Swimming is a great whole body workout, because it targets all the major muscle groups of your body as you move against the resistance of the water. Your shoulders, upper back, and arm muscles propel you forward, while the muscles in your buttocks power your kicking action. The core muscles also get a great workout, helping to stabilize your torso and maintain your position in the water. Swimming places a vigorous demand on your heart and lungs, and it does so without jarring your joints. This has made swimming popular with people who are extremely overweight, pregnant and suffering from injury.

Swimming and Weight Loss

Swimming is a good exercise for fitness and muscle tone, but there are some doubts about its ability to help you lose weight. For one thing, your weight is supported by the water, so fewer calories are needed to help you move. Also, fat floats, so the flatter you are, the more you float, and the fewer calories you will use in the water.

Women naturally have a higher proportion of fat to muscle lower center of gravity than do men. Women actually float better in water, so they use fewer calories than men. Finally, maintaining normal body temperature during and after swimming than during land-based activities. This reduces the increase in your metabolic rate and reduces the appetite-suppressing effects of exercise. In fact, it’s not uncommon to feel ravenous after swimming.

What Science Says

A study from 1987 compared the effects in overweight women from swimming, stationary cycling, and walking. The study participants did one hour of exercise daily for six months. The researchers found that the weight of the walkers and cyclist decreased by 12%, while there was no change for the swimmers. This well publicized that swimming was not effective for weight loss.
However, the study failed to look at diet, exercise intensity, or whole body composition (fat loss vs. weight loss, and has been criticized to being too simplistic. More recent studies that have looked at the effect of swimming on body composition have shown mixed results. However, it is generally considered that swimming is lightly less effective for weight control than land-based or weight supported activities.

Make Swimming Effective

Ultimately, the best exercise is one you enjoy, because it’s the exercise you’ll be most likely to stick to over the long term. After all, swimming still burns calories, and while it may not be quite as effective for weight loss a walking or running, it’s still better than watching television!
To help make swimming more effective for weight control, try to adopt the following six strategies.

1. Include Intervals. 

One of the main disadvantages of swimming for weight loss is the reduced number of calories that you use compared to weight-bearing, land-based activities. However, interval training can help to overcome this problem. Interval training uses structured bursts of high intensity effort followed by recovery period to dramatically boost the fitness benefits of swimming, especially burning calories and fats.


Swimming is a good change from steady state exercise, where you always work at the same level. Training at a much higher intensity in small tolerable doses) makes your adopt to a higher level of fitness and stamina, especially if you have hit a plateau. As your fitness improves, you can increase the duration of your exercise and reduce your rest periods. Swimming at different paces also allows you to focus on both technique (slow pace) and fitness (fast pace).

2. Fine-tune Your Technique.

Improving the quality of your stroke can make a major difference to your performance and the enjoyment of swimming. Here are some speed and minimize your risk of injury.

· Look straight down at the bottom of the pool, and lead with the top of your head, not your forehead. This reduces drag and decreases the strain on your neck and spine.
· Stretch and reach out with water with your entire forearm and hand. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees as it moves under your body.
· Rotate your torso during your stroke. As your right arm goes through the water, turn your belly button to the left, and reverse the procedure to the opposite side. This makes breathing easier and provides greater acceleration.
· Keep the muscles in your truck contracted and taut. Activating your core muscles prevents your midsection from dragging and allows your body to better coordinate the movement of your arms and legs.
· Turn your feet into flippers. Keep your legs taut, your feet flexible, and use a scissor type movement, which helps to utilize the powerful gluteal muscles.

3. Continually Challenge Yourself.

Try to set yourself a personal challenge every week or two. Get your competitive juices flowing and put yourself in race mode by competing against the clock. Set a distance, time or lap challenge that fits in your schedule and your training goals. For example, if you have 20 minutes, see how many laps you can compete in that time. Then, try to make this your regular personal best swim, and continually strive to beat your best effort.


If you feel like you’re not progressing your swimming, or if you aren’t losing any weight, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. A swim coach can offer guidance on technique and teach you how to execute your stroke with greater efficiency. In addition, a weight-loss coach can take a closer look at your eating and exercise habits and offer strategies to increase your chance of getting results.

4. Try Other Water-based Exercises. 

Swimming is not the only water-based exercise you can use to lose weight. As long as you move vigorously against the resistance of the water, you can still burn considerable amount of calories. Following are four water-based activities that could be refreshing addition to your exercise routine.

· Walk in water that’s about ankle-ton-knee-deep while bringing your knees up high and swinging your arms to propel you. The resistance of the water builds up, helping to burn calories.
· Perform a free running action in deep water while wearing a buoyancy vest to prevent your feet from touching the bottom.
· Kickboarding is a great workout for your legs and buttocks. Just hold the kickboard out with your arms straight and pump your legs to your heart’s content.
· Aquarobics classes are a great workout, and the faster you push or pull in the water, the greater the resistance will be. Check the pools in your area to see if any classes are available.

5. Exercise Out Of Water.

If your goal is weight loss, don’t rely on swimming as your only form of exercise. By all means, incorporate swimming into your exercise program, but look to include additional weight bearing exercise that are ideal for fat burning, such as fast walking or slow jogging.
This is known as cross training, where you incorporate a variety of exercises into your training routine to increase your motivation and maximize your chance of getting results. For example, you may wish to walk for 20 minutes and then swim for 20 minutes or you may wish to alternate days, swimming one day and walking the next.
As your body fat levels reduce, you can swim more and walk less, adjusting your program depending on the changes to your weight.

6. Manage Your Appetite After Swimming.

Swimming is associated with greater stimulus of your appetite compared to other land-based activities. Your level of hunger after exercise is important, because you don’t want to undo all your hard work with a uncontrollable urge to eat.
Women tend to experience greater level of hunger after exercise, as their bodies try harder to maintain existing fat stores for survival child birth and breast feeding. Appetite id also partially regulated by temperature control.

If you feel hot after a hard workout, you may experience a greater drop in appetite. However, if you are cool, such as after swimming, you may feel ravenous. More intense exercise is thought to have the greatest appetite suppressing effect, so include intervals in your workout to really warm you up. Make sure you also drink a lot of water after you exercise, because dehydration can make your body crave food. Exercise can influence hunger differently in people, so experiment to find out what’s best for you.

Whether you swim, walk, or ride a bike, the important thing is to do it, because exercise if essential for maintaining physical and mental health, however you choose to get it.

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