Is Swimming Good For Weight Loss?

Person swimming laps in a pool

While you don’t have to work out to lose weight, doing some form of regular exercise will certainly help. Physical activity burns calories and means you won’t have to diet so hard to create the deficit that leads to weight loss.

If you are sedentary, your daily energy expenditure will be very low, and that means you’ll have to follow a very strict and restrictive diet to force your body to burn fat for fuel. Regular physical activity means even a modest reduction in food intake should lead to weight loss.

There are lots of different workouts that can help you lose weight, and almost all of them are effective. Good options include walking, running, cycling, lifting weights, and group exercise classes at the gym.

In terms of caloric expenditure, they all burn roughly 400-600 calories per hour (depends entirely on how intense the cardio is).

Some fitness experts believe that there is one best type of exercise, but that isn’t really true. In most cases, the best weight loss workout is the one you enjoy and can do regularly.

So, is swimming good for weight loss? You bet! But there are a few caveats. For example, you need to be able to swim reasonably well if you want to get good results.

In this article, we explain how swimming can help you lose weight and the pros and cons of swimming workouts.

Is Swimming Good For Weight Loss

How Can Swimming Help You Lose Weight?

Fat person swimming losing weight

Swimming is a full-body activity as it involves virtually every muscle in your body.

In fact, it’s hard to think of many other types of performance exercises that use so many muscle groups simultaneously.

Because of this, swimming has the potential to be a great calorie burner. After all, moving all those muscles at the same time will increase your heart and breathing rate and burn a lot of calories.

Swimming is primarily an aerobic activity. During aerobics, fat is your main source of energy. Fat burning and weight loss usually go hand in hand.

Also, if you are able, you can do high-intensity swimming intervals. While this type of exercise is NOT aerobic, it burns many calories and leads to an increase in post-exercise metabolism, so your energy expenditure increases, even at rest.

Finally, intense swimming is like strength training, leading to small but significant increases in muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active tissue and needs calories to sustain it.

Even a slight increase in muscle size will increase your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE for short. This means you’ll burn more calories 24/7 – even while you sleep – leading to faster weight loss.

Additional Benefits

Done regularly, and hard and long enough, swimming can help you lose weight, especially when combined with a sensible diet. However, this aquatic workout offers a few additional benefits:

Minimal Joint Stress

If you are overweight, the last thing you should do is workouts that involve a lot of impact, such as running and jumping. All that pounding can be uncomfortable and could even lead to injuries.

When you swim, the water supports your weight, so there is minimal stress on your joints. If running leaves you with sore knees and painful hips, swimming is a viable alternative.

A Great Workout On a Hot Day

woman in swimming pool on hot day

High temperatures can take the fun out of any workout and also rob you of energy.

You may even find you cannot work out as long or as hard when the sun is beating down.

Swimming helps keep you cool, so you should have no problem maintaining your workout schedule even in the height of summer.

You Can Often Swim For Free

Assuming it is safe to do so, you may be able to swim for free. All you need is a body of water and your swimming costume. You can swim in the ocean, in lakes, in rivers, in reservoirs, as well as indoor and outdoor pools.

However, if you DO swim outdoors, you should take all the necessary safety precautions, such as using a drag float and making sure you have a “spotter” on land to keep an eye on you as you swim. You also need to respect the weather and the temperature of the water.

Swimming Is An Important Life Skill

Swimming is one of the only types of exercise that could save your or someone else’s life. Being able to swim means you are at a much lower drowning risk and could even save someone else from drowning. Being able to swim is a fitness superpower!

Swimming Downsides

Swimming can be an excellent weight loss workout, but there are downsides too. Consider these potential cons before diving into swimming for weight loss.

You Need to Be Able to Swim

To get a good workout from swimming, you need to be able to swim reasonably well. If you are tired and have to stop after a few minutes, you won’t burn many calories.

Instead, you need to be able to swim without stopping for at least 20 minutes, and preferably closer to 30-40 minutes.

Person drowning in pool

The good news is that, with practice, you’ll soon get better.

If you aren’t a strong swimmer, consider getting some lessons or coaching so that you can get more from your swimming workouts.

Ear Infections

If you swim a lot, the chances are high that you’ll get an ear infection. Water enters your ear canal and then stays there, causing pain. You may need antibiotics to clear up an ear infection, and you may have to take a break from swimming while you recover.

Avoid this problem by using swimming earplugs and wearing a swimming cap to keep water out of your ears.

Skin Issues

A lot of swimming pools use chlorine to keep the water clean. While this is only a few parts per million, it can still be enough chlorine to cause skin issues in some sensitive people. Saltwater can be problematic too.

The water can also irritate your eyes, but that won’t be an issue if you wear well-fitting goggles.

Not So Pleasant In The Winter

Coldwater and weather can take a lot of the fun out of swimming. Unless you wear a wetsuit, at least the first part of your workout will be uncomfortable, and you may not warm up at all. If you are a fair-weather exerciser, wintertime swimming may not be for you.

Bottom Line

When it comes to working out for weight loss, you have lots of options to choose from. Some, like running and cycling, are aerobic in nature and burn fat as you exercise.

Others, like circuit training and strength training, are more anaerobic and increase your metabolism for many hours after your workout. Both types of exercise can help you lose weight.

Ultimately, every type of physical activity can help you lose weight, as they all burn calories. Modern life has become increasingly sedentary, and many of us can go for days or even weeks without moving much.

Passive entertainment, mechanized transport, and easy access to food mean that physical activity is all-but optional.

In the past, you had to move to live. Hunting and gathering food for nutrition, farming, manual labor, and other forms of unavoidable physical activity meant that average energy expenditure was much higher than it is now.

Today, instead of chasing down food to eat or building shelters, we exercise instead. Swimming is an excellent form of weight loss exercise. It’s easy on your joints, won’t make you hot and sweaty, and works virtually every muscle in your body.

Providing you are a reasonably competent swimmer, this water-based workout could help you reach your weight loss goal.

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