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Juniper Journal

The most effective swimming routine for weight loss

Despite the misconceptions, swimming is pretty effective for weight loss.

The most effective swimming routine for weight loss
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When it comes to losing weight, swimming might not be the first thing that jumps to mind. In fact, you might be wondering, "is swimming good for weight loss?"

The short answer is yes. And, unlike other forms of physical activity like running and strength training, swimming gives you a total body workout while also being kind to your joints. On top of that, swimming offers a tonne of other health benefits from boosting your mood to improving your cardiovascular health benefits and even increasing flexibility.

But, it's important to also look after your diet, especially if you're planning to do some serious high-intensity swimming. After all, the combination of cold water and exuding maximum energy can make you hungry after your workout.

If you're someone who loves to get in the pool or you've tried other forms of exercise and haven't loved it, we're diving (pun intended) into all things swimming for weight loss, how many calories you can burn and the best swimming routine to help you reach a healthy weight.

Is swimming good for weight loss?

Many people have a misconception that if you're trying to lose weight, swimming is pretty ineffective. Some people have even said, "If you want to lose weight, you're better off walking around a pool than swimming in it" [1].

But, the research actually says the opposite. One study compared swimming for weight loss and walking for weight loss at the same intensity for the same amount of time, 3 times per week. The swimming group lost 1.1kg more weight and 2cm more from their waistline compared to the walking group [2].

So, if you're trying to lose weight and you've tried running, strength training or just hitting the gym and aren't enjoying it, it might be worth giving swimming a try. Swimming burns calories like any other workout routine as the water creates resistance.

Plus, unlike a lot of workout routines, swimming works every part of your body, from your upper body to your lower body and core all at the same time.

A study from 2015 found that women who swam for 1 hour, 3 times a week showed significant improvements in belly fat, flexibility, strength and even decreased cholesterol levels [3].

How does swimming help you lose weight?

A swimming workout activates different muscles in your body, meaning it's a full-body workout routine. Different strokes like butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke work specific parts of the body. Butterfly and breaststroke target your chest, arms and shoulders while backstroke targets your abs, back and quads [4].

Plus, since swimming is a water-based exercise, the water creates resistance and you're using your body's strength to fight against it so you can swim.

Swimming is also much better for your joints compared to running or walking, meaning you're less likely to get an injury and more likely to consistently exercise which helps you to lose more weight [1].

How much do you have to swim to lose weight?

The key to losing weight, no matter the exercise, is to be consistent and remain in a calorie deficit.

Your diet has a lot more to play in weight loss than physical activity, so if you're eating poorly and swimming for weight loss it won't make too much of a difference. Instead, eating a healthy balanced diet and incorporating exercise into your routine is the answer to losing weight.

To burn calories by swimming, the duration of your swimming session and the effort you put in makes all the difference. Swimming for roughly an hour at moderate intensity can burn 500 calories [5]. Plus, switching up your swimming strokes can further burn calories.

Another tip to burn more calories while swimming is to reduce rest periods during your swimming session. Swimming for longer and resting less ensures your heart rate is up and helps to burn more calories [5].

How many calories do you burn swimming?

The calories burned during your swimming session depend on the intensity of your workout routine. Intense swimming workouts for an hour burn roughly 800 calories. If you're swimming intensely 4 times a week, you can expect to lose around 1-2 kilos a month [4].

If you're just starting out swimming and you're working your way up from low intensity to an intense swimming session, moderate intensity for half an hour burns 250 calories. If you're doing that four times a week, you can expect to lose roughly 0.5kg a month [4].

It's also important to note that how many calories you burn can differ from person to person. According to Harvard Health, calories burned are also influenced by your current weight and the intensity at which you swim [6]. Let's break it down.

For a moderate pace and a 30-minute swimming session, those weighing 57kg can burn 180 calories, those weighing 70kg can burn 216 calories and those weighing 83kg can burn 252 calories [6].

For vigorous 30-minute swimming sessions, those weighing 57kg can burn 300 calories, those weighing 70kg can burn 360 calories and those weighing 83kg can burn 420 calories [6].

What's the best swimming routine for weight loss?

If you've never tried swimming for weight loss before it might be worth building yourself up to a higher intensity by sticking to moderate intensity at first. You could even enlist the help of a swim coach to make sure you're in great form.

Once you're comfortable with moderate intensity and have nailed the strokes, a high-intensity swimming session can be beneficial for weight loss.

Let's run through some of the best swimming routines for weight loss.

Intensity is key

A high-intensity workout routine combines intense swimming with rest periods or recovery swims. Although you'll probably be able to do less in your swimming session, it's great for people who need to fit in a workout in between their busy days. Plus, you'll burn some serious calories [7].

