Depending on your weight, fitness level and workout duration and intensity, you can burn roughly 300 to 450 calories (or even more!) treading water for 30 minutes.
Ever get back from the beach or pool completely exhausted? A day in the sun can have that effect on you, but your time in the water is another major reason you're so tired. Treading water can torch major calories. Add a few laps or pool games into the mix, and you're getting a full-on workout.
But if weight loss is your goal, you'll want to take your daily diet into account, too. Read on to learn how to make swimming and treading water part of your weight-loss journey.
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How Many Calories Does Treading Water Burn?
The amount of calories you burn during any given activity depends on a variety of factors, including your weight and fitness level as well as workout duration and intensity. For example, if you're treading water at a high intensity, you can burn anywhere 300 to 450 calories (or more) in just 30 minutes, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Keep in mind that the calories you burn can go up or down, depending on how hard you're working. The harder you work, the more calories you can expect to burn. Similarly, the more time you spend swimming, the higher the number of total calories burned treading water will be.
Calories Burned While Treading Water
While treading water is definitely good exercise, adding swimming to the mix can help increase your calorie burn. Plus, swimming can improve your cardiovascular and joint health, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
"Swimming is a great activity to aid in weight loss, especially for those who may have joint pain when performing traditional cardio like running or biking," says Brad Godbold, CSCS, lead strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. Army's Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) System. "It is completely impact-free, which allows you to exercise longer."
You may be aware of the calorie-torching form of exercise known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT). When you think of HIIT, burpees and jump squats might be the first things that come to mind, but you can also do water workouts in intervals.
Start by swimming 100 meters (two laps in a standard-size pool) at a challenging-but-doable speed (8 out of 10 effort). Then, rest for 20 seconds. Once you've caught your breath, swim another 100 meters. Alternate between intense movement and recovery to spike your heart rate and torch even more calories. Aim for 15 total rounds.
Benefits of Treading Water and Swimming
Sure, swimming and treading water are great ways to burn calories, but water workouts have plenty of other benefits you'll enjoy. Swimming is excellent for your cardiovascular health, whether you're swimming laps or doing water aerobics, according to the ACE.
But you want to pay close attention to your effort levels. In water, your heart rate reduces as much as 17 beats per minute compared to land, according to a November 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Your heart rate may signal you're exercising too slowly, when in reality, the activity is strenuous. So pay close attention to how your body feels while you swim.
Unlike other forms of cardio exercise, like running or HIIT, swimming is easy on the joints, per the ACE. The water helps reduce the impact by 36 to 55 percent, according to a March 2017 study from PLOS One. As a result, all of your movements are low-impact, placing less stress on your knees, hips and ankles.
Training in water can even improve your muscular strength, as water adds resistance, according to Godbold. Unlike running, for instance, where you're only moving through air, swimming requires you to push against the force of the water.
"Swimming uses different muscles and works differently than anything you can do in the gym," Godbold says. "It adds an element of cross training which is beneficial to muscular development and burning fat."
Losing Weight by Treading Water
Increasing your exercise is only one part of a healthy weight-loss plan. You'll want to pay attention to your diet, too. Regardless of your current meal plan, all weight-loss diets depend on a caloric deficit (burning more calories than you consume), according to the Mayo Clinic.
To find your recommended caloric intake for weight loss, you need to first figure out how many calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight (your maintenance calories). You can find this value by tracking your food and weight across a week or two using a food diary or app.
Then, once you've found how many maintenance calories you consume, you can gradually cut up to 500 calories per day to lose about 1 pound each week, explains the Mayo Clinic.
The best way to kickstart your calorie deficit is by swapping some of the processed foods in your diet for healthier alternatives. Chips, soda and sweets are calorie-dense but don't provide too many nutrients, leaving you hungry (and probably craving more).
Instead, prioritize whole foods as much as possible. Fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at each meal. Veggies are full of vitamins and fiber, a crucial nutrient that helps regulate your digestion, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Especially if you're exercising in the water, you'll want to get enough energy-boosting carbs for your workouts. Focus mainly on whole grains or nutritious carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal or sweet potatoes.
Finally, don't skimp on protein, as it will help you retain muscle mass and keep your energy up while you're losing weight, according to the Mayo Clinic. Prioritize protein sources like poultry, fish or low-fat dairy.
Combine swimming, healthy eating and a little patience, and before you know it, your weight-loss goals will be right within reach.
- Mayo Clinic: "Nutrition Rules That Will Fuel Your Workout"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Fiber"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to the Weight-Loss Basics"
- ACE: "Make a Splash With Water Fitness"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- PLoS One: Does aquatic exercise reduce hip and knee joint loading? In vivo load measurements with instrumented implants
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: The Effect of Aquatic Exercise on Postural Mobility of Healthy Older Adults with Endomorphic Somatotype