You can burn more calories swimming than you can jogging, dancing or even doing aerobics, provided you swim vigorously and use some of the more challenging strokes. If you swim on a daily basis without increasing your calorie intake, you're likely to see serious slimming as the weight comes off. Consult your doctor before taking up swimming or any new exercise regimen.
To lose weight by swimming or doing any other form of exercise, you must burn 3,500 calories more than the number your body requires to maintain your weight to lose one pound. Find out approximately how many calories you need to maintain your current weight by using a basal metabolic rate calculator such as the one available at the BMI Calculator website. Once you know how many calories you need to maintain your weight, you will know how long you will need to swim to burn enough calories to create the deficit you need.
Casual swimming — the type you do when you're at the pool with your kids or hanging out at the lake — burns calories, but not as many as you'll burn if you get into a regular habit of swimming laps. Nevertheless, even a leisurely pace of swimming will help a 180-pound person burn almost 500 calories an hour. If you're in the habit of hanging out at the pool three times a week, and spend an hour swimming, you will lose almost half a pound each week.
Types of Strokes
The type of stroke you use will determine how many calories you burn, and therefore how much weight you lose. Freestyle, the stroke you see people use most often, burns from 650 to 820 calories an hour, depending on the intensity. Doing the backstroke burns 650 calories, the breaststroke burns 820, the butterfly 900 and the sidestroke 650. Even treading water can burn up to 820 calories, if done vigorously. While most people will not be able to do a butterfly stroke for an hour at a time, you can vary the strokes so you work a variety of muscles while swimming laps. A 180-lb. person can expect to lose approximately 1.5 pounds of excess weight if she swims each day.
Swimming can stimulate appetite, as swimmers are more depleted of carbohydrates after exercising than people who cycle or run, San Diego State University researcher Dr. Larry Weisenthal writes. You can eat a low-fat carbohydrate snack immediately after exercising to avoid having a huge appetite later, which can thwart your weight-loss efforts. Fill up on low-calorie fruits and vegetable when you're hungry, and consume meals that include lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.