Weight Loss With Swimming: Fitness And Health Solutions

Swimming has gotten a bad rap as an exercise for weight loss. Unlike running, which curbs your appetite, swimming seems to increase it. Studies comparing swimming with walking and cycling weight-loss programs found that swimmers gained five pounds on average, while the other two groups lost between 17 and 19 pounds. The culprit seems to be the increased appetite that follows working out in water, since swimming lowers your body temp and the body crave calories to help heat it back up. Plus the swimmers weight gain could be attributed to an increase in lean muscle mass, which would have changed their body composition without weight loss.

Benefits of Swimming for Weight Loss

Losing weight requires you to burn more calories than you consume. The American College of Sports Medicine advises performing at least an hour of moderate-intensity exercise five times per week to encourage weight loss. U.S. Masters Swimming notes that swimming is a fun, healthy and challenging form of exercise appropriate for all fitness and experience levels. In addition to helping strengthen your heart, improve flexibility and enhance your mood, swimming encourages weight loss.

Calorie Burn

A pound of weight is equivalent to 3,500 calories, so to lose pounds you must create a calorie deficit. Physical exercise, particularly cardiovascular work that makes your heart beat faster and that utilizes the large muscles of the body, is recommended to help you create a greater daily calorie burn. An hour of swimming for a 160-lb. person burns about 500 calories, per the Mayo Clinic.

Low-Impact Workout

The American Council on Exercise notes that the buoyancy of water reduces your “weight” by approximately 90 percent. The result is a significant reduction in stress on the hips, knees and the back. People who find traditional calorie-burning activities like running, kickboxing and dancing too jarring can still raise their heart rate and burn calories. Obese people may find swimming much more comfortable than work on fitness machines, which involve impact and may not accommodate the size of their bodies.

Builds Lean Muscle Mass

Water provides 12 to 14 percent more resistance than air. The act of swimming — kicking and moving your arms against the water’s resistance — helps build lean muscle mass and improves your overall body composition. Lean muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat tissue, and thus, you burn more calories when at rest. Adding hand-held buoys, noodles and kickboards to your swim increases the muscle-building effects of swimming.

Water Fitness

Even if you do not know how to swim, a pool can help you get an effective calorie-burning workout. Deep water walking burns more calories than walking on solid ground because of the resistance of the water. Water fitness classes also provide an opportunity to exercise in a group setting, without the impact of traditional aerobics. Group exercise promotes adherence, camaraderie and calorie burn.

How Swimming Keeps You Fit

Provides A Good Aerobic Work Out

The cardiovascular benefits of swimming and aquatic exercise are similar to other aerobic activities such as running and cycling.

Tones The Whole Body

Water offers 12 to 14 percent more resistance than air, so water is a good substitute for weights. In addition, all swimming strokes tone the muscles of both your upper and lower body.

Improves And Maintains Flexibility

Swimming enhances joint flexibility more readily than with land-based programs, especially in the neck, shoulders, hips and midsection. Much of this is thanks to the repetitive twisting movements, as your body turns from side to side during the crawl, backstroke and butterfly.

Mobilizes Joints Without Stress And Pain

In water you are 90 percent lighter than in air and that makes your body buoyant. The water supports the body while providing a head-to-toe workout that puts joints through their full range of motion — even if they’re inflamed — without the problem of gravity. So swimming can be ideal if you’re obese, pregnant, have chronic back or joint problems or suffer from a sports injury.

Stimulates Muscle Growth

Although not considered an effective activity for increasing bone mass and reducing the risk of osteoporosis, swimming does provides a stimulus for muscle growth because of the resistance working against the water. Stronger muscles mean improved mobility and support for the joints, which in turn can reduce the risk of falls and fractures. If you need to build bone, walking can be a good complement.

Helps With Weight Loss

Water workouts have a calorie-burning potential of 350 to 450 calories per hour. Combined with a healthy diet, swimming will help fat loss and increase muscle mass to give your body a lean, firm, well-defined appearance. Compare land walking, which burns 135 calories every 30 minutes with deep-water walking, which burns 240 calories per half hour.

Stress Reliever

Swimming can be good for the mind as well as the body. The soothing aspects of water can help ebb away the days tensions!

Solutions For Your Swimming Excuses

1. Swimming is Boring


Instead of doing only laps, shake it up. Vertical water training effectively strengthens your muscles, providing 75 percent more resistance than simply swimming. You’ll maximize the drag effect of the water, whereas swimming minimizes resistance. If you’re not comfortable in the deep end, also try these alternatives:

Water Aerobics

This type of water exercise involves total body movements to music in shallow or deep water.

Water Walking/jogging

This involves step and arm moves in waist- to chest-deep water. You can do it with head and shoulders above water, or in the deep water wearing a floatation device.

Water Toning/strengthening Training

Movement of the upper and lower body using the water as resistance will strengthen, firm, and sculpt the muscles. You can make larger movements when you’re buoyant.

Wall Exercises

Using the pool wall for support allows you to isolate various parts of the body.

2. My Eyes Get Red And Sore


This effect is due to the chlorinated water. Purchase a pair of comfortable goggles. Your eyes and visual health will thank you for them. There are dozens of different goggle brands and styles on the market. You can even get prescription goggles!

I Don’t Like Getting My Hair or Face Wet


Secure your hair on top of your head or wear a bathing cap. While the cap doesn’t keep all the water out, it helps keep hair dry and healthy. Chlorine can remove natural oils in your skin and hair, making them look dull and dry. If you have light hair, a cap can also prevent hair from turning green due to high concentrations of copper dissolved in the pool water. Try water exercises such as water aerobics or water jogging to keep your face drier.

I Don’t Feel Comfortable Wearing A Swimsuit


This is a common problem for people who are both average and overweight, but don’t let worries that others are scrutinizing your body stop you from taking advantage of the wet and wild fun! Attend public pools with a friend to build your confidence.

I Get Breathless After One Lap, Even Though I’m in Shape


New swimmers tend to sprint a lap or two, exhausting themselves and ending the exercise session prematurely and maybe permanently. Start out by alternately swimming and resting; swim for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend moving until you can comfortably swim for 20 to 30 minutes without rest.

I Can’t Swim


Plenty of local pools and the YMCA offer swimming lessons for a range of experience, as well as a variety of water activities that do not require a good command of swimming. Your stroke doesn’t have to be perfect, but the more technically correct it is, the better the workout you will get. Here is a description of the swimming strokes, all of which can give you a good workout:

Front Crawl

In this stroke, alternating over-arm strokes and the flutter kick are used, while your head is above the water and moving from side to side.


Lying on your back, this stroke requires alternate over-the-head arm strokes and a flutter kick.


In the breaststroke, a frog kick is used while the arms move from a point in front of the head to shoulder level.


The most difficult and exhausting stroke, the butterfly employs the dolphin kick with a windmill-like movement of both arms in unison.


This relaxed movement, which entails a forward underwater stroke and a scissors kick, is performed with the body on one side.

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