How many calories does swimming burn?

Swimming is, without a doubt, a great way to burn off any extra calories you might be hoping to shed! Not only is swimming a great exercise to aid in losing or managing your weight, but as it is a low impact workout it’s also a great option for anyone prone to injuries or pain, particularly in the lower back or joints. 

Calculating your calorie burn

The exact number of calories you will burn in the swimming pool will vary from person to person. Factors such as your weight, metabolism, swimming stroke, speed and time in the water will all affect the total calorie burn of your workout. A swimming burn calculator is an easy way to get a more accurate idea of how many calories your body burns when swimming. Typically, the more you weigh and the higher your metabolism, the more calories you will burn per hour of exercise.

With these factors in mind, a 30 minute breast stroke swim will burn an average of 150 – 280 calories, or 300 – 560 calories per hour. If you prefer to measure your calorie burn over distance, swimming 500m will burn around 120 – 160 calories, and a 1 mile swim will burn around 315 – 420 calories.

Another great way to calculate the number of calories you burn is by using a fitness tracker. Apple Watch and Fitbit Charge are two great options, however, Garmin watches are more tailored towards swimming and have some great features

Swimming to burn fat and lose weight

Swimming is an aerobic exercise, which means that during your workout your body is burning fat to keep you sustained. Interval training, where you vary the intensity level of your workout, is a good addition to a swimming workout plan aimed at weight loss. Aim to keep your heart rate at around 60 – 90% of the maximum for your age group (you can get a waterproof heart rate monitor to help with this), as you will be burning calories more effectively in this zone. Whilst all swimming strokes will burn calories effectively when performed continuously, the one that packs the biggest punch for fat burning is the butterfly stroke, with a rough average of 704 calories burned per hour!

Balancing exercise and nutrition for weight loss

A common issue that people have when they begin a more rigorous exercise regime, including swimming, is that they don’t see any improvement on the scales, or even begin to gain weight. With an increase in physical activity you may begin to feel an increase in hunger levels, and in turn start to consume more calories. It’s important to maintain a healthy balanced diet in order to fuel your physical activity, but be aware of not overcompensating and avoid consuming more calories than you are burning, as in order to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit.

Try planning your swims to coincide with your mealtimes and use these to fuel your recovery as opposed to consuming lots of additional snacks. Focus on adding low GI carbohydrates to help replenish your glycogen stores and protein for muscle growth and repair.

Remember: always seek professional medical advice for any new exercise plan, and ensure you are swimming in a safe, supervised environment.


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