Overview

Swimming isn’t just a fun summertime activity. It’s good for your heart and your muscle tone. It may also be good for weight loss. But as with all forms of exercise, balancing it with the right diet is crucial for losing weight.

How calories are burned

The rate at which your body burns calories for energy is known as your metabolism. When you exercise, your metabolism increases. How much effect this has and how long it lasts depends on a variety of factors including your gender, body composition, and the activity you’re doing.

“A 150-pound person will burn roughly 400 calories during an hour-long swim at a moderate pace and 700 at a vigorous one,” says Tom Holland (an exercise physiologist, triathlete, and founder of TeamHolland). Those numbers don’t hold true for everyone. Holland says that the number of calories you burn when you swim depends on factors that include:

  • duration
  • intensity
  • swim stroke
  • weight
  • swim efficiency

Getting started

  • Start with 10 to 30 minute swims, 1 to 3 times per week.
  • Add 5 minutes to your swim each week.
  • Switch up your strokes to exercise more muscles.

What stroke burns the most calories?

You burn more calories when you swim faster and cover more distance. The fastest swim stroke—the freestyle stroke—has the potential to burn the most calories. But, that doesn’t mean you should opt for the freestyle every time you get into the pool.

The number of calories you burn comes down to duration and frequency. If you prefer the breaststroke to the freestyle stroke, you might swim longer. You might also be more consistent and burn more calories.

Holland suggests doing what you’re most likely to want to do on a consistent basis; also mix up your strokes to work the most muscles and keep things interesting.

Getting started

When you start any exercise program, it pays to know the best practices to keep your regimen safe and productive. Holland recommends starting slowly.

Speed, duration, frequency

  • Calorie burning depends on speed/distance, duration, and frequency.
  • Strokes like the breaststroke are easier to maintain and may burn more calories than a couple of laps of freestyle since you may do the breaststroke for a longer period of time.

When you begin swimming, build up gradually. When you do too much too soon, your risk of injury increases, even though swimming is a no-impact sport.

Start with one to three swims a week, for 10 to 30 minutes each. Each week, add another 5 minutes.

Holland stresses that it’s important to rest whenever needed. In the beginning, you may swim a lap, take a break, and swim another lap, continuing this pattern throughout the workout.

A swimmer’s diet

If weight loss is your goal, you’ll want to create a caloric deficit that also gives you enough energy to fuel your workouts.

Holland recommends eating at least 30 minutes before any workout that is going to last over an hour. Carbohydrates are the energy source our bodies prefer. Holland recommends eating soon after your workout. It’s best to eat a little lean protein and a small amount of some quality carbohydrates.

You might be famished when you get out of the pool, but that doesn’t justify hitting the drive-thru on your way home. Pack a post-workout snack to hold you over until you can get to the kitchen.

The takeaway

Whether you decide to try swimming for exercise or weight loss, it’s best to start out slow. if you build up swimming intensity and frequency gradually, you’ll lower your risk for injury.

It’s also important to find a stroke that you enjoy so you’ll stay engaged, which will lead you to swim longer and more often.

And making sure you eat enough of the right foods can help lead to a caloric deficit while also making sure you have enough energy for your workout.