Are Swimming Workouts For Weight Loss A Good Idea Or A Bad Idea For Losing Weight?

Summer is here and the weather is ideal for being outside and in the pool, lake or ocean! If you’re thinking that it’s the perfect time to get in some swimming workouts you’re right. However, are swimming workouts for weight loss the ideal approach to losing weight? Can you believe that there are studies that show you can actually gain weight after working out in the pool? In reality there are cases that prove this to be true and cases that prove this to be false. As with many exercise and weight loss strategies, the level of intensity is what will make or break your weight loss goals.

Swimming Workouts For Weight Loss

While there are actually a few mixed reviews and differing opinions on the matter, the truth is that it’s ultimately up to you on whether or not your workout in the pool will be an effective weight loss workout or just a nice refreshing and fun way to get in some exercise this summer.

Before we get into the actual swimming workouts though, let’s take a quick look at how you could possibly gain fat from working out.

Can Swimming Workouts Cause Weight Gain?

There’s a notion going around that you should not even consider swimming workouts for weight loss. I completely disagree. I think swimming is a completely acceptable form of exercise to lose weight plus it’s nice to get out of the house (or gym) and into the lake or pool.

Why is the theory that you will gain weight from swimming a bit absurd? To lose weight you need to take in less calories than you burn — period. If you use jumping jacks to burn 500 calories a day or if you use swimming to burn 500 calories a day, guess how many calories you burned from exercise that day — 500!

Why is there a theory that you could gain weight from swimming? It all started due to the differences in body fat of aquatic athletes and of land athletes.

Once someone thought there was a normal and typical relation, out came the studies to “prove” that the the fat levels where due to the type of workout these athletes did.

“Proof” That Swimming Workouts Are Ineffective For Weight Loss

Quite a while ago there was a study conducted and then recorded in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that examined three groups of people for three months.

  1. Swimmers
  2. Bikers
  3. Walkers

Each started the study by doing 10 minutes of exercise at a time. As the weeks went they increased the time of exercise by 5 minutes each week.

The result? The group of walkers lost 17 pounds, the runners lost 19 pounds and the swimmers gained 5 pounds.

Case closed, swimming workouts are no good for losing weight, right? Wrong!

What this study did not take into consideration or monitor was the amount of calories each person or group ate or what level of intensity each group exercised.

If the swimmers were chilling out in the pool sipping Mai Tai’s than of course they aren’t going to lose as much weight as a group of people running — have you ever tried to drink while running, it’s not easy!

A common notion is that swimming often increases your appetite whereas on land exercises like running often decrease your appetite. This is where it’s up to you on whether or not you will lose weight from swimming.

You don’t have to over eat or stop at the drive through on your way home from the pool!

A New “Swim” Theory Emerging

In the past swimming has taken a beating as far as it’s effectiveness for losing weight. But here’s something that might backup and show that swimming workouts for weight loss can be effective.

Before I get into this too much, let me just say that this is not proven nor is there even a real study on it (that I know of). This is only theory and an idea.

If you swim in a cold lake or pool (provided you are actually working out and not just wading) you might be able to burn even more calories than on land athletes. Why? If your body has to fight the elements to keep your core temperature up it’s going to need to burn more calories. If your body has to work to stay warm then your body is working even harder.

That said, here are some actual workouts to keep your calorie burning in the pool up to par. You don’t necessarily need to swim in the cold for these to be effective. 😀

2 Different Swimming Workouts For Weight Loss

Here are two great swim workouts that you can do in just about any pool. Whether the pool is large or small these routines will work great.

Workout #1 – Interval Training in the Pool

Warm up for 5 minutes before starting. Just dog paddle, stretch, play, whatever. For the first lap, swim casually from to one end of the pool. When you start to swim back do a different stroke. Alternate these so that you do a more difficult stroke followed by a standard, front crawl stroke.

  • Front Crawl
  • Breast Stroke
  • Front Crawl
  • Butterfly
  • Front Crawl
  • Back Stroke
  • Front Crawl
  • Side Stroke

Depending on the size of the pool, that alone will be a decent workout. As your swimming ability increases as well as your level of fitness you can repeat the process as desired and increase the speed during your “difficult” stroke.

By swimming back at a relaxed/normal rate you are allowing yourself a small recovery phase so that you can swim hard for the next lap.

Workout #2 – Swimming/Treading/Having Fun

This one is a little more straight forward but will really help you to increase your overall fitness. By doing this one or two times a week you should see improvement in all of your other training as well.

The “workout” is to just swim. 😀 Okay, to clarify, you need to dog paddle, front crawl, tread water and so on for as long as you can. Only stipulation is that you don’t roll to your back and float.

How Many Calories Can You Burn From Swimming?

The amount of calories that you can burn differs according to the intensity at which you are working out. Of course the harder you swim, the more calories you will burn.

Average calories burned per hour swimming:

  • Leisurely swimming, not necessarily lap swimming – 408 calories
  • Breast stroke – 680 calories
  • Treading water – 270 calories

You can see that if you do workout #1 you can expect to burn anywhere from 6-700+ calories an hour. The harder you push, the more calories you burn.

From workout #2 you will probably burn about 400+ calories.