Is Swimming Good for Weight Loss: Benefits & How to Get Started

Swimming Workouts to Burn Your Calories and Lose Weight Fast

Swimming – a low impact aerobic impact that delivers you results which bring high impact to your life. That’s what it is. And it’s also fun.

Everybody swims these days; some do it for relaxation while others train competitively for becoming athletes. But if you’re the everyday Joe like the rest of us and just want its benefits without committing your life to it, keep reading.

If you’re asking “Is swimming good for weight loss and toning,” then the answer is yes.

How Does Swimming Help in Reducing Weight?

Unlike other types of exercises which target specific muscle groups, swimming is a whole-body workout that tones you evenly. It stretches your lung capacity and gives an excellent workout to your heart, as it works harder to pump oxygen to your organs when you work them underwater.

As you get better with your endurance and your muscles grow stronger, your resting heart rate decreases. This means you don’t get tired as quickly as before and that’s also good for your blood pressure since it stays regulated. Other health benefits of learning how to swim include improved hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, flexibility, and finally, it’s also a nice way to cool down your body after a whole day’s worth of sweating.

How to Get Started with Swimming for Losing Weight?

Getting started with swimming for losing weight is easy. Let’s take a science-backed approach when using swimming for weight loss routine.

Here’s what to do:

  • Calculate your maximum heart rate. You can find out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. So, if you’re 22 years old, your heart rate limit is 198.
  • The next step is entering fat burning mode. To enter this state, you have to make sure your heart rate reaches 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate when you’re swimming out. Since your upper limit is 198, in this case, your benchmark for weight loss should be between 119 to 158 BPM. Wear a heart-rate monitor on your wrist the next time you go swimming.
  • Now comes your training routine. Ideally, when you’re first starting, you should aim to clock in 30 minutes of swimming at least 3 to 4 days a week at your designated heart rate. Gradually work your way up to a full 1 hour a day and swim 5 to 6 days a week. You’ll notice your body getting toned and your metabolism slowly improving when you do this.
  • Finally, don’t just swim using one stroke. There are different kinds of strokes available to optimise your underwater workout. But the gist is – track your heart rate and keep it within the 60% to 80% range, train for an hour 5 to 6 days a week, and stick to interval training. By interval training we mean swimming 3 to 5 laps at 80% heart rate, slowing down your pace for 1 lap, and repeating another 3 to 5 after that. You take a 30-second rest afterwards and repeat the reps in the same manner.

Types of Swimming Strokes for Weight Loss

If you’re trying to make the most of your swimming workouts, then the good news is that there are different types of strokes for that. Let’s explore swimming for weight loss workout and exercises for beginners:

1. Freestyle

Freestyle Swimming

The freestyle stroke is one of the first strokes you’ll be learning as a swimming newbie. It’s easy to pick up and fun too.

How To Do It

  • Float on the water with your face down, arms and legs stretched out – slightly bent and relaxed.
  • Start by pulling your right arm in a semi-circular motion to the back with your palm facing down. Lift your elbow and bring it out of the water and let your fingertips slide back into the water. Turn your face sideways when you do this and when re-entering the water, keep your head down.
  • Repeat the same process for your other side.
  • Make sure you pedal your legs in a fluttering way up and down so that you move forward and don’t stay in place.

Calories Burned

If you swim for one hour using the freestyle stroke, you’d burn about 590 to 931 calories for body weights of 130 lbs to 205 lbs, respectively, provided you swam fast. If you were swimming slow, your calories burned would be between 413 to 651 calories approximately.

How Does It Work

The freestyle stroke is the perfect strength training stroke. It works out primarily your quads, hamstrings, and glutes while for your arms, your extensor and forearm flex muscles are trained.

2. Butterfly

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly stroke is one of the most challenging strokes to learn, but it’s worth it.

How To Do It

  • Float your arms and legs with your face down and begin by pulling your arms in a semi-circular motion towards your thighs. Your palms should face down during this motion, and then you lift your arms from the water, pushing them forward and back in.
  • When the arms are coming out of the water, lift your face up and breathe.
  • Kick your legs in a wave-like motion underwater, sort of like a dolphin. Your legs should stay close together, and toes must point out and kick downwards.
  • Your second kick should be hard when you let your arms recover from the previous motion you made. Continue repeating these steps to master the stroke.

