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The most effective swimming routine for weight loss

Despite the misconceptions, swimming is pretty effective for weight loss.

The Most Effective Swimming Routine for Weight Loss | Juniper

When it comes to losing weight, swimming might not be your first thought. You might even question, "is swimming beneficial for weight loss?"

The answer is a resounding yes. Swimming offers a full-body workout, unlike other forms of exercise such as running or strength training, and it's gentle on your joints. In addition to this, swimming has a myriad of other health advantages, including mood enhancement, cardiovascular health improvement, and increased flexibility.

However, it's critical to also maintain a healthy diet, particularly if you're planning to engage in high-intensity swimming. After all, the combination of cold water and maximum energy output can leave you feeling peckish post-workout.

If you're a fan of the pool or if you've tried other forms of exercise without much enthusiasm, we're about to dive (pun intended) into everything you need to know about swimming for weight loss, including how many calories you can burn and the best swimming routines to help you reach a healthy weight.

Is swimming good for weight loss?

There is a common misconception that swimming is not effective for weight loss. Some even suggest that "you're better off walking around a pool than swimming in it" [1].

However, research paints a different picture. One study compared the effects of swimming and walking for weight loss, both performed at the same intensity and frequency (3 times per week). The swimming group lost an additional 2 pounds and 0.7 inches from their waistline compared to the walking group [2].

So, if you're trying to lose weight and haven't found joy in running, strength training, or going to the gym, swimming might be worth considering. Like any other workout routine, swimming burns calories as the water creates resistance.

Moreover, swimming works every part of your body, from your upper body to your lower body and core, all at once.

A 2015 study found that women who swam for 1 hour, 3 times a week, saw significant reductions in belly fat, improvements in flexibility, strength, and even a decrease in cholesterol levels [3].

How does swimming help you lose weight?

Swimming is a full-body workout routine that activates different muscles in your body. Various strokes, such as the butterfly, breaststroke, and backstroke, target specific body parts. The butterfly and breaststroke target your chest, arms, and shoulders, while the backstroke targets your abs, back, and quads [4].

Moreover, as swimming is a water-based exercise, the water creates resistance, and your body's strength is used to counteract it.

Swimming is also much better for your joints compared to running or walking, reducing the likelihood of injury and increasing the probability of consistent exercise, which aids weight loss [1].

How much do you have to swim to lose weight?

The key to losing weight, regardless of the exercise, is consistency and maintaining a calorie deficit.

Diet plays a more significant role in weight loss than physical activity. So, if you're eating poorly and swimming for weight loss, it won't make a huge difference. Instead, a combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise is the key to losing weight.

To burn calories through swimming, both the duration and intensity of your swimming session matter. An hour of moderate-intensity swimming can burn approximately 500 calories [5]. Additionally, varying your swimming strokes can further increase calorie burn.

Another tip to burn more calories while swimming is to reduce rest periods during your session. Swimming for longer and resting less keeps your heart rate elevated and helps to burn more calories [5].

How many calories do you burn swimming?

The calories burned during your swimming session depend on the intensity of your workout. Intense swimming workouts can burn roughly 800 calories per hour. If you're swimming intensely 4 times a week, you can expect to lose around 2-4 pounds a month [4].

If you're just starting out with swimming and are gradually increasing from low to high intensity, a moderate-intensity session for half an hour burns around 250 calories. If you do that 4 times a week, you can expect to lose roughly 1 pound a month [4].

It's also important to note that calorie burn varies from person to person. According to Harvard Health, the calories burned are influenced by your current weight and the intensity at which you swim [6]. Let's break it down:

For a moderate pace and a 30-minute swimming session, individuals weighing 125 pounds can burn 180 calories, those weighing 154 pounds can burn 216 calories, and those weighing 182 pounds can burn 252 calories [6].

For vigorous 30-minute swimming sessions, those weighing 125 pounds can burn 300 calories, those weighing 154 pounds can burn 360 calories, and those weighing 182 pounds can burn 420 calories [6].

What's the best swimming routine for weight loss?

If you've never tried swimming for weight loss before, it might be worthwhile to gradually increase your intensity, starting with moderate intensity. You could even enlist the help of a swim coach to ensure your form is optimal.

Once you're comfortable with moderate intensity and have mastered the strokes, a high-intensity swimming session can be beneficial for weight loss.

Let's look at some of the best swimming routines for weight loss:

Intensity is key

A high-intensity workout routine combines intense swimming with rest periods or recovery swims. Even though you might not swim as much in your session, it's great for those who need to fit a workout into their busy days. Plus, you'll burn a significant amount of calories [7].

You could even try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to burn calories and fat. A swimming HIIT session means you're swimming short bursts at maximum effort, which can increase your overall fitness levels and burn more fat [8].

