Moving your body, whether through designated exercise or just a day out somewhere, will burn calories. How many calories will be dependent on how vigorous and for how long you maintain the activity.
Does Swimming Burn Fat?
So the short answer to this question is yes – swimming absolutely burns fat. In fact, swimming as a form of cardio is one of the most effective and potent ways to burn fat from your body – more so than even running or cycling!
Why Is Swimming So Effective At Burning Fat?
Unlike running or cycling, where your legs are taking most of the exertion, swimming calls upon almost every muscle in your body – no matter the stroke. From your arms, core muscles and your legs, the propulsion you need to move through the water requires commitment from many of your larger muscle groups, such as your quadriceps (thighs), glutes, hamstrings, deep core and abdomen muscles, shoulders and even biceps.
The kicking and pushing motion you make against the resistance of the water equates to effort. And this ‘effort’ requires calories to be burnt (for energy) to achieve it. However, it is important to note that you could swim for an hour every single day and still not lose fat, you could even gain it! Why? Well to burn fat you need to achieve something called a calorie deficit.
‘Calorie deficit’ basically means you consume fewer calories than you burn off during the day. The average person’s metabolism burns around 1250 calories per day from doing virtually nothing – this is your resting metabolic rate. The number of calories burned fluctuates with age and genetics, hence why this is just an average. If you then exercise on top of this, with let’s say 45 minutes of swimming, that would be a further 500 calories burned.
And lastly, when you factor in your day-to-day movements – such as walking to shops or train stations or wherever else – you are likely at somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 calories burned on that day. To burn fat, you have to consistently eat fewer calories than this number for weeks at a time – as your body will then start calling upon the fat stores for energy instead.
If you have no fat to lose but you train a lot, you will need to eat a LOT of food to maintain energy levels – especially for swimming. In fact, the greatest swimmer of all time, Michael Phelps, famously consumed 8,000-10,000 calories a day when he was in Olympic training! We mention this as it is important to understand your own personal goals and tailor your calorie intake (and training regime) accordingly. I doubt many of us could maintain the diet of a 23-time gold medallist, but it goes to show how important food is as fuel for your body, especially in swimming.
Which Swimming Strokes Burn the Most Calories?
Out of the four main swimming strokes, this is approximately what they would burn per hour:
- Butterfly Stroke – 774 calories per hour
- Crawl – 710 calories per hour
- Breaststroke – 704 calories per hour
- Backstroke – 652 calories per hour
Butterfly stroke tends to be the most difficult technique to master, and also the most exhausting – which is why you won’t see many people down your local pool doing it. We recommend either crawl or breaststroke as the two go-to styles if you are looking to get consistent sessions in. The low impact ability to maintain these styles will keep your heart healthy, your lung capacity in great shape, AND will burn fat provided your diet is right.