Maybe you love running, but you just need to mix up your routine a little, and you want to know how swimming compares as an effective workout. Depending on your exercise goals and the intensity with which you're comfortable doing either activity, swimming could meet your needs just as easily as running.
Depending on your speed, you will probably be able to swim 1 mile in the amount of time it takes you to run 5 miles, and both workouts will burn close to the same number of calories.
What Are The Benefits Of Swimming
But there are two major benefits that set swimming apart. You might have heard before that swimming is a full-body workout, meaning it works every muscle in your body. You also might have heard that it is a low-impact workout. Because the water supports your body weight, you are less likely to injure a joint or muscle when swimming.
In fact, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps lists decreased muscle and joint pain and improved use of painful joints among the benefits of swimming.
Measuring Up A Swim Versus A Run
Although both are great workouts, comparing a swim and a run is like comparing apples and oranges. Devices for measuring walking and running — such as a pedometer or an accelerometer — cannot measure swimming or cycling.
Let's look at 1 kilometer of swimming versus running. If you are swimming 1 kilometer a day (about .62 miles), this would require 40 lengths of a 25-meter swimming pool. A swimmer doing one length a minute could finish this workout in 40 minutes. If this workout were done four days a week, you could easily meet the weekly 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise recommended by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
If you were to try running the same distance at a pace of 5 mph, you would be done in a little over six minutes. As you can see, you would need to run much farther than you swim to get the same recommended minutes of exercise!
Swimming vs Running Calories
You might be wondering about how many calories swimming burns versus running. The good news is that both aerobic workouts can burn some serious energy%20(www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html), although running does have a slight edge. If a 154-pound man were to run at 5 mph and complete 5 miles, he would burn 590 calories.
If that same 154-pound man were to spend an hour swimming slow freestyle laps, he would burn 510 calories. The number of calories a person burns will vary based on the person's weight and the intensity of their workout.
Another perspective on swimming-to-running conversion can be taken from guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources.
Per this swimming-to-running conversion, swimming constitutes a vigorous activity, and approximately 25 minutes of swimming is equal to about 3 miles of running. If you regularly run 5 miles, you would want to swim for approximately 42 minutes to get an equivalent workout.
A Mile of Swimming For 5 Miles of Running
Now let's do the math for a timed workout. If you swim at a pace of one length per minute, you could do 60 lengths in an hour, a total of 1,500 meters — nearly 1 mile (which is actually 1,609.3 meters, strictly speaking).
This would take the same amount of time as a 5-mile run at a pace of 10 minutes per mile and, in the case of the previously described 154-pound man, burn close to the same number of calories.
In short, comparing swimming and running all depends on your body weight, your intensity, your duration and — of course — your workout goals. But whether you're thinking about burning calories or simply hitting your minutes of aerobic activity, both swimming and running are great ways to meet your needs.
- Just Swim: 8 Benefits of Swimming Whatever Your Fitness Level
- United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps: Get Fit Stay Fit, Benefits of Swimming
- Assessment of Physical Activity and Energy Expenditure: An Overview of Objective Measures
- Choose My Plate: How Many Calories Does Physical Activity Use?
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Top 10 Things to Know About the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Get Out and Walk: Miles for Wellness Activity Conversion Chart
- NC Office of State Human Resources Wellness, Safety and Health: Miles for Wellness Exercise Conversion Table