Swimming is a fun activity enjoyed by all, regardless of age. Aside from being a fun weekend or summer activity, it is also a versatile exercise that can help anyone lose weight and drastically improve their health. Swimming workouts for weight loss are a great option for anyone, including beginners who are looking for effective but low impact exercises. They are also a fantastic option for anyone who generally enjoys exercise and is looking for variety. In this article we shall be looking at some easy to do swimming workouts for weight loss for beginners, swimming exercises to lose belly fat and much more.
Why Are Swimming For Weight Loss Workouts So Effective?
Before listing the best swimming workouts for weight loss, how exactly does this workout work so well in helping people slim down?
- It’s a full body workout
- It’s both a cardio and a resistance exercise
- A great low-impact workout
Unlike split workouts that only work specific muscles at a time/session, a full body workout exercises multiple muscles. Working multiple muscle groups at the same time generally yields a higher total energy expenditure per session. Swimming works your lower body, core and upper body muscles all at once.
Swimming is often classified alongside other cardio workouts like walking, running, cycling, etc. What many forget is that when you are in the water, you have to battle against the water to move forward. The water provides resistance which turns this exercise from simple cardio to a resistance workout. Combining both aerobic exercises and resistance training is considered the best recipe for weight loss.
High impact workouts like HIIT and Tabata are all the rage these days and for good reason. Research has shown that despite only being done for short time periods, they offer incredible weight and fat loss results (4, 5).
What proponents of these kinds of workouts forget is that not everyone can easily do high impact workouts. For example:
- Overweight and obese people may find it hard to keep up with the speed required in such classes. When you are heavier, you carry around a lot of weight which will make a HIIT or speed focused class like Tabata almost impossible.
- People with joint pain – High impact workouts can make joint pain worse
- Persons with disabilities – There are many exercises that they are limited from doing. Swimming – when supervised – is a relatively low impact and safe exercise for them to do.
Read More: How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn?
How Much Do You Need To Swim To Lose Weight?
To achieve your body goals through swimming workouts for weight loss, it is advisable to get 150 minutes of moderately paced swimming a week. This can also translate to 75 minutes of vigorous swim activity a week.
This is in accordance with the recommended physical activity for healthy weight guidelines by the CDC (6). Note that this is the minimum requirement. If you want to see quicker results, try logging about 300 minutes or 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous swimming a week, respectively.
Can You Lose Belly Fat By Swimming?
Yes, it can.
A large midsection is a cause for insecurity in many and thus swimming exercises to lose belly fat are among the most searched subjects. Thankfully, this low impact workouts great to reduce belly fat and waist circumference.
- As previously mentioned, swimming is mainly a cardio workout. In a study published in 2011, researchers compared aerobic exercise, resistance training, and a combination of the two for belly fat loss. They found that aerobic workouts worked best (3).
- An earlier review published in 2007 revealed that simple cardio exercise like walking and light jogging helped reduce visceral fat. Visceral fat is a layer of fat stored and hidden deep in the belly.
This fat wraps around your organs and increases your risk of various chronic illnesses. If brisk walking and light jogging can reduce this fat, then swimming will certainly be as effective if not more (2).
- A study published in 2010 comparing walking and swimming found that the latter improved body weight, body fat distribution, and insulin levels. The best part is that researchers found that these effects were long term not just short term (1). The women who swam as an exercise also had more changes in their waist and hip circumference.
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What Exercise Burns The Most Belly Fat In The Pool?
Simply doing a 30 minute swim workout for weight loss is enough to help get rid of belly fat. But if you are feeling adventurous and think this isn’t enough, some other workouts you can do include
- Water jogging – On the shallower side of the pool, jog in place for 1 minute for 1 set. Jog for a total of 5 sets.
- Water aka aqua kickboxing – This is a fantastic full body cardio workout that will have you out of breath and sweating in no time.
- Squats – This can be done with just your body weight and water for resistance. However, if you’d like to burn even more calories, do weighted squats with free weights like dumbbells or kettlebells.
- Lunges – Like squats, they are great for the lower body and can also be done with or without free weights.
- Jumping Jacks – Unlike the above exercises where you only need to have the water up to your waist, for jumping jacks the water should be up to your neck.
For jumping jacks only your head should be above the water. Having most of your body under water creates incredible resistance, guaranteeing that you will use a lot of energy for the workout.
What Are The Best Swimming Workouts For Cardio?
Swimming is already a cardiovascular workout so by simply getting in the water for a regular swim equals cardio. However, if you want to increase the amount of energy you use during this activity:
- Swim laps – Instead of simply swimming at a relaxed pace, challenge yourself to doing back to back laps for a specified amount of time.
