all kinds of cardiovascular exercise, swimming burns calories and can help you lose weight. But unlike, say, walking or jogging, moving through the water generates added resistance, forcing you to use your muscles more.
“Swimming tones your upper body, lower body, and core at the same time, providing you a full-body workout and more overall muscle definition versus other cardio activities like running,” says Caprio.
In some cases, the breaststroke and butterfly work your shoulders, arms, and chest. Meanwhile, the backstroke increases your back, abs, and quads’ strength.
And by building more muscles, you’re also burning more calories.
Just 30 minutes of swimming the breaststroke can burn around 367 calories, and you can get up to 404 calories through freestyle. Compare that to 100 calories for 30 minutes of brisk walking or 300 calories for 30 minutes of running at 6 miles per hour.
Another benefit? It doesn’t take long to reap the fat-burning advantages of swimming.
Study shows that middle-aged women who swam for 60 minutes three times a week lost a significant amount of body fat in just 12 weeks. They also increased their endurance, improved their flexibility, and even lowered their cholesterol.
Australian researcher Kay Cox in 2010 has researched a group of inactive healthy women. One group began swimming, and the other walking with the same intensity confirmed by a heart rate monitor. After a year, average swimmers have lost 1.1kg more than the group that has done walking.
How much do you have to swim to lose weight?
It all depends on how hard your workout is.
Swimming vigorously for an hour can burn around 800 calories. Try doing that four times a week, and you could lose three to four pounds in a month.
Remember: You need to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound.
Prefer a less intense procedure? Swimming at a moderate speed for 30 minutes burns around 250 calories. Do that four times a week, and in a month, you’ll surely lose a little more than a pound.
But everybody is different, and research says that some people can lose more or less weight than others.
However, doing exercises like swimming a part of your routine can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight. If you’re trying to shed pounds, consider aiming to do moderate or vigorous exercises like swimming for around an hour a day.
Can swimming help you lose belly fat?
Remember, any exercise that burns calories will help you shed fat all over—including around your middle. Specific swimming exercises also target your core like flutter kicks (lower abs) and butterfly kicks (obliques).
A 2015 study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found that women who swam three times a week dropped more fat around their waists and hips than those who walked three times a week.
Another big profit: Water-based workouts are low-impact, so they manage to be easier on your hips, knees, and feet.
A common myth about swimming
Many children were instructed not to swim 30 to 60 minutes after eating. It was thought that some blood would redirect to the stomach after eating to aid with digestion and divert blood away from the arms and legs.
Some concluded that blood leaving the limbs would cause arms and legs to tire easily, increasing the risk of drowning.
But while a common belief, there doesn’t seem to be any scientific basis for this recommendation.
Some people may exhibit stomach cramps after swimming on a full belly, but this isn’t anything serious or dangerous.
What does a swimming workout look like?
There are swimming exercises for every level, but here’s what a beginner’s time in the water may look like:
Beginner swim workout: 500 yards
- 4 x 25 yards, 40 seconds rest in between
- 2 x 25 yards butterfly with 2 strokes right and 2 strokes left arm
- 2 x 25 yards backstroke with 2 strokes right and 2 strokes left arm
- 2 x 25 yards breaststroke with 1 stroke and 2 kicks
- 2 x 25 yards freestyle stroke catchup (keep one arm outstretched while the other strokes and meets the hand on the opposite arm)
Do two sets of the following, making a faster interval for the second set (or taking less rest).
- 1 x 50 yards
- 2 x 25 yards
Tips to get the most out of your swimming workout
Swimming for exercise might be a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before, but getting ignited is easy. At the same time, there are some things you have to keep in mind if you want to make it as effective as possible. Here are some expert tips:
Get a kickboard
Tight hips can make kicking feel challenging and even uncomfortable. But you can loosen up and increase your range of motion by doing laps with a kickboard.
What stroke should you use?
The butterfly stroke surprisingly burns the most calories. So much so that you can burn even 150 calories in 10 minutes.
As you might know, this demands some swimming skills and most of us would have difficulty swimming with that stroke for 10 minutes. That’s why we suggest the next best thing, which is freestyle.