A simple way to do this is to swim at high intensity for 30 seconds and include a 15-30-second rest period before your next sprint. Aim for as many repetitions as you can manage, but try to hit double-digit figures [8].

The best strokes

For a total body workout, you'll want to incorporate different strokes into your swimming routine. Each stroke targets the body differently and can have significant benefits on posture, toning the body, and building muscle tone and strength. Let's look at the best strokes to maximise your weight loss efforts in the pool [9].

The butterfly stroke is the best swimming stroke for weight loss, though it's also the hardest to master. The average calories burned swimming the butterfly stroke is roughly 450 calories in a 30-minute swimming session.

The butterfly stroke also increases your flexibility, tones your chest, stomach, and arms, and helps to build upper body strength [9].

Freestyle is the fastest stroke and can help you burn roughly 300 calories in a 30-minute swimming session. Freestyle also helps to tone your stomach, bum, and shoulders. It's a great stroke to start with as you work your way towards a high-intensity session [9].

Backstroke is one of the best swimming strokes to help improve posture, though it's not as effective at burning calories. On average, you can burn around 250 calories in a 30-minute swimming session.

Backstroke helps to tone various parts of the body, including the stomach, legs, arms, and shoulders [9].

Finally, we have breaststroke. For a 30-minute swimming session, breaststroke will help you burn 200 calories but it's great for cardiovascular health, helping to strengthen the heart and lungs [9].

Vary your strokes

As with all workout routines, you'll want to switch up your swimming strokes to burn more calories and keep things interesting too.

Plus, to ensure you're working your entire body, you need to engage every muscle group, which is quite easy to do with swimming by incorporating different swim strokes.

For maximum calorie burn, ensure your workout includes kicking, pulling, and stroke work [10]. If you want a break from swimming laps, you could incorporate other water-based workouts like running or jogging in the water.

This can help you burn even more calories because it's a lot harder to run in the pool due to the water's resistance. A moderately paced jog in the water can burn roughly 550 calories per hour [10].

Use training aids and weights

Another excellent way to burn more calories in the pool and keep things interesting is to incorporate training aids and weights. Using kickboards and pull buoys helps target specific areas of the body.

You can also introduce resistance training into your swimming sessions by using aqua dumbbells, which can help you lose weight by increasing your resting metabolic rate, meaning your body burns more calories even at rest. It's also great for building muscle [8].

What if swimming isn't my thing?

While swimming offers a range of health benefits from weight loss to muscle toning and even mental health benefits, it's definitely not for everyone.

If you've tried swimming for weight loss and just don't enjoy it, or you're not seeing any weight loss results, there are other things you can try.

Other forms of physical activity

There's a plethora of physical activities you can do to lose weight aside from swimming. At the end of the day, the goal is to find a form of exercise that you genuinely enjoy so that you stay consistent and incorporate it into your lifestyle.

You could try water aerobics, cardio activities like running, walking, going to the gym, strength training, or even going for a beach swim. The most important thing is to improve your fitness level and do it consistently.

Eating a healthy balanced diet

If you're trying to lose weight, the most crucial changes you can make are to your diet. Eating a healthy balanced diet consists of five food groups, which you should be eating every day. These include:

  • Vegetables and legumes
  • Fruit
  • Lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
  • Dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt, or alternative dairy products
  • Grains and cereals [11]

Incorporating fibre-rich foods into your diet is also beneficial for weight loss. Research suggests that eating 30 grams of fibre a day can aid in weight loss, improve the body's response to insulin, and decrease blood pressure [12].

Holistic weight loss programmes

If you've been struggling with weight loss for some time and feel like you've tried all the physical activities out there and changed your diet, but nothing seems to work, consider Juniper’s holistic programme designed for long-term and sustainable weight loss.

Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme combines proven weight loss medication, health coaching and ongoing support to help you lose weight and keep it off. We prescribe a GLP-1 medication called Wegovy, which contains the active ingredient semaglutide.

Semaglutide is clinically proven to reduce your appetite and make you feel fuller for longer, while also reducing cravings by targeting the rewards centre in the brain. For long-term success, changing your eating and movement habits is also crucial, which is why we offer a comprehensive programme that includes 3 core pillars of lifestyle change with the assistance of our UK clinicians.

We can help you break habits that might be impacting your weight and help you hit your weight loss goals sooner.

Ultimately, swimming for weight loss can be really effective when done right. If you're willing to give swimming a go the best thing you can do is to start at a low intensity and work your way up to a high-intensity workout routine and mix up your swimming strokes.

If you're not noticing any changes in your weight loss journey then there are plenty of other programmes and workout routines out there to help you reach your goals.

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