Swimming may not have the convenience factor of just grabbing a pair of running shoes and hitting the road, but it’s a great way to trim fat, shape up and slim down. No other exercise more effectively burns calories, tones muscles and boosts your metabolism while offering an impact-free workout.
(based on 155lb person)
|Running up stairs
|Stationary cycling, vigorous
|Swimming, laps, fast
|Running (12 minute mile)
|Swimming laps, slow
The Benefit of Swimming
Swimming (including water jogging, water aerobics and the like) provides the perfect environment for maximizing calorie burn and muscle recruitment. A light swim will burn almost 500 calories an hour and a vigorous one over 700! In contrast, a light walk will only knock you back 200 calories.
Water is almost 800 times denser then air, so each movement – each kick and pull (and yes, even your flounders!) are like mini resistance workouts, so in addition to torching calories, you build lean muscle. This fires up your metabolism so that you burn more calories throughout the day, gaining the coveted “after-burn” effect.
The kicker is that while swimming is making you lean and mean, it’s kind and gentle to your body. “You can swim almost every day without risking injury,” says Joel Stager, Ph. D., who has studied the effects of swimming. That makes swimming something you can do for your whole life. “Our research shows that habitual swimmers are biologically up to 20 years younger than their actual age,” Stager adds. Definitely better than Botox.
How to Start
New swimmers may be surprised and disappointed that while they can run or walk for quite some time with no problem, the first five minutes of swimming sends them gasping to the side of the wall. That’s because swimming is an entirely different activity. You use every muscle in your body to stay afloat and your lungs have to learn a new way of breathing.
Try this for a beginning routine: Swim four lengths of the pool, rest for a bit at the wall, and repeat 5-10 times. That will get you a good workout.
Unlike walking or other land based activities, your heart rate will stay elevated for a bit between intervals. If you can’t swim that far yet – use a kickboard. After 2 or 3 weeks, you’ll feel a difference and be able to move to something more vigorous.
The key to an effective swim routine at all levels is splitting it into short segments. Mix in a variety of work and rest periods and use different strokes, drills and intensities. That keeps you interested and also gives you a better workout.
Do you have a favorite routine or one that helped you transition into swimming?