It is much easier to learn and swim with, and it is still a great choice if you want to lose some unwanted weight.
Breaststroke and freestyle are the easiest to master, so they manage to work well for beginners. Once you get those down, you can try with more challenging ones like backstroke or butterfly.
Do interval training
To maximize calorie burn, we also suggest swimming using the interval training program. It can be as simple as swimming as fast as you can for a lap and then one lap in a more relaxed. This can increase the fat burning process, and runners and cyclists widely use this logic with excellent results.
Intervals are a great way to improve the intensity of your workout and burn more calories. Try going hard and fast for one lap and recovering at a slower speed for two laps, repeating as desired.
Check your breathing
The wrong breathing technique will make it difficult for you to get into the rhythm, and it may exhaust you quicker. Try practicing turning your head so you can take a breath from your mouth without actually lifting your head out of the water.
Swimmer’s after workout appetite is legendary, and there were numbers of memes created on the subject.
Coldwater and an incredible amount of energy that swimming uses is the cause we are so hungry after a solid swimming training sessions. It might also be the destruction of your plan to lose a few pounds as you can simply overeat after swimming.
That is why it is crucial to plan your diet properly for your training days, so you don’t waste all your hard work and effort.
With any weight loss plan, you must burn more calories than you take in; swimming is no exception.
If you’re feeling hungrier, we suggest eating more veggies, grabbing a protein shake, and staying away from snacking.
Keep in mind the calories you should burn
To lose one pound, you need to burn around 3500 calories. Moreover, trainers and physicians agree that a combination of diet and exercise is the perfect way to get results faster.
It is also suggested that you swim at least 2.5 hours every week when losing weight, and an hour after that to keep the weight.
To burn 3500 calories indicates you need to swim for about 7 hours, so it is an achievable monthly goal for most of us. So don’t give up and be consistent, and the success will come for sure.
So how many calories you can burn per hour? That depends on your weight and your swimming skills.
But on average, a 154-pound person burns around 500 calories per hour of swimming. Meanwhile, a 200-pound person will burn over 630 calories per hour of swimming.
So this is good news for those who are a bit heavier as they will start to see the results faster, and it might be an excellent way to stay motivated and keep at it!
Swim before breakfast
A morning swim isn’t feasible for everyone, but it’s worth trying if you can have access to a pool before work.
Waking up in the morning and going for your swim will leave your body in a fasted state. This means that your body will use fat stores as an energy source.
Keep in mind that swimming isn’t only an excellent cardio method, but it’s a full-body workout as well.
Swim harder and faster
Swimming burns a lot of calories when you’re just beginning. But as your swimming skills develop and become more efficient, your heart rate doesn’t rise as much.
The answer is to swim harder and faster to keep your heart rate up.
Wear a waterproof fitness tracker to check your heart rate while swimming. During a moderate-intensity workout, your target heart rate should be about 50 to 70 percent of your highest heart rate.
You can determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.
Take a swim class
Learning proper stroke techniques can help you swim at a reasonable pace. Contact a community center or YMCA for information on swim lessons, or enroll for a class through the American Red Cross.
Switch up your swim routine
If you swim at the same speed and use the same routine repeatedly, your body may eventually hit a plateau.
Stepping outside your comfort zone and changing your routine is a great way to utilize different muscle groups. And doing so helps you maximize your results.
Swim four to five days a week
To lose weight, the more physically dynamic you are, the better. This involves whether you’re jogging, walking, using cardio equipment, or swimming.
The rate of swimming for weight loss is the same as other cardiovascular exercises. So aim for four to five days a week for the best outcomes.
Alternate swimming with water aerobics
You don’t have to swim every day to see results. Take a water aerobics session on your off days. This is a great low-stress exercise to keep moving on active recovery days.
Use water weights
If you’re swimming to reduce weight and tone up, do a few bicep curls with water dumbbells in between laps. The water produces resistance, which can help build strength and endurance.
If you’re not a fan of the gym or can’t engage in several activities due to joint pain, swimming is an excellent way to get into shape. It’s a great workout for losing weight, improving muscle tone, and strengthening your heart.