A swimming workout may not cross your mind when you’re looking for a new way to challenge your body. After all, it requires finding a pool, then grabbing a swimsuit, cap, and goggles—so it takes a little extra planning. Plus, you can’t really tell if you’re sweating when you swim, so…is it even doing anything?
“Swimming is an amazing full-body workout with minimal impact on joints,” says Helen Lin, a Master swim team coach based in Boston. “It also builds muscular endurance and is a great cardiovascular workout.” So yeah, it’s effective.
Swimming is definitely something to consider if you tend to get injured from high-impact exercises like running, says Albert Matheny, CSCS, co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab.
Besides, have you seen what Olympic swimmers look like? They’re sculpted in all the right places, so clearly swimming is effective.
Swimming burns more calories than you’d think.
Total caveat here: There are a lot of factors that go into how many calories you burn doing anything, including swimming. I’m talkin’ things like how much you weigh, your personal metabolism, and how hard you push yourself. But in general, Matheny says you can expect to burn about 300 calories for a half hour of swimming freestyle laps at a moderate pace.
When it comes to activities that can help you lose weight, swimming probably isn’t at the top of your list. Running, yes. Strength training, definitely. But swimming? Is splashing around really a serious fat burner?
According to Stacy Caprio, a former swim coach and Red Cross water safety instructor, it is. “Swimming is one of the best activities you can do to tone and slim your entire body,” she says. You use your arms and legs to stay afloat and your back muscles to propel you. Plus, if you’re burnt out on other forms of cardio like walking or jogging, swimming can be a welcome change.
Best of all, you don’t have to commit to a Michael Phelps-style training routine to reap the benefits. Here’s what makes swimming a stellar exercise for slimming down, plus some simple tips for diving in.
How swimming can help you lose weight
Like all types of cardiovascular exercise, swimming burns calories and can help you lose weight. But unlike, say, walking or jogging, moving through the water creates extra resistance, forcing you to use your muscles more.
“Swimming tones your upper body, lower body, and core at the same time, giving you a full-body workout and more overall muscle definition versus other cardio activities like running,” says Caprio. For example, the breaststroke and butterfly work your shoulders, arms, and chest, while the back stroke strengthens your back, abs, and quads.
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