Swimming for weight loss is often an underestimated activity that many people overlook. The purpose of this article is to help teach you about the benefits of swimming and how it helps with weight loss. We will also be covering several tips to help you lose weight effectively while swimming.
How Does Swimming for Weight Loss Work?
Understanding the Benefit of Swimming for Weight Loss
Before learning how swimming for weight loss works, it’s important to understand its main benefit. The biggest benefit associated with swimming compared to other weight loss activities is that it’s a low impact exercise. A low impact exercise is typically any form of exercise where your foot remains flat against another object like a pedal or pavement. If your foot does leave the flat surface, it travels at a slower speed and returns to it gently. Some other common examples of low impact exercise include walking, using an elliptical, and riding bikes.
Low impact exercise is a great alternative for people with bone and joint conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis. It’s also an excellent choice for people who are likely already overweight who will find traditional high impact exercise too stressful for their bodies. In addition to being less stressful on the body, swimming offers several positive benefits that help aid weight loss.
Swimming Burns Calories
The biggest reason that swimming for weight loss works is that it helps you burn calories. Unfortunately, swimming has gotten a bad reputation for being far less effective than other cardiovascular workouts. In reality, this statement is only half true. The truth portion is that swimming is not as effective at burning calories as more vigorous high impact cardio workouts. Some examples of these types of programs include jogging, jumping rope, and plyometrics.
However, swimming can positively impact cardiovascular health and help with weight loss just as effectively as other exercise programs of similar intensity. In this 2010 study, researchers found that swimming offered better weight loss benefits than walking when both were performed at the same activity level.
Improve Muscle Mass
Another way that swimming for weight loss works is that it helps improve lean muscle mass. While not nearly as effective as traditional strength training for building muscle, people that are sedentary and those who are particularly overweight can easily increase their lean muscle mass with regular swimming.
Lean muscle mass plays a direct role in an important part of your metabolism known as your resting metabolic rate. In short, your resting metabolic rate, also known as RMR, is a measure of the number of calories your body uses to keep its core processes functioning correctly while resting. The higher your lean muscle mass composition is, the more calories your body burns without any additional physical activity being required.
Now keep in mind that the effects of lean muscle mass on metabolism are often overstated in many online articles. In total, lean muscle uses approximately 6 kcals while at rest compared to only 2 kcals for fat tissue. While not a huge difference, each pound of muscle that you change out for a pound of fat will result in a net increase in your RMR rate.
How to Achieve Weight Loss through Swimming
Remember to Start Slow
For those of you who are just beginning your fitness journey, it is important to discuss swimming and any other potential fitness regimens with your family doctor. They will have a sound understanding of any unique health conditions you may have that could be negatively impacted by certain movements and changes in behavior.
Once you have received the go-ahead from your doctor, remember to start slowly with your workout program. For people that are not used to physical activity, consider a swimming schedule that permits two or three days of rest between. As your tolerance builds up, you can gradually increase the frequency and duration of your workouts.
Keep Track of Your Lap Times
When using swimming for weight loss, it is particularly important to keep track of your lap times. To do this, you should take a baseline measurement of the amount of time it takes you to complete a full lap at a comfortable base. Once you have the time recorded, make it a goal to decrease your lap time on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. As you lose weight and improve your conditioning, you should notice a gradual decline in the amount of time it takes for each lap.
Incorporate Different Movements
Just as there are different weight lifting exercises that target particular muscle groups, the various swimming strokes work different areas of the body. The breaststroke is the most common type of swimming stroke and is a good place to start for your workout routine. As you progress, consider trying out some of the harder variations like the freestyle stroke, the butterfly stroke, and the backstroke.
The Disadvantages of Swimming for Weight Loss
While there are many advantages associated with swimming, there are a few disadvantages to consider as well. One of the biggest disadvantages is that swimming is not quite as effective as traditional high impact exercises like jogging. This is due to the increased buoyancy that drastically reduces the amount of weight you must move while exercising.
Another issue with swimming is that it is somewhat seasonal in nature. Even when using an indoor pool at your local gym, the cold outdoor temperatures can often make the pool seem less than inviting. People with poor circulation are often bothered by the colder water temperatures more so than others as well.
While it is true that swimming for weight loss is less effective than traditional high impact exercises, it is still a viable way to lose weight safely and effectively. The most important thing to remember is that any physical activity that you will enjoy and participate in regularly is a good place to start your weight loss journey. As always, you should consult with your doctor before beginning this or any other exercise program.
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