Swim Workouts for Weight Loss

Swimming is a minimal-impact, full-body workout enjoyed by many people. Swimming requires the use of nearly all of your main muscle groups, has a high caloric burn and has a substantial need for breath support. Many people, especially those with injuries that make land-based exercise difficult, find the support water gives them helpful in accomplishing a workout. Swimming, however, when used for weight loss has some disadvantages.

Swimming is a minimal-impact, full-body workout enjoyed by many people. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Calorie Burn

The Wisconsin Department of Health reports that a 190-pound adult will burn about 863 calories per hour when swimming at a vigorous pace, and 690 when swimming at a light pace. This compares favorably with other low-impact workouts such as moderate-pace walking at 302 calories, tennis at 690 calories, tai chi at 345 calories and hiking at 518 calories, all for one hour.

Cooling Effect

According to Merck, swimming may not be the best workout for weight loss because of the cooling effects of swimming in water. During land-based workouts, our bodies have to work harder to keep cool. These effects can last as long as 18 hours after the completion of a workout. This means you will continue to burn additional calories long after your workout. Unfortunately, with swimming the water helps regulate body temperature and the body does not work as hard to keep itself cool both during and after your swim. Consequently, the calorie burn effects of swimming end shortly after the end of your workout.

Hunger Effect

A study conducted at the University of Utah found that after working out in a cold pool people would eat significantly more calories than a swimmer in a warm pool. Many people experience the effect of extreme hunger that comes after a vigorous swim workout. This type of effect is not typically seen in land-based workouts such as running and biking.

Where To Swim

Swimming pools with designated lap lanes and lap swim times are the best areas to swim for a workout. In this environment, it is easier to track your pace and keep it consistent and in line with your workout goals. Also, many swimming pools are temperature regulated, and a warmer pool can help mitigate the hunger and cooling effects.

How To Make It Work

If you enjoy swimming and feel you get an excellent workout from it, continue to do so. Consistent workouts are one of the most critical parts of weight loss. Done properly, you can lose weight swimming. When in the pool, set realistic goals for yourself for both the amount of time you will swim and your swimming pace. For maximum weight-loss, be sure to work out in a heated or warm pool, be aware of your hunger levels immediately after swimming and use a pool that has lap lanes for lap swim use.

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