Swimming for Weight Loss

Weight loss swimming

How to burn off those unwanted pounds in the pool?

Latest figures from the NHS show that 1 in 4 adults are obese and around 1 in 5 children are very overweight. Obesity is a real concern in the UK. So much so, that if every overweight person lost just five pounds in body weight, it would save the national health service an estimated £100 million pounds a year.

Further to that, in a recent article published in the Daily Express, Boris Johnson made this statement “The facts are simple: extra weight puts extra pressure on our organs and makes it harder to treat heart disease and cancer. Coronavirus was a wake up call for me and I want it to be a wake up call for the whole country”

So with ‘healthy body weight’ a hot topic for discussion, what’s the best exercise for trimming down?

Swimming, of course!

As well as the obvious benefits of swimming on your heart, lungs and muscles, swimming can torch unwanted fat and burn those extra pounds in double quick time. If you’ve got stubborn fat, that’s hard to shift, why not try swimming for weight loss? If you can’t swim, don’t worry, we can help you with that, here’s how to get started.

So how many calories can you actually burn through swimming?

Well that depends on how long you swim for and also which stroke you choose, but we’ve put together a guide to show you which stroke burns the most calories per hour.

The four swimming strokes are (Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Front crawl) each of which burn a different amount of calories per hour. As you can see, butterfly burns the most, 920 calories per hour. However, butterfly it’s considered to be the most difficult stroke to learn and it’s certainly the most challenging stroke to swim continuously. Breaststroke isn’t far behind burning 840 calories per hour, it’s the most common stroke and much easier to master.

So, I can swim a bit, but what stroke should I start with?

With four strokes to choose from, you might be thinking “where do I get started?” But to be honest, if you’re just starting out, anything is better than nothing. Just pick a stroke you feel comfortable with and optimise your routine later.

When you become fitter and more confident in the water you can alternate between the different strokes. The more variation you put into your workouts, the more of a well-rounded swimmer you’ll become. The body adapts quickly to the same stimulus, so change-up your workout and try another stroke, especially if you become bored or stagnant.

How much swimming should I do to lose weight?

When deciding on a number of sessions per week, base your plan on what you’ve done before. If that’s three workouts per week, great, start with three and build up to four after a few weeks.

A good weight loss is program should be two things, consistent and sustainable. The end result might be to lose a lot of weight but the process is more important than the end goal. If you build a lifestyle that’s enjoyable, your more likely to stick to it long term and keep your results. That being said, it’s hard to stick to a plan if you don’t see tangible results, so setting a realistic target with milestones helps keep you motivated. 

Should I watch what I eat, to lose weight?

If weight loss was only about burning calories we’d all be our ideal weight. Unfortunately controlling the calories that go into our body is crucial to weight loss. You basically need to figure out how many calories your body needs to maintain, then use your training to create a calorie deficit.

Being in a calorie deficit isn’t much fun. You feel hungry and tired, but just remember you don’t need to be in a calorie deficit all the time. Just avoid being in a calorie surplus too often, or to put it another way, control what you eat.

Should I follow a specific diet whilst trying to lose weight?

Rather than focusing on a restrictive diet, aim for a well balanced nutrition plan that includes a combination of healthy foods. As long as you stick to your daily calorie intake goal, your swimming will take care of your weight loss targets.

Fuelling up before you swim is key, the last thing you need is a crash half way through your workout. Bananas and nuts are perfect pre-workout snacks that give a much needed energy boost. If you are going to limit your calories, do it late in the day. Fish and vegetables make the ideal weight loss meal.

The truth about rapid weight loss

Unless you have serious medical issues, there is no need to “lose a stone in a week” or “lose ten pounds in ten days” Fad diets and magic pill formulas is a recipe for disaster, which often result in dangerous eating disorders.

800 calorie a day diet’s are all the rage, mainly due to false advertising. I can see why they might appear attractive at first. Who wouldn’t be motivated by jumping on the scales to see a five pound loss? but here’s the thing…

It’s a trick!

And here’s why…

To stay in a large calorie deficit you have to restrict carbohydrate consumption. Whether it’s the ketogenic diet, the egg diet or the paleo diet it really doesn’t matter. 800 calories a day is 800 calories a day and however you consume them, it restricts carb intake.

