Weight Loss: Is Swimming Good to Lose Weight?

When looking to lose weight, it is widely accepted that you should combine a mixture of a workable exercise programme and a balanced, nutritional diet.

Some people think that to lose weight, they need to concentrate on certain areas of cardio like running or CrossFit to maximise their weight loss and forget that there are so many more exercises out there that can help and, in some cases, be better for them, but is swimming good to lose weight?

Swimming is perfect for those wanting to lose weight, whether it’s a few pounds or a stone. It’s an all over body workout that uses all sorts of different muscles that walking or running doesn’t.

So how can swimming help you and why is it good for weight loss? We’ll look into how you can up your swimming regime and some different tips and tricks on swimming to lose weight.

How often do you need to swim to lose weight?

To lose weight safely, the NHS advise that losing 1-2 pounds per week is ideal. This means you will need to swim for around 5 hours a week depending on the calorie deficit you’re working with.

This sounds like a lot, but let’s not forget that any exercise will help – so why not supplement your swimming with one or two brisk walks per week?

If you are, for example, reducing your calorie consumption by around 250kcal per day, you could hit your weekly weight loss goal by swimming 2.5 hours a week, which is more feasible for a lot of people as it’s just 45 minutes for three days a week. However, do not get disheartened if you miss sessions, it’s easy to do when life gets in the way, but doing one session a week is better than nothing.

To lose weight, any activity that burns calories will help with your goals. Even if you can only swim three times a week, twice a week, or even for 20 minutes, it is still extra calories burned and one step closer to your weight loss goals.

Do some swimming strokes burn more calories than others?

If you want to lose weight, then looking at what stroke you are using will undoubtedly help with the number of calories you can burn.

Research has found that the butterfly is the best for calories burnt, with 450 calories burned in just 30 minutes of swimming. This particular stroke is one of the hardest to master but is one of the best for giving your entire body an intense workout.

The second best for calories burnt would be freestyle or front crawl, which has been shown to burn around 300 calories per half hour, plus helps to tone your back muscles, stomach, and shoulders.

Next, we have backstroke, which has been shown to burn 250 calories every 30 minutes of swimming. This particular stroke has been shown to help with your posture.

Finally, we have the breaststroke, which is probably the easiest of the main four strokes, which is why it is a favourite for beginners. Using this stroke will help you burn around 200 calories each half hour.

Which swimming stroke burns more calories?

There are four different types of swimming strokes; backstroke, front crawl, breaststroke and butterfly – they all use different muscles and although it’s all swimming, each stroke will burn a different number of calories, but which one is the best for losing weight?

Butterfly – although this is apparently the best stroke for burning calories, at over 900 per hour, it is also the most technical and the hardest to keep up for long periods of time.

Breaststroke – coming in as the next best calorie burner, this is the most popular stroke for people swimming for longer periods of time. In an hour, you can burn over 730 calories.

Backstroke – this stroke uses more muscles than some of the other strokes and can be considered a slightly more labour-intensive stroke than breaststroke or front crawl. An hour of backstroke will burn around 500 calories.

Front Crawl – popular amongst those who want to swim for longer, this can burn over 500 calories in an hour. An ideal stroke for quicker swimming sessions.

Is Swimming a Good Exercise for Losing Weight

Supplement swimming with other exercises

If you wish to up your weight loss goal, but don’t want to swim every day, why not mix up the swimming with other exercises? Adding in a run or brisk walk, or even a cardio class at the gym can help as you build up your core strength and work on using different muscles and resting others.

Swimming for 45 minutes will burn 25% more calories than running for half an hour, at the same intensity. It’s also a good idea to up your intensity or pace in the pool when you feel that your swim is getting a little too easy.

A good way to build up intensity and difficulty is to use intervals – some smart fitness watches will also have a setting so you can set this automatically. Swim two lengths at a faster stroke, before swimming one at a more leisurely pace. Doing intervals can also mean that you are modifying your routine to use different muscle groups.

Switch up your strokes during your swim as well to increase the number of calories burnt.

How about using a weighted swim vest to make it more difficult or taking in some water dumbbells and doing some bicep curls every two or three laps? Making swimming work for you is what’s important.

What to eat after swimming to lose weight

Having an intense swimming session can increase your appetite when you’ve finished. It’s important not to overdo it though and make sure you don’t go home and snack on junk food. Grab a protein shake, or a banana or put extra vegetables on your plate.

Protein-rich foods are essential after a swim as they help to repair and build those tired muscles. Foods such as chicken, turkey, and oily fish are all excellent sources of lean protein.

You should also consider high carbohydrate foods, foods such as mixed fruit cereal, yoghurt, and fruit are full of glycogen that can help refill those energy levels that have become depleted after a tough swim. Fresh fruits and vegetables can also help to replenish those lost vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Your diet is an important part of your weight loss journey, and after any type of workout; you’ll need to refuel. Doing this in the right way can mean that you are still in a calorie deficit despite potentially eating a larger meal after a swim.

It’s a good idea to keep track of your calories going in and out – downloading an app like MyFitnessPal or entering your food intake on your Garmin, Fitbit, Apple or Samsung health apps are a good way of helping, but don’t worry if you forget or go over.

How else can swimming help?

As well as helping with weight loss, swimming is also a great all-over workout as it uses lots of different muscle groups and helps with your core strength. It’s low impact for those who may have health issues and it is a good rehabilitation exercise.

Lots of people we speak to about swimming also mention the mental health benefits that they get from swimming. Swimming allows you to clear your mind, relax and just concentrate on your breathing and strokes. It’s something that we’re seeing more of and with classes like water aerobics, it’s much more accessible than some gym classes. Swimming is also seen as a good way of exercising for those who don’t like typical gyms or gym classes.

Swimming is a great all over exercise for losing weight, strengthening muscles and your core, helping with mental health and being an accessible exercise. Get down to your local pool today and get swimming.


Does swimming burn belly fat?

Swimming can certainly help to reduce your overall body fat percentage. The key is creating a calorie deficit, which means you need to burn more calories than you consume.

Is swimming better than the gym?

There are certain situations where swimming would be better than the gym. For instance, swimming would be a better option if you are recovering from an injury or have joint issues. This is because water helps support your weight while you exercise.

If you are able, it would be recommended that you do both. Weight training would be a good option for both men and women looking to lose weight, as the muscle gained will help increase your overall calorie burn.

How long does it take to tone your body with swimming?

If you are serious about your diet and swimming, then there is no reason why you cannot start to see changes in your body after just a few weeks.

It would be impossible to say how long it would take for you to reach your goals, as we all have different goals and obstacles in our way that can slow our progress.

How soon can you see results from swimming?

You can see results within a few weeks if you stick to a healthy diet and swim regularly. You will also start to feel better about yourself even sooner, as exercise has been shown to release feel good hormones.

Is slow swimming good exercise?

Whatever exercise you do is going to be good for you. Whether you swim at a slow pace or a quicker pace, it has got to be better than not swimming at all.

To see more blogs on fitness and exercise tips, head over to our main blog here.  

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