The aquatic environment is a comfortable place to exercise for your fat-burning goals. Swimming burns calories and is an aerobic activity, which means it meets the criteria set forth by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
To maintain or lose weight, it is advised that you exercise aerobically at a moderate intensity for 150 to 300 minutes a week. Or if you really want to increase your fat-burning potential, exercise vigorously for 75 to 150 minutes a week.
If you're splashing around playing Marco Polo, you won't get the same benefit as when you continuously lap swim. The good news is that your swim stroke does not matter. If you are able to do the front crawl, back stroke or the challenging butterfly, you will burn fat when you swim at a moderate- to high-intensity level.
1. Warm Up First
You know the drill. You have to warm up before participating in any form of exercise. Now you can warm up for the pool by marching in place and dynamically stretching for five to 10 minutes on land. Or you can do your warm-up in the pool itself. Head for waist-deep water and walk back and forth swinging your arms as you go. Tread water or warm up by swimming at a slow pace for five to 10 minutes.
2. Pick Your Stroke
There are four main swim strokes —butterfly, breaststroke, freestyle, backstroke — all of which burn substantial calories. You may be an experienced swimmer and use all of the strokes for your fat-burning goal. But, according to Swimming.org, the butterfly is not a stroke to use if you're a beginner.
If however, you're proficient at the breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle, you can use those three strokes interchangeably during an hour of swimming to burn anywhere from 710 to 888 calories according to Harvard Health Publishing.
3. Wear a Waterproof Heart Monitor
In this age of wearables, it's the perfect time to take one into the pool with you. You can track in real time how hard you're working. You can wear a watch or a waterproof heart monitor for a more accurate gauge of your intensity level.
4. Swim at a Consistent Pace
Maintain your swimming pace for a minimum of 10 continuous minutes. Rest for a couple of minutes and then carry on for the next 10. Aim to swim 30 to 60 minutes in total to burn a higher number of fat calories as your fitness and endurance improve. A 155-pound person burns approximately 13.5 calories each minute swimming at a moderate crawl pace.
5. Do a Cool-Down
Cool down with a slow-paced three- to five-minute swim at the end of your fat-burning session to calm down your heart rate before you return to land.
Speak with your doctor before you begin a swimming exercise program. Never swim alone; swim with a partner or under the protection of a lifeguard.
- ExRx.net: "Aerobic Exercise Prescription Components"
- MayoClinic.org: "Ready to Get in on the Aquatic Fitness Movement?"
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights”
- Health.gov: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition”
- Swimming.org: "The Best Swimming Stroke for Weight Loss"