By cutting carbs, weight loss is quick, but here’s the thing…

It’s not fat loss, much of this weight is water.

For every gram of carbohydrate stored in the muscles there is also stores 3 grams of water. So if you cut out carbs you also cut out water and you’ll see a sudden drop of weight. As we’ve said, water isn’t fat. So your impressive 5 pounds loss, is actually a 1 pound fat loss, which could also be achieved with a far healthier 1600 calorie diet.

To cut to the chase, drastic calorie cutting just isn’t sustainable or fun and the results always seem better than they actually are.

How much weight should I aim to lose per week?

Well it really depends on your starting position and how much extra weight you’re carrying, for example, a person who is classed as unhealthy or obese will need to see a substantial change. So for arguments sake, let’s say the goal is to lose two stone in body fat.

The first job in any weight loss plan is to set some clearly defined goals that are achievable, realistic and most importantly, healthy! Secondly the plan should be documented.  Write your plan on a wall chart or stick it on your fridge, so you can keep track of your progress and log your workouts. Finally, you might want to take some progress pictures, to see how your body shape changes over time.

Here’s how to calculate the milestone targets for a healthy weight loss plan (for someone who is 2 stone overweight)

Target weight loss = 2 stone (28 pounds)
Weekly milestones = 1-2 pounds per week
Total time frame = 16-18 weeks

Just remember, the best things come to those who wait and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take your time and your results will be long-lasting. Further to that, every person is different and your goals should be relative to your starting weight and target weight. Avoid any ‘one size fits all’ plans, it’s better to invest in a professional or do your own research.

How many calories can I expect to burn in a shorter 30-minute swim session?

Many factors come into play, so it’s impossible to give an exact figure for everyone, but as ballpark figure, 500 calories per 30 minute swim, if done at a high intensity. If the pace is more leisurely, 250 calories per 30 minute swim.

Why are the calories burned so high in comparison with other activities?

Swimming for weight loss requires lots of muscles, some of which you’ve probably never used before until you tried swimming. To keep these muscles going requires energy, lots of energy! To put it another way, when your swimming, your body burns through energy, like a sports car burns fuel. If you’ve ever wondered why you feel ravenous after swimming, it’s due to the amount of energy you’ve burned off in the pool.

How do you build up to an hour of swimming without stopping?

With all the will in the world you won’t manage an hour of swimming unless you learn the correct swimming techniques first. This can usually be achieved with a few private swimming lessons.

Once you’ve established some basic swimming skills, the next step is to build your endurance so you can swim for longer without stopping. If you get tired after a couple of lengths, don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, one in five adults can’t even swim a length of the pool.

The best way to build your stamina is with interval training. By swimming short distances with breaks in between you’ll be able to increase your distance and maintain good technique for longer.

A common goal is to swim a mile without stopping. Rather than trying to do it in one go, you could start by doing this… 15 x 100 meter reps with a 20-30 second rest in between each interval.

Pacing yourself

A full hour of swimming up and down can be challenging, even for an accomplished swimmer. We recommend starting slowly with an intensity of 3/10. By increasing your effort every 10 minutes or so you’ll finish with an effort of around 8/10. By initially controlling your effort you’ll keep your heart rate low. This will make it far easier to maintain good technique through to the end of the hour.

As a general rule, if your in the pool for an hour and half of that time is spent resting you’ll only burn half the calories of a continuous swim. However, if resting allows you to swim with a higher intensity, your results can be similar or even better.

Can you swim too much?

Unlike running, swimming for weight loss is really low impact, with minimal stress on the joints. When deciding on a number of sessions per week, base your plan on what you’ve done before. If that’s three workouts per week, great, start with three and build up.

If you really get the bug, swimming is one of those sports that you can actually do every day. The only thing to be aware of is niggling little injuries from repetitive strain. The most common injury from swimming is called ‘swimmer’s shoulder’ here’s how to avoid it. You can always switch to a different swimming stroke to protect the area that’s bothering you, hence why learning multiple strokes has it’s advantages.


Swim Burn Calories

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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