You could even try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to burn calories and burn fat too. A swimming HIIT session means you're swimming short bursts and your maximum effort which can increase your overall fitness levels and burn more fat [8].

A simple way to do this is to swim at high intensity for 30 seconds and include a 15-30-second rest period before your next sprint. Repeat this for as long as you can handle, but, try to aim for double-digit figures [8].

The best strokes

For a total body workout, you'll want to incorporate different strokes into your swimming routine. Each different stroke targets the body in a different way and can have major benefits on posture, toning the body and building muscle tone and strength. Let's run through the best strokes to maximise your weight loss efforts in the pool [9].

The butterfly stroke is the best swimming stroke for weight loss, but, it's also the hardest to master.

The average calories burned swimming the butterfly stroke is roughly 450 calories in a 30-minute swimming session. The butterfly stroke also increases your flexibility, tones your chest, stomach and arms and helps to build upper body strength [9].

Next up is freestyle which is the fastest stroke, which can help you burn roughly 300 calories in a 30-minute swimming session. Freestyle also helps to tone your stomach, bum and shoulders. Freestyle is a great stroke to start out with while you work your way towards a high-intensity session [9].

Backstroke is one the best swimming strokes to help improve posture, but the second last at burning calories. On average, you can burn around 250 calories in a 30-minute swimming session. Backstroke helps to tone different parts of the body including the stomach, legs, arms and shoulders [9].

Last but not least, we've got breaststroke. For a 30-minute swimming session, breaststroke will help you burn 200 calories but it's great for cardiovascular health, helping to strengthen the heart and lungs [9].

Vary your strokes

As with all workout routines, you'll want to switch up your swimming strokes to burn more calories and keep things interesting too.

Plus, to make sure you're working your entire body, you need to work every muscle group which is pretty easy to do with swimming by incorporating different swim strokes.

For maximum calories burned, make sure your workout includes kicking, pulling and stroke work [10]. If you wanted a break from swimming laps you could incorporate other water-based workouts like running or jogging in the water.

This can help you burn even more calories because it's a lot harder to run in the pool due to the resistance of the water. A moderately paced jog in the water can burn roughly 550 calories for an hour [10].

Use training aids and weights

Another great way to burn more calories in the pool and keep things interesting is to incorporate training aids and weights. Using kickboards and pull buoys helps to target specific areas of the body.

You can also introduce resistance training into your swimming sessions by using aqua dumbbells which can help you lose weight by increasing your resting metabolic rate so your body burns more calories. It's also great for building muscle [8].

What if swimming is not my thing?

Although swimming offers a range of health benefits from weight loss to building muscle tone and even mental health benefits too, it's definitely not for everyone.

If you've tried giving swimming for weight loss a go and just don't enjoy it or you're not seeing any weight loss results, there are other things you can try.

Other forms of physical activity

There are a bunch of physical activities you can do to lose weight aside from swimming. At the end of the day, you want to find a form of exercise that you actually enjoy doing to make sure you stay consistent and incorporate it into your lifestyle.

You could try water aerobics, cardio activities like running, walking, hitting the gym, strength training and even going for a beach swim. The most important thing is to improve your fitness level and do it consistently.

Eating a healthy balanced diet

If you're trying to lose weight, the most important changes you can make are to your diet. Eating a healthy balanced diet consists of 5 food groups which you should be eating every day. These include:

  • Vegetables and legumes
  • Fruit
  • Lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
  • Dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt or alternative dairy products
  • Grains and cereals [11]

Incorporating fibre-rich foods into your diet is also beneficial for weight loss with research suggesting that eating 30 grams of fibre a day can aid in weight loss, improve the body's response to insulin and decrease blood pressure [12].

Holistic weight loss programs

If you've been struggling with weight loss for some time and feel like you've tried all the physical activities out there and changed your diet, but nothing seems to work, Juniper's Weight Reset Program is a holistic program designed for long-term and sustainable weight loss.

The Weight Reset Program combines breakthrough medication that helps to regulate digestion, and decrease appetite and works to completely change your relationship with food so you can lose stubborn stomach fat, lose weight and actually keep it off.

To help you make lifestyle and habit changes, like eating a balanced diet and increasing your fitness levels, health coaching is provided and you also have access to a support system of other women going through the weight loss journey, too.

Plus, we personalise your experience through one-on-one health tracking and weekly check-ins with your health practitioner to track your biometric, mental and physical health, always making adjustments to your program to suit your individual needs.

Ultimately, swimming for weight loss can be really effective when done right. If you're willing to give swimming a go the best things you can do is to start at a low intensity and work your way up to a high-intensity workout routine and mix up your swimming strokes.

If you're not noticing any changes in your weight loss journey then there are plenty of other programs and workout routines out there to help you reach your goals.

Image credit: Getty Images

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