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How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn?

butterfly swimmer

Swimming has long been known as an excellent form of exercise and fantastic way to stay in shape. Not only does it engage your arms and legs, but it also requires working your core.

It also not only tones up your muscles, but it can also count as cardio exercise. It gets your heart pumping and does exactly what this blog post is all about, burns calories.

When you should track your calories burned

If perhaps you are overweight and wish to start up swimming because you want to lose some weight, then you will need to ensure that you have a calorie deficit. This means that to lose weight swimming, you will need to burn more calories than you consume.

If you are using this strategy to lose weight, not only do you need to know how many calories you are consuming each day, but also how many calories you burn through exercise.

Does swimming burn more calories than running?

Swimming enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that you can burn quite a lot of calories through swimming compared to many other forms of exercise, including the likes of walking, power walking, jogging and even dancing.

When you are walking or running, this is relatively easy because you only have to push through air, whereas when you are swimming, you have to push yourself through water, which has more weight and requires greater force to push through.

What this guide is going to cover

In this article, we’re going to explore of how many calories are burned from different swimming strokes. Then we go on to explain why an average value is exactly that, an average value. And how working out how many calories you burn through swimming is a little more complicated.

But then, we provide you with an easy solution to keep track of how many calories you burn in every swimming session.

Please feel free to scroll ahead to any section of particular interest to you!

Average calories burned through swimming

Average calorie burned values can provide you with guidelines as to how many calories can potentially be burned by someone of an average build putting in an average effort, over the course of an hour.

Average calories burned through front crawl

On average, you can burn approximately 976 calories per hour that you swim front crawl.

Average calories burned through backstroke

On average, you can burn approximately 500 calories per hour that you swim backstroke.

Average calories burned through breast stroke

On average, you can burn approximately 400 calories per hour that you swim backstroke.

Average calories burned through freestyle swimming

You can potentially burn between 540 and 750 calories per hour while choosing different swim strokes at random.

Average calories burned through aqua aerobics

Ok, so strictly speaking aqua aerobics is not a clearly defined swim stroke, but it is a great way to exercise in water, and as such we felt that it was well worth including in our article.

On average, you can burn approximately 400 to 500 calories per hour of an aqua aerobics class.

(Data obtained from multiple sources, including https://britishswimschool.com/ .)

So as you can see, you can burn a significant amount of calories through an hour of swimming. In fact, one hour of swimming could burn as many calories as you would find in a small meal.

How these averages compare with other forms of exercise

But if you’ve never really looked into it before, you might just be wondering how this compares to the number of calories burned in other forms of exercise. Well, let’s take a look.

Walking

Walking at a casual pace for an hour can burn between 210 and 360 calories for most people. And that effectively means that an hour of swimming burns on average about twice as many calories as walking. More if you do front crawl.

Cycling

Meanwhile, a leisurely cycle can burn 245 calories an hour, while a vigorous one can burn over 100 calories per hour. So, cycling can fall either below or above cycling in terms of calories burned per hour.

Jogging

Of course, jogging burns more calories than walking and cycling, and the average number of calories burned when jogging for one hour comes in at about 398. And yes, this is very high. But, as we have made clear earlier, the average number of calories burned when swimming is considerably higher.

Dancing

And that’s not all. Swimming also burns more calories than dancing, seeing as on average you can expect to burn just 200 to 400 calories per hour on average while dancing.

Relative calories burned compared to swimming

That’s not to say that swimming burns more calories than any other sport. Running or sprinting for example burns approximately the same number of calories as doing the front crawl at 488 calories per hour.

And some activities, such as cycling or playing football, can either burn more or fewer calories than swimming, depending on just how vigorously you take part.

So, as you can see, you can typically burn more calories through swimming than many of the more common leisurely activities people like to do for exercise.

Factors that affect how many calories you burn when swimming

As we mentioned in our introduction, average calories burned are exactly that, averages. And there are several different factors that can affect how calories you will actually burn.

We will now examine each of these factors in turn.

Duration and Distance

Now, this may sound obvious, but it’s relevant, so we’ll say it. The longer you swim in the water, the more calories you will burn. Likewise, the further you swim, the more calories you will burn.

Your Weight

Think about it. The heavier you weigh, the more effort is required to move your body through the water. And moving a heavier weight requires more force and more energy. Thus, the more you weigh, the more calories you burn when you swim.

Let’s give you an example. A 150 pound person will burn about 272 calories by swimming 1500 yards. But a person who weighs 120 pounds will burn just 218 calories by swimming the exact same distance.

This means that if you are swimming to lose weight, you will typically burn more calories and lose more weight in the very beginning of your weight loss journey than you will as you get nearer to your goal.

This can be quite encouraging in the beginning of your weight loss journey, but it does mean that you will have to step things up a gear as you approach your goal weight.

Effort and Speed

The more effort and vigour you put into your swimming session workout, the more calories you will burn. Someone who is only swimming leisurely may only burn 272 calories per hour. Whereas, someone going full belt could burn 680 calories per hour. That’s quite a difference.

And the easiest way to increase your effort in the swimming pool is to try to swim as fast as you can.

This will increase your heart rate, and this in turn will lead to more calories burned. If you were to get your heart rate up high enough, you will enter your fat burning heart rate zone. And when in this zone, your body turns to obtaining its energy through burning fat rather than glucose (read carbs).

Skill

The more skilled you are at swimming, the more easily you will move through the water. This means that more skilled swimmers will generally expend fewer calories than their less skilled counterparts.

Unless, that is, they decide to use this skill to move through the water faster. And as we mentioned earlier, increased speed means increased energy expended, and more calories burned.

How to know how many calories you really burn when you go swimming

These days, there are plenty of gadgets that can track your swimming session workouts for you, including dedicated waterproof swimming fitness trackers and watches. You can even get waterproof smartwatches that will track your calories burned while swimming.

These gadgets provide a more tailored calories burned readout because it is based on more detailed information, such as your fitness profile, your speed, and your heart rate, which is measured via your pulse.

If you want to know how many calories you really burn through your swimming, we recommend that you invest in a suitable swimming fitness tracker or watch. For more information on this, why not check out our other article titled “Best swimming watches” which is available on this link.

Wrap Up

Regular or frequent swimming is a great way to burn calories and lose weight, especially compared to other activities such as walking and jogging. And by far the best way to track how many calories you burn in each session is with an appropriate fitness tracker.

But it’s important to remind you at this point that you may find that you lose more weight per week at the beginning of your weight loss journey, than you will further down the line. But this should not discourage you.

You’ve got this!

Alistair Mills
by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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