You already know that cardio exercise is one common component of weight loss success. But if you’ve been relying on traditional methods like cycling and running recently, you might want to change up your routine and give swimming a try.
“Although swimming seems relatively hard and sometimes scary, it’s one of the best cardiovascular workouts anyone of any age can do,” says Kris Gagne, senior swim coach for Life Time, and a USA-registered and ASCA-certified swim coach. “It’s an aerobic workout that helps strengthen the heart muscle, and it’s easy on your joints, too, since the water will support 90 percent of your body weight.”
In fact, swimming can actually work as both a cardio and a strength activity. The act of swimming will pump your heart rate up and burn calories, while the different strokes and fighting through the water’s resistance will help strengthen your muscles.
Of course, trying a new workout routine can be challenging. Here’s what to know about swimming for weight loss and how to make the most of your swim workouts.
How does swimming help you lose weight?
“Swimming can absolutely help you lose weight, as it’ll increase your heart rate and tone muscles,” says Gagne. Swimming truly is a full-body workout, and each stroke uses the muscles in different ways. You’re constantly using your core to stay up in the water, so it incorporates arms, legs, and core equally.
For the someone who is 125 pounds, doing 30 minutes of freestyle can burn 330 calories, butterfly can burn 330, backstroke can burn 240, and breaststroke can burn 300, per a Harvard University study. For a 185-pound person, those same workouts would burn 488, 488, 355, and 440 calories respectively.
By comparison, a chart from the American Council of Exercise shows that running for 30 minutes can burn 342 calories for a 120-pound person and 510 calories for a 180-pound person. Cycling at an average of 10 miles per hour for 30 minutes can burn 165 calories for a 120-pound person and 246 calories for a 180-pound person. Clearly, swimming is right up there with the best of cardio activities.
Can swimming help you lose belly fat?
Since swimming is a full-body workout, it can definitely help you lose belly fat. But Gagne warns against focusing on “spot training,” or trying to work only one body part to lose weight from that specific area, especially since your body composition and genetics can play a role in where you store fat. (You also can’t control where you lose fat from first!) Still, swimming can help you lose weight, which will lead to the loss of fat overall, including belly fat eventually, and certain strokes work the abs especially well.
“Swimming works a lot of different muscles throughout the entire body, but when it comes to targeting certain areas, butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke will engage your core more. The more you are engaging them, the more work you’re putting into that certain area for leaner muscle,” says…