Is Swimming Good For Weight Loss?

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There are many activities you can do to get in better shape. Find out whether swimming is good for weight loss and how it compares to alternatives.

Swimming involves movements that are more intense than typical daily activities.

In turn, this can help you get to the point where your body uses up more energy than is coming in from food which is necessary to lose weight.

In simpler words, swimming can be good for weight loss but there are conditions. Your habits in other lifestyle areas like your diet need to be good enough too.

That being said, swimming can be a good exercise option for this purpose since it helps you burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

An additional benefit of swimming is that it is low-impact which means your injury risk will be relatively low.

One downside of this activity is that you likely have to drive to your local swimming pool, get changed, etc. This adds a good amount of time to your workouts.

Can swimming help you lose weight?

To start losing weight, you need to get in a situation where your body needs more energy than is coming in from the things you eat.

When this happens, you start using up energy stores like body fat to get your remaining energy needs.

Swimming can help in this weight loss process because the movements involved are more intense than typical daily activities. This requires more energy than usual.

At the same time, the principles above also make it clear that you will not always lose weight by swimming. Your habits in other areas like your diet still need to be good enough to see results too.

Something else to keep in mind is that you likely only have a limited time to work out. That means you likely also want to how good swimming alternatives are for weight loss.

swimming session for weight loss

Calories burned swimming vs other activities

While these predictions are not perfect, looking at the calorie-burning estimations for swimming and other activities can help you compare their effectiveness for weight loss.

The main reason why these predictions are not perfect is that the calculation methods do not take every important detail into account.

Your exact body composition, hormone levels, swimming intensity, etc. could vary and influence the numbers in reality. At the same time, the estimations can still be helpful.

Some calorie-burning estimations for a 155-pound (70 kg) person doing different activities for 30 minutes include (1):

  • Swimming (general): 216 calories
  • Swimming (vigorous): 360 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 144 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 144 calories
  • Stair Step Machine (general): 216 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 252 calories
  • Running 5 mph: 288 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 324 calories
  • Jumping rope (fast): 421 calories

Something to note first is that how many calories swimming burns depends a lot on your intensity (and swimming style).

If this interests you, crawl and butterfly are the swimming styles that tend to burn the biggest amounts of calories.

That aside, you can also say that swimming has a lot of potential for burning calories but that there are also activities that are even better in this area.

Can you lose belly fat by swimming?

Many people believe that it is possible to target fat loss in certain areas like their bellies by doing specific workouts like swimming.

Unfortunately, it currently looks like you can’t target fat loss in significant amounts.

To burn the fat from areas like your belly, you have to lose enough weight overall. If you progress enough, you will notice that more and more of the fat loss you experience comes from your stomach (and often thighs).

In simpler words, you can lose belly fat by swimming but you will not necessarily focus on this area alone.

Additionally, losing stomach fat tends to be one of the hardest things to do so you will likely have to make some changes in other lifestyle areas like your diet too.

crawl as best swimming style for weight loss

How much do you need to swim to lose weight?

It is only normal that you want to know how much you need to swim to lose weight. This can motivate you to take action and offers an indication of whether you are doing something suboptimal in other lifestyle areas.

Before giving a few rough estimations, something important to note is that your habits in these other areas will influence your actual weight loss results a lot.

The predictions below assume all the calories you burn by swimming come from fat.

A 185-pound (83 kg) person swimming 5 days a week for 30 minutes each day at a general pace will burn an extra 1260 calories or about 0.36 pounds (0.16 kg) of body fat in a week.

If the person keeps up the same weight loss swimming plan for a month (4 weeks), they can burn an extra 5040 calories which are about 1.44 pounds (0.63 kg) of body fat.

One thing you do want to keep in mind with estimations like this is that they are only temporarily like this. As you lose more weight, the same swimming workouts will start to burn fewer calories.

How many times a week should you swim to lose weight?

Another question is how often you should swim a week when trying to lose weight.

Unfortunately, it is hard to put a general number that applies to everyone on this.

Since swimming is a type of workout with low injury risk, many people could theoretically do it every day of the week without negative consequences.

That being said, this is not necessarily optimal.

It can also be smart to implement resistance training workouts to build muscle mass. This muscle mass will benefit your other weight loss efforts.

Additionally, whether you lose weight with a swimming routine depends a lot on lifestyle habits like your diet.

It is possible to lose weight without swimming but you can also not see any weight loss results from swimming 3 days a week or more with suboptimal habits in these other areas.

In short, how many times a week you should swim to lose depends on what your body can take, how much time you have, and your habits in areas like nutrition.

When in doubt, you can start with something like swimming two times a week. After that, you can adjust your routine based on your weight loss results and how your body feels.

Best time to swim for weight loss

The human body has a variety of circadian rhythms that influence what timing best is for certain types of activities.

That being said, the research on morning vs evening workouts is currently not perfect yet.

The best time to swim for weight loss is generally one where you will be able to stay consistent with it.

At the same time, you generally want to avoid swimming for one to two hours before bedtime.

The physical activity and bright lights from the swimming pool can reduce your sleep quality and in turn, negatively affect your weight loss.

Is swimming a good way to lose weight?

In terms of being able to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, swimming can be a great option. That means you can say it is a relatively good exercise to lose weight.

An additional advantage of swimming is that it involves a low injury risk. Cold water can help your body convert white fat into “brown fat”. This is a kind of fat that can help you burn a few extra calories.

On the flip side, a downside of swimming is that most people have to go to the swimming pool, change clothes, etc. These things make your workouts longer and harder to fit into busy schedules.

Lastly, even when choosing a good weight loss workout option like swimming, you likely have to some extra attention to areas like your diet to see fat loss results.

Will I lose weight if I start swimming?

If you are currently at a weight loss plateau and the only change is that you start swimming, you will likely lose some weight. Over time, you will need to make more changes in your swimming routine or other lifestyle habits to keep seeing results.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.