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Benefits of Swimming for Weight Loss

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Benefits of Swimming for Weight Loss
Someone is swimming with a kick board. Photo Credit: karelnoppe/iStock/Getty Images

Losing weight requires you to burn more calories than you consume, which swimming can help you accomplish. The American College of Sports Medicine advises performing at least an hour of moderate-intensity exercise five times per week to encourage weight loss. U.S. Masters Swimming notes that swimming is a fun, healthy and challenging form of exercise appropriate for all fitness and experience levels. Along with fat-burning benefits, swimming can help strengthen your heart, improve flexibility and enhance your mood.

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Calorie Burn

A pound of body fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories, so to lose pounds you must create a calorie deficit. Physical exercise, particularly cardiovascular work that makes your heart beat faster and utilizes large muscles, is recommended to help you create a greater daily calorie burn. An hour of general swimming for a 155-lb. person burns about 446 calories, per Harvard Medical School.

Low-Impact Workout

The American Council on Exercise notes that the buoyancy of water reduces your “weight” by approximately 90 percent. The result is a significant reduction in stress on the hips, knees and the back. People who find traditional calorie-burning activities like running, kickboxing and dancing too jarring can still raise their heart rate and burn calories while swimming. Obese people may find swimming much more comfortable than work on fitness machines, which sometimes involve impact and may not accommodate the size of their bodies.

Builds Lean Muscle Mass

Water provides 12 to 14 percent more resistance than air. The act of swimming -- kicking and moving your arms against the water’s resistance -- helps build lean muscle mass and improves your overall body composition. Lean muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat tissue, and thus, you burn more calories when at rest. Adding hand-held buoys, noodles and kickboards to your swim increases the muscle-building effects of swimming.

Water Fitness

Even if you do not know how to swim, a pool can help you get an effective calorie-burning workout. Deep-water walking burns more calories than walking on solid ground because of the resistance of the water. Water fitness classes also provide an opportunity to exercise in a group setting, without the impact of traditional aerobics. Group exercise promotes adherence, camaraderie and calorie burn.

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