How many calories does swimming burn?


Women swimming with outstretched arms, holding each other while floating in the water

Wondering how many calories does swimming burn? There are many reasons to take a dip that have nothing to do with calories or weight loss, but if you\’re looking to know the stats behind your dip, we\’ve got you covered.

Just like running, walking and cycling, swimming is one of the best cardiovascular exercises. There are so many benefits of swimming for our bodies – and for our minds – such as improving fitness levels, relieving the impact on bones and joints, and even building muscle. For all this, it is also an excellent exercise for those who want to lose weight.

\”Swimming can be a great addition to a well-rounded exercise routine that includes a combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility work,\” agrees Amanda Place, an award-winning personal trainer. \”As with any exercise program, it\’s essential to maintain consistency, gradually increase intensity, and supplement your workouts with a balanced diet to achieve sustainable weight loss.\”

He says, \”Swimming at a moderate speed can burn over 500 calories per hour, making it an effective way to burn a significant number of calories, while enjoying a refreshing, low-impact workout.\” However, the trainer also notes that calorie burn is highly individual. The number of calories burned by one person will not be the same as the other. With that in mind, let\’s take a closer look at how many calories swimming burns for people.

How many calories does swimming burn?

Calorie consumption is a large individual calculation, based primarily on current weight. Research from Harvard University suggests that in 30 minutes of general swimming:

  • Someone weighing 125 pounds (56 kg) can burn 180 calories

  • Someone weighing 155 pounds (70 kg) can burn 216 calories

  • Someone weighing 185 pounds (85 kg) can burn 252 calories

Increasing the intensity—that is, the speed and vigor—of your swim will naturally burn more calories. For example, the same Harvard research suggests that in 30 minutes of swimming, you vigorously lap around a pool:

  • Someone weighing 125 pounds (56 kg) can burn 300 calories

  • Someone weighing 155 lbs (70 kg) can burn 360 calories

  • Someone weighing 185 pounds (85 kg) can burn 420 calories

If you, like me, sit between these weight figures, it could be a rough figure between the upper and lower numbers. One way to better understand how your body burns calories, without having to do the math yourself, is to invest in a fitness tracker like one of the best Fitbits. While no smartwatch is entirely accurate when it comes to tracking calorie burn, it will put you in the right ballpark.

There are actually several factors that determine how many calories you burn swimming, explains Place, who is also the founder of Sculptrition. These are the most important to consider:

Factors affecting the number of calories you will burn swimming

  • The intensity of your swim: As noted, vigorous swimming burns significantly more calories than leisurely swimming. \”The more effort you put into your swim, the more calories you\’ll burn,\” says Place, who is also the founder of Sculptrition.

  • Body weight: The role your current body weight plays in how efficiently you burn calories shouldn\’t be underestimated, says the trainer. \”In general, a heavier person burns more calories than a lighter person when he does the same activity because it requires more energy to move a greater body mass.\”

  • Swimming Stroke: \”Different strokes require different levels of effort and engage different muscle groups. For example, an intense freestyle or butterfly stroke tends to burn more calories than a relaxed breaststroke or backstroke,\” she says.

  • Technique: But it\’s not just about how fast you go. \”Efficiency in your technique, including proper body alignment, stroke mechanics, and breathing, can also affect overall energy expenditure while swimming.

  • Duration: Of course, if you swim longer (even at a slower pace), you\’ll eventually burn more calories. If you\’re looking to burn more calories in a limited amount of time, you\’ll need to increase the intensity of your swim.

  • Individual factors: Ultimately, how quickly someone will burn calories depends on a few very individual factors, some of which are beyond our control. \”Every individual\’s metabolic rate and fitness level can affect calorie burn while swimming,\” says Place. “Metabolic rate refers to how quickly your body burns calories at rest. Individuals with higher metabolic rates tend to burn more calories overall, including during exercise. energy usage in your body and can affect how hard you can swim.\”


Top view of a swimming pool separated by lanes

Is swimming a good way to lose weight?

Yes, swimming can be a great exercise to incorporate into your routine if you\’re trying to learn how to lose weight without excessive dieting. \”Swimming engages multiple muscle groups throughout the body, making it a fantastic full-body workout,\” explains Place. “The resistance provided by the water engages the use of the arms, legs, core and back muscles, leading to increased calorie burn and improved muscle tone. This full muscle engagement helps burn fat and promote overall weight loss\”.

Plus, because swimming is a low-impact exercise, it\’s suitable for all fitness levels. This is where swimming often wins in the swim vs. run debate. \”The low-impact nature of swimming makes it an excellent workout if you have joint issues or prefer a workout that\’s gentle on your body,\” he says. \”The buoyancy of the water reduces the impact on the joints while still providing an effective cardiovascular workout. It also allows for a wider range of motion without putting the same level of strain on the joints as activities such as running or high-impact aerobics.\”

And, as we\’ve seen, it burns a lot of calories. \”Swimming is a form of cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases your metabolic rate. This leads to calorie burning and helps create a calorie deficit, which is essential for weight loss,\” says Place.

How to burn more calories swimming

  • Increase the intensity of your swim: \”You can achieve this by incorporating interval training or high-intensity blasts into your swim routine,\” explains Place. \”Alternate bouts of faster, more vigorous swimming and active recovery or slower laps. This interval training can get your heart rate up and maximize calorie expenditure.\”

  • Use different strokes: “Varying swim strokes can engage different muscle groups and increase overall energy expenditure. Each swim stroke has its own demands and challenges, so incorporating a mix of strokes such as freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly can provide a more well-rounded workout .\” she says. \”This variation helps target different muscles and keeps your body engaged, leading to increased calorie burn.\”

  • Add some water-based resistance exercises: “These exercises, like water jogging, water treading, or using resistance equipment like water dumbbells, can further challenge your muscles and increase the overall intensity of your swim workout. They provide additional resistance , making your body work harder and burn more calories.\”

  • Swim longer: Of course, the longer you swim, the more calories you\’ll burn. \”Gradually increase the length of your swim workouts as your fitness level improves,\” suggests the coach. \”Try to swim for longer periods, gradually building up more challenging distances or time intervals. This sustained effort helps burn more calories during your swim sessions.\”

  • But be sure to keep good technique: “Focus on maintaining good body alignment, engaging your core muscles, and using proper stroke mechanics. This allows you to move through the water with less resistance and greater efficiency, allowing you to swim faster and consume more power.\”

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