Calories Burned

If you swim for one hour using the butterfly stroke, you will burn about 649 to 1024 calories for body weights of 130 lbs to 205 lbs, respectively.

How Does It Work

The butterfly stroke works your arm and shoulder muscles mostly. It targets your deltoids and your torso muscles too. Your legs and glutes burn a lot of fat with this stroke as well.

3. Backstroke


Albeit a bit slower than freestyle and butterfly, the backstroke is perfect for beginners as well.

How To Do It

  • Float on your back on top of the water. Your head should be facing the sky while your arms and legs should be spread apart, being relaxed.
  • Move your right arm back into the water doing a semi-circular motion. Make sure your palms are facing up and pull your arm out of the water.
  • Repeat for your other arm by performing the same motion.
  • Go back to your initial position but remember to continue pedalling or fluttering your feet to move forward or back across the swimming pool.

Calories Burned

If you swim for one hour using the backstroke, you will burn about 413 to 651 calories for body weights of 130 lbs to 205 lbs, respectively.

How Does It Work

The backstroke targets muscle groups which are opposite of that in the freestyle stroke, such as the rotator cuff muscles, lower leg and shoulder muscles.

4. Breaststroke


The breaststroke is a fun technique to learn and one of the swimmers’ favourites.

How To Do It

  • Start by floating on water, with your head facing down and your arms stretched out. Your palms should face down in this position.
  • Begin by pointing your palms outward and straightening your arms. Pull your arms from your head towards the chest and fold them back once they reach chest level.
  • Bring back the arms to the initial position by lifting them over your head.
  • When you do this movement, bring your head up from the water and breathe
  • Stretch your arms forward and sink your head in again, making sure to exhale gently with your nose or mouth. Bring the legs closed and point your toes out.
  • Flex your legs, bringing the heels near your glutes and move your toes in the direction of your shins. Kick back with your legs and propel forth.

Calories Burned

If you swim for one hour using the breaststroke, you will burn about 590 to 931 calories for body weights of 130 lbs to 205 lbs, respectively.

How Does It Work

Your hamstrings and thighs are mostly targeted with the breaststroke. Your core muscles get stabilised too, and this stroke is considered the best for full-body workouts.

5. Sidestroke

Source: Pinterest

The sidestroke is a straightforward swimming technique that requires a bit of practice.

How To Do It

  • Float sideways on the water and begin by performing a flexing scissor motion with your legs.
  • Your front leg should go forward and your other leg backward in a circular way.
  • Pull the water using your right arm and trail your other arm to push the water you pull downward.
  • Your other arm should move back when your right arm is pulling forward and vice versa.
  • The scissor motion and the push and pull of water by alternating your arms helps propel your body forward.

Calories Burned

If you swim for one hour using the sidestroke, you will burn about 472 to 745 calories for body weights of 130 lbs to 205 lbs, respectively.

How Does It Work

The side stroke gives you good back work while toning your arms and legs.


Below are some frequently asked questions about swimming for weight loss.

1. How Long One Should Swim for Weight Loss?

Ideally, you should swim for one hour a day for 5 to 6 days a week for optimal weight loss. However, if it’s your first time, just 30 minutes a day for a few days a week will do for a good start.

2. Why Water Works for Weight Loss in Swimming?

Water is 800 times denser than air and provides a lot of resistance for your muscles, thus working your body and organs harder. This maximises your weight loss.

3. Is Swimming Alone Enough Exercise for Weight Loss?

Technically, yes. But your diet matters too, and if you eat junk or too much, then we’ve got bad news for you.

4. How Many Calories Can I Burn in An Hour by Swimming?

Anywhere between 300 to 710 calories roughly.

5. Should I Carry A Water Bottle While Swimming?

Yes, you should hydrate yourself at least two hours before swimming. Carry a 500ml water bottle with you and drink up before your training begins.

6. What Should Be Your Diet After Swimming for Weight Loss?

Protein-rich and carb-heavy foods like eggs, meats, fish, and pasta are recommended before your swimming session. Your diet after swimming for weight loss should be a combination of nut butter, fruit smoothies, cereal bars, and a big bowl of salad.

Swimming is not only relaxing, but it’s a creative activity too. Feel free to switch things up and alternate between the strokes for a customised and effective workout.

Also Read:

Tips on How to Lose Weight By Walking
How Drinking More Water Can Help You Lose Weight
How to Lose Weight Without Diet or Exercise

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