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How Swimming in Cold Water Helps Burn Calories

by
author image Susan Presley
Susan Presley has worked in health care journalism since 2007, and has been published in the American Journal of Nursing and other academic periodicals. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Truman State University and a Master of Divinity degree from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
How Swimming in Cold Water Helps Burn Calories
A woman in a towel standing by a swimming pool. Photo Credit AnneMS/iStock/Getty Images

Swimming is an excellent moderate-level aerobic exercise and a good calorie burner. Cold water temperatures can increase this calorie burn. However, cold temperatures may also lead to consumption of more calories. If your goal is weight loss, swimming in cold water can be a mixed blessing.

Calories Burned

A study performed at the University of Florida showed slightly more calories are burned in cold water exercise than in warm. In the study, men who exercised for 45 minutes in 68 degree water burned an average of 517 calories. The men who exercised in 91.4 degree water burned 505 calories, on average.

How it Works

Brown fat is a type of body fat that helps control your body’s temperature. This fat burns calories in order to create heat. In cooler temperatures brown fat must burn more calories to keep you warm. Also, when your body is cold, your blood moves closer to your body's core in order to keep your vital organs warm. This speeds up the work of your heart and lungs, which in turn burns more calories.

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Increased Appetite

Exercising in cold water can significantly increase your appetite. The participants observed in the University of Florida study were found to eat an average of 44 percent more calories immediately after swimming in cold water, compared to when they exercised in warm water. Be aware of the calories you consume after swimming to avoid this pitfall.

Tips and Warnings

In order to lose weight, combine healthy eating with a regular exercise routine. Aerobic activities, such as swimming, should be performed for 30 to 60 minutes per session. In addition to the possible benefits of swimming in cold water, it is important to remember that cold temperatures can also contribute to high blood pressure and decreased immunity. Talk to your health care provider before adding swimming to your exercise routine.

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