Can I Lose Weight by Swimming?

My personal trainer tells me that to lose weight faster I should do land aerobics and forget about water aerobics and lap swimming. I do water aerobics three times a week and was swimming 60 laps a day. The water aerobics teacher told me that the personal trainer was wrong, that swimming was great for weight reduction and toning. Who is right?


Can you lose weight swimming? Well, swimming workouts have an uneven reputation. Although it gets high marks for being easy on your body and an excellent muscle and aerobic conditioner, some research indicates that it's a poor fat and calorie burner. Even experts disagree on how it stacks up as a weight-loss activity.

For example, the majority of studies that looked at calorie burning and swimming weight loss have indicated that recreational swimmers tend to lose less weight through swimming than through other forms of aerobic exercise. However, a 1993 study done for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J. looked at the calorie-burning potential of swimming and found that in a given amount of time champion swimmers burn about 25 percent more calories swimming all out than champion runners do when running all out.

The message seems to be that elite swimmers burn a good amount of calories but mere mortals don't. A reason for that? Expert swimmers use more muscles while the rest of us simply flop back and forth across the pool. So is there anything we can do to increase the calorie burn of swim workouts short of qualifying for the Olympics? Push yourself! This means improving technique and mechanical efficiency. If you improve your technique you're likely to go farther, faster, swim for longer periods of time -- and burn more calories while you're at it.

I also recommend doing what you like. If you enjoy your water workouts, why give them up? You're definitely going to burn more calories getting to the pool three times a week than if you make up excuses for skipping a land-based workout you find boring. However, if you're not seeing the results you hope for, try mixing up a variety of activities and exercise intensities. For example: One day you can do your usual water routine and the next day do a brisk, hilly, challenging walk on the treadmill.


by Liz Neporent