Is Swimming A Good Workout For Weight Loss? How To Swim To Lose Weight – Women’s Health

You already know that cardio exercise is one common component of weight loss success. But if youve been relying on traditional methods like cycling and running recently, you might want to change up your routine and give swimming a try.

Although swimming seems relatively hard and sometimes scary, its one of the best cardiovascular workouts anyone of any age can do, says Kris Gagne, senior swim coach for Life Time, and a USA-registered and ASCA-certified swim coach. Its an aerobic workout that helps strengthen the heart muscle, and its easy on your joints, too, since the water will support 90 percent of your body weight.

In fact, swimming can actually work as both a cardio and a strength activity. The act of swimming will pump your heart rate up and burn calories, while the different strokes and fighting through the waters resistance will help strengthen your muscles.

Of course, trying a new workout routine can be challenging. Here's what to know about swimming for weight loss and how to make the most of your swim workouts.

Swimming can absolutely help you lose weight, as itll increase your heart rate and tone muscles, says Gagne. Swimming truly is a full-body workout, and each stroke uses the muscles in different ways. Youre constantly using your core to stay up in the water, so it incorporates arms, legs, and core equally.

For the someone who is 125 pounds, doing 30 minutes of freestyle can burn 330 calories, butterfly can burn 330, backstroke can burn 240, and breaststroke can burn 300, per a Harvard University study. For a 185-pound person, those same workouts would burn 488, 488, 355, and 440 calories respectively.

By comparison, a chart from the American Council of Exercise shows that running for 30 minutes can burn 342 calories for a 120-pound person and 510 calories for a 180-pound person. Cycling at an average of 10 miles per hour for 30 minutes can burn 165 calories for a 120-pound person and 246 calories for a 180-pound person. Clearly, swimming is right up there with the best of cardio activities.

Since swimming is a full-body workout, it can definitely help you lose belly fat. But Gagne warns against focusing on "spot training," or trying to work only one body part to lose weight from that specific area, especially since your body composition and genetics can play a role in where you store fat. (You also can't control where you lose fat from first!) Still, swimming can help you lose weight, which will lead to the loss of fat overall, including belly fat eventually, and certain strokes work the abs especially well.

Swimming works a lot of different muscles throughout the entire body, but when it comes to targeting certain areas, butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke will engage your core more. The more you are engaging them, the more work youre putting into that certain area for leaner muscle," says Gagne. Still, he notes, "the best way to help with losing belly fat is making sure that you are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet to complement all the hard work youre putting in.

The good news is, you dont really have to start off with too much, especially if youre new to swimming. In the beginning, going three times a week for 30 minutes will benefit you greatly, says Gagne. You will find that you are using muscles you didnt even know you had.

However, its important to note that a big part of losing weight includes eating at a calorie deficit, so you should ideally be eating less calories than youre burning. A good way to calculate calories burned through swimming is by using an online calorie counter and taking a look at the Compendium of Physical Activities site.

This website uses units called METs, otherwise known as the ratio of your metabolic rate while doing a particular activity versus your metabolic rate while at rest. From the CPA site, its clear that depending on your stroke and intensity, your MET can be anywhere from 4.8 to 13.8. By using the calorie counter and inserting body weight, MET, and duration, you can figure out approximately how many calories youre burning per activity.

Essentially, in order to lose between one to two pounds per week, you need to burn 500 calories a day. You can either eat 500 less calories, exercise to burn 500 calories, or do a combination of both. Thirty minutes of vigorous butterfly in a 130-pound adult, for instance, burns 472 calories, so you can easily use swimming to meet your deficit goals.

While freestyle is generally considered the fastest and easiest stroke to learn, Gagne actually recommends starting with breaststroke. I start with this one because its one that does burn quite a bit of calories, and it allows newer swimmers to keep their heads out of water at first, at least until they become more comfortable with swimming and breathing technique.

To start, Gagne recommends swimming slowly for 30 minutes three times a week, and then building speed or amount of time spent in the pool at the four-week mark. Once you feel comfortable just swimming for 30 minutes, give this swim interval workout a try:

As you learn other strokes, you can vary your swim workouts in order to target different parts of the body," says Gagne. "You will find yourself cruising at a faster speed the more you swimit just takes some practice.

There are several ways you can burn more calories swimming. Try these ideas next time you want a more challenging workout.

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Is Swimming A Good Workout For Weight Loss? How To Swim To Lose Weight - Women's Health

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