- Do swim intervals – This moves this aerobic workout from a low impact exercise to a more high impact one. Swim intervals mean swimming as hard and as fast as you can for about a minute, resting for about 20 seconds, then going hard again for another minute.
Intervals burn a lot of calories in a very short time and are great for weight loss.
Beginner Swimming Workouts For Weight Loss – Tips For Success
Swimming workouts for weight loss might seem easy enough but it is not. Without learning about how to swim to lose weight, you’ll find that you are not seeing any changes despite consistently working out.
Here are some tips to guarantee that you will see changes on the scale and in the mirror
This is the most important part of any successful workout program – swimming included. Failure to pace yourself leads to injury. This is even worse in the water as it could lead to loss of life.
Challenge Yourself To Swim Harder And Faster
It is easy to see quick results in the beginning since the body is now doing a new and taxing activity that burns calories. However, with time, your body will get used to the activity and you’ll fall to a plateau.
Once your body plateaus, your weight stagnates. If you always push yourself to do more, your body will always be challenged and thus will not plateau. This means that you will also continue to lose weight.
Swim For Longer
If you started week 1 with swimming for 30 minutes a day, you shouldn’t still be doing this in week 3 or 4. Just like at the gym, you should aim to scale up your workout. Scaling means modifying a workout to match what your body is currently capable of doing.
For example, swim for 30 minutes for week 1 and 2. In week 2 add an extra 15 minutes, by week 3 you should be swimming for a full hour. This way you are pushing your body more, burning more calories, building more muscles and losing more weight.
Do More Than Swimming
Yes, swimming by itself can and will lead to weight loss.
But if you’d like to see better and faster results, add more workouts to the routine. Some low impact workouts that complement swimming include pilates, water aerobics, stair climbing or light jogging, walking, hiking, yoga and Tai Chi.
High impact options include running, jumping rope, step aerobics, zumba, HIIT, Tabata and burpee intervals.
Try Some In-Water Weight Training
Almost all weight lifting exercises can be done in the water. As previously stated, water adds a natural resistance to any workout done in the pool. By adding more weight, you are ensuring that you burn more calories completing each set,
Some resistance training exercises that can easily be done in the water include
- Walking – use ankle weights
- Arm lift variations – use dumbbells or kettlebells
- Chest press – Use dumbbells or a plate and be sure that your body, up to the neck is submerged in the water.
- Bicep curls
- Running in the pool with ankle weights and dumbbells in hand
- Walking lunges, etc.
All these options are fantastic as swimming workouts for weight loss men and women can use to also build muscle.
Fix Your Diet
Doing swimming workouts for weight loss and even incorporating the above tips will not show results if you do not clean up your diet. A clean, healthy diet plays a huge part in weight loss – more than even working out.
Learn how to control your portions, eat more wholefoods, cut down on junk food and sugar and get a reputable calorie counting app to help you eat at a calorie deficit.
Mix Up Your Strokes
The type of stroke you use in the pool determines how many calories you burn during your session. Strokes like freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly are said to require the most energy and thus burn the most calories (7).
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Is Swimming A Good Workout For Weight Loss?
Yes, it is. Swimming is a fantastic low impact exercise that will help you reduce your body weight and body fat percentage.
What Is Better Gym or Swimming?
A combination of both is actually the best option. Swimming is great for cardio and the gym works better for muscle building. Remember that a combination of cardio and muscle building works best for weight loss.
How Effective Is Swimming For Weight Loss?
As seen from all the studies listed above, swimming is extremely effective for both fat and weight loss.
The Bottom Line
Swimming workouts for weight loss are a great way for overweight and obese people to start their journey to a healthy weight. As full body workouts that double up as cardio and resistance training, a well executed session will burn a lot of calories.
For those looking for low impact workouts that burn belly fat, swimming is a fantastic option to start with. Please note that this workout is not as boring as many may imagine, it can be modified to make it a fun way to reach your fitness goals.
If you have access to a pool and want to lose weight, use the above tips to get your journey started today!
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!
- A comparison of the effects of swimming and walking on body weight, fat distribution, lipids, glucose, and insulin in older women–the Sedentary Women Exercise Adherence Trial 2 (2010, researchgate.net)
- A dose-response relation between aerobic exercise and visceral fat reduction: systematic review of clinical trials (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Aerobic exercise bests resistance training at burning belly fat (2011, sciencedaily.com)
- Effectiveness of high-intensity interval training for weight loss in adults with obesity: a randomised controlled non-inferiority trial (2021, bmjopensem.bmj.com)
- High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight (2023, cdc.gov)
- What’s the best swimming stroke in terms of calories burned? (2019, newscientist.com)