For many people, swimming is a relaxing activity often done during the summer, on the weekend while hanging out with friends, or while on vacation on a lovely white sandy beach. For others, swimming is a quick low impact cardio that they can do as a way to get a quick 30-minute workout session during the week. While all these are true, if you would like a killer cardio workout that burns a lot of calories and will actually help you reach your body and weight loss goals faster, then it is time that you pay more attention and effort to swimming as a whole. In today’s article, we shall be answering the question “How many calories does swimming burn?” to help convince you to add this seemingly simple cardio exercise to your workout routine.
Does Swimming Burn Calories?
Will swimming burn calories? Yes, it will. In fact, our bodies are always burning calories, it is only that some actions/activities will burn more calories than others.
Some ways in which the body burns calories include:
- Literally just existing. As you sit reading this sentence, your body is burning calories. This is thanks to your metabolism – a chemical process that occurs in every living organism that helps us stay alive.
Simple actions like breathing, scratching an itch, chewing, blood traveling all over the body, etc. use and burn calories. You usually burn calories while asleep. According to an article by the Sleep Foundation, the average human burns around 50 calories an hour while asleep (2).
- Daily physical activity. This is related to any intentional movement. Activities like playing with your pets or kids, gardening, doing chores around the house, etc.
- Working out. This can be divided into 2 sections: aerobic/cardio exercises as well as weight lifting/resistance training.
- Aerobic/Cardio exercises include examples like walking, running, swimming, jumping rope, cycling, etc.
- Weight lifting/resistance training refers to physical exercises and sports in which people lift weights. You can use gym machines, free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells, or medicine balls, or DIY weights if you cannot afford at-home gym equipment or a gym membership. Your body weight also works.
As a cardio activity/exercise, swimming will indeed burn calories.
How Many Calories Does A 30-Minute Swimming Burn?
As seen above, this cardiovascular activity will certainly burn some calories. But what is the specific number of calories burnt swimming for a mere 30 minutes?
According to a 2021 article by Harvard Health Publishing, the amount of calories burned during this activity is determined by how much effort you put in while swimming as well as your weight (1).
The table below explains this further:
|Activity||Weight & Calories Burned||Weight & Calories Burned||Weight & Calories Burned|
|125 pounds (56.7 kgs)||155 pounds (70 kgs)||180 pounds (81.6 kgs)|
|General Swimming (aka recreational)||180 kcal||216 kcal||252 kcal|
|Swimming vigorous laps||300 kcal||360 kcal||420 kcal|
As seen above, heavier people will burn more calories in just 30 minutes of swimming than lighter people, and the more vigorous you are in your swimming, the more energy you will burn during your exercise.
How Many Calories Does An Hour Of Swimming Burn?
Using the table above, you can easily be able to estimate how many calories you can burn in an hour by simply multiplying the number by two. However, if your weight is not indicated in the table above, you can easily determine swimming calories per hour by using an online calorie calculator.
Remember that aside from your weight and time spent swimming, other factors that will determine how many calories you will have burned in that hour include:
- Type of stroke used. According to the New Scientist, the best swimming stroke to burn the most calories is the butterfly stroke. Other strokes that will also burn a lot of calories include the breaststroke, front crawl, and backstroke.
It should be noted that while the butterfly stroke will burn a lot of calories, it cannot be done for long distances. In fact, even world-class swimmers are said to only swim for 200 meters using this stroke (3).
- Distance swam. This can be calculated in either miles or kilometers. The longer the distance swam, the more calories burned. In simpler terms, the more laps, the more energy is used.
Why Does Swimming Burn So Many Calories?
Water creates resistance, which makes you expend more energy as you try to move through the swimming pool.
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Do You Burn More Calories Swimming Or Running?
The swimming vs. running calories burned debate crops up every so often in weight loss and fitness communities, especially among cardio enthusiasts. So which cardiovascular burns more calories? According to stats provided by Harvard Health Publishing, running on dry land seems to be better at burning calories than swimming.
Here are how many calories you will burn while running at different speeds (1):
|Running Speed||Weight & Calories Burned||Weight & Calories Burned||Weight & Calories Burned|
|125 pounds (56.7 kgs)||155 pounds (70 kgs)||180 pounds (81.6 kgs)|
|5 mph||240 kcal||288 kcal||336 kcal|
|Cross Country||255 kcal||316 kcal||377 kcal|
|6 mph||495 kcal||360 kcal||420 kcal|
|7.5 mph||375 kcal||450 kcal||525 kcal|
|10 mph||453 kcal||562 kcal||671 kcal|
Comparing this table to the swimming table above, it is clear to see that running will in fact burn more calories than swimming. This, however, does not mean that you should ignore swimming altogether. Remember that the type of stroke used will increase how many calories you burn.
Another thing to note is that swimming, unlike running, is considered a low-impact exercise. Low-impact exercises are often better for people who are overweight as you can do them for longer without getting too winded too soon – that way you expend more energy. Such exercises are also great for older adults and anyone else who deals with knee and any other kind of lower extremities joint pain.
Runners are also encouraged to add swimming to their routines. It is a great cross-training exercise that allows you to train muscles that you don’t often use while running.
How Many Calories Are Burned When Swimming A Mile?
As seen above, several factors affect how many calories an individual burns while swimming. To properly calculate the number of calories burned swimming a mile, we suggest using a reputable swimming calorie calculator.
The Bottom Line
The number of calories burned during any activity, including swimming, is affected by multiple factors and thus picking one number for this might be difficult. However, doing vigorous laps for an hour in the pool burns anywhere between 600-800 calories. The number is highly dependent on your weight – and to increase it, choose swimming strokes that use the most energy.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2021, health.harvard.edu)
- How Your Body Uses Calories While You Sleep (2022, sleepfoundation.org)
- What’s the best swimming stroke in terms of calories burned? (2019, newscientist.com)