Healthy Living

Swim It Off: Swimming for Weight Loss

Written by Marlee B

A swimming pool might not be the first place you think of going when you think of working out. Dry land is a more common choice.

But swimming has been found to help people of all ages and sizes build lean muscle and trim out their waists and hips.

No other workout burns calories, boosts metabolism, and firms every muscle in your body (without putting stress on your joints) better than a few laps in a pool. And you don’t have to be an Olympic gold medalist to do so!

Today I am going to cover the fat-burning benefits of swimming to help you understand the effects of an efficient swim workout!

Calories Burned While Swimming

There are several body-shaping benefits to swimming workouts. First, it is a great way to maintain a moderate heart rate that is within your fat-burning zone.

A slow-paced swim workout can burn up to 500 calories per hour, while a vigorous effort can torch almost 700. However, these calorie-burning ranges often vary and stack up differently to other endurance activities like cycling and running.

The number of calories you burn is based on several factors. But the following chart is a decent estimate for calories burned per hour for different body types:

-A 130-pound person will burn 590 calories per hour swimming vigorously, and 413 swimming easy

-A 155-pound person will burn 704 calories per hour swimming vigorously, and 493 swimming easy

-A 180-pound person will burn 817 calories per hour swimming vigorously, and 572 swimming easy

-A 205-pound person will burn 931 calories per hour swimming vigorously, and 651 swimming easy


Body weight plays a big factor in the calories that are burned while swimming, but generally, the more you weigh, the more you burn.

Swimming for Strength

swimming for strength

Another benefit to swimming is that water, which is nearly 800 times denser than air, creates a mini-resistance workout for your entire body with every kick, push, and pull.

This makes for an awesome workout! It’s especially good for your core, hips, arms, shoulders, and glutes, allowing you to blast calories all while you are building lean muscle!

Swimming also improves coordination, balance, posture, and flexibility which helps maintain a healthy weight.

For those who have painful joints or difficulty moving, swimming is a well-suited activity. However, if lap swimming is a little too intense, a good alternative is aqua jogging.

Aqua jogging is simply running in the water with the help of buoyancy. This way you are able to get all the benefits of running or walking but without the impact.

It’s a great start to an exercise routine that will improve your health and boost your mood if you are absolutely new to physical activity!

Swimming vs. Running

The act of swimming is different from other exercises. While it makes you lean and mean, it is also kind to your body.

You become virtually weightless when immersed in a pool, so it relieves stress on your knees and ankles (this is what we call “low impact” exercise). There is no “landing” involved as it relates to running, which is the tendency to land with your heel out in front of you. This is like putting on the brakes with every step.

Gentler forms of cardio like swimming are perfect for beginners, athletes overcoming injury, and anyone who wants to get a great workout with less risk of injury because it is super easy on your joints and body in general.

Swimming isn’t a fatigue-free activity, however. Although it has the ability to isolate our cardiovascular system much like running, our muscles work differently in water than they do on land.

Our lungs are forced to adjust to a new way of breathing and swimming requires every muscle in our bodies to keep us moving forward and staying afloat.

Other Effective High-Impact Exercises

Running isn’t the only exercise that’s high-impact, and potentially hard on your joints. High-impact exercises are performed in programs like CrossFit, P90X, and Insanity, and include moves like burpees, box jumps, high knees, and so forth.

While not quite as gentle on your body as swimming, high impact workouts can offer quality and great variety. From machines to home exercise, and outdoor activities to fitness classes, high impact workouts get your heart rate up quickly, improve stability, and strengthen your bones.

In the same way that strength training builds stronger muscle, when you subject your muscles or bones to a resistance they aren’t used to, they grow stronger in response!

However, high-impact exercise can produce forces on your body up to 2.5 times your body weight. This puts a major strain on your joints, ligaments, and tendons and has the potential to result in injury. Swimming helps avoid this because it’s an exercise that does not place weight on the joints.

Swimming won’t necessarily save your joints from certain problems you may have, but it can help! This is because moving the knee in an active swim workout promotes muscle strength and is good for the fluid that cushions the knee.

Swimming is considered one of the better ways to exercise your legs without causing damage.


a girl about to start swimming for weight loss

It’s totally possible to crank out a killer calorie-burning low-impact workout in the water!

That’s not to say that high-impact workouts don’t have their place, but it’s important to know which is best for you. Not everyone is comfortable in the water, but with practice, it does become easier.

Keep in mind that the type of exercise you choose is less important than the fact that you are actually doing exercise! Exercise alleviates stress and improves coordination, balance, and posture, all while allowing you to (hopefully) have fun!

So whatever your workout, whether on land or sea, don’t be afraid to try a new regimen to find what you enjoy – and stick to it!

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andy haigh

andy haigh

Writer and expert

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