Swimming is something a lot of us enjoy on holiday – a splash in the pool to cool down or a quick dip in the gorgeous blue sea. But when it’s taken seriously, swimming is a fantastic way to blast through calories and potentially help with weight loss. Add in the fact that it can be a lot more fun than pounding away on a treadmill for hours and it could be that swimming is the new exercise for you. So, let’s get into the numbers and see how many calories a speedy swim could burn off.
Which stroke burns the most calories?
The champion at blasting calories is the difficult-to-master butterfly stroke, with its forceful propelling method torching around 770 calories per hour (for an average person of around 11 stone/70kgs). However, it’s unlikely anyone would manage an hour of the demanding stroke, because you’d need excellent fitness, flexibility and technique to keep up the speed required.
So what about the easier strokes?
A fast-paced freestyle, or front crawl, burns an average of 704 calories per hour. It’s the fastest swimming stroke and one of the most energy-efficient ways to swim, meaning you’re likely to manage more time in the pool before you’re exhausted. Breaststroke burns up to 700 calories as well despite being slower, as it uses your large leg muscles (which use lots of energy) to push you forward. Backstroke burns around 500 calories during a vigorous hour’s swim and it’s a gentler choice for people nursing injuries or joint problems.
Generally, you’ll burn the most calories doing the stroke you’re best at, because you’re most likely to keep it up for the longest time instead of wasting energy through poor technique.
How does it measure up to other exercise?
Swimming isn’t always thought of as the best way to work off excess food, but it’s more effective at burning calories in an hour than many traditional workouts. The good old jog lags behind at around 400 calories and even a torturous spin class only burns around 480 calories. Kick-boxing gets through roughly 580 calories and a really intense rowing session can use up 680 calories. Only running up flights of stairs beats swimming, getting through a remarkable 852 calories per hour (we’re not sure anyone would be mad enough to try that, though).
Does the amount of calories burned vary?
The amount of calories you’ll burn during swimming will vary massively, depending on your swim’s intensity, your body type, weight and metabolism. If you weigh more than the average person, you’re likely to burn more calories as your body has to work harder to move the increased mass. Similarly, those with lots of lean muscle (regardless of body weight) will burn more calories, as muscle cells need more energy than fat cells.
However, you might also be plagued with a slow metabolism, meaning your body needs less fuel to keep going and burns less energy too. It’s possible to speed your metabolism up and turn your body into a calorie killing machine and exercise can help to do this. Stick to swimming and it could help improve your metabolism, as well as getting you fit and healthy.
The best way to get a rough estimate of the calories your swims are burning is to use an exercise calorie calculator. Available online, just type in your weight, age and intensity of the workout and you’ll be able to see how many calories you’ve worked off. It’s not likely they’re 100% accurate, but it will let you know if you’ve worked off enough calories for a sneaky bar of chocolate.
What other benefits are there to swimming?
Even if you’re not worried about burning calories, swimming has loads of health benefits. Virtually anyone can do it, even if you have joint, mobility or weight problems that make traditional exercise difficult. It’s a fantastic way to improve fitness and your vital heart and lung health, while also reducing your risk of chronic, dangerous illnesses like heart disease, type two diabetes and a stroke.
Doing laps not your thing? There are lots of classes such as aqua fit or aqua Zumba available, so you can still get fit in the water. If you’re not a confident swimmer, there are lessons available across the country for all abilities including total beginners. Being a strong swimmer could even save your life one day if you ever find yourself in an unexpected emergency in the water.
Fuel your laps
Make sure you’ve got plenty of energy before you hit the pool, or you might find your workout isn’t as effective. Although a big meal might slow you down, try something light like a tasty snack or protein shake from our Some Body range. Keep another bar in your bag for a healthy treat when you’re done.