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Swimming Q&A

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Can Swimming Help Me Lose Weight?
AICR’s physical activity expert answers some commonly asked swimming questions.

Are you looking for a physical activity that will help you beat the heat? Consider swimming. Swimming is a great cardiovascular (aerobic) activity and offers a nice break from feeling sticky and sweaty, even in the peak of summer.
(Fun fact: While your sweat-producing glands are working, you don’t sweat to a significant degree while you swim.)

Like other aerobic activities (e.g. walking, jogging, dancing), swimming improves your health in the following ways:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves levels of "good" cholesterol
  • Reduces triglyceride levels
  • Improves mood
  • Burns calories and keep weight down
  • Lowers risk for some types of cancer

One thing that makes swimming different from many other aerobic options is that it is a non-weight-bearing activity, which means the joints in your lower body do not have to support your body weight while you swim. Because of this, swimming is a great option if you have difficulty being physically active due to knee or other lower body joint pain. But whether you do or don’t have joint pain, swimming is still a great option.

Can swimming help me lose weight? Absolutely. Keep in mind, losing weight is about burning more calories than you consume. Swimming can help you increase the number of calories you burn during the day at a similar rate as jogging five miles per hour (12 minute mile). For example, a woman who weighs 135 pounds will burn approximately 400 calories either swimming slow, moderate freestyle laps or jogging at a 12-minute mile pace for one hour.

How long should a swim workout be and what should be included? AICR’s Guidelines for Cancer Prevention recommend you strive to be physically active for 30 minutes or more every day. If you are physically fit and comfortable in the water, aim to swim for 30 to 60 minutes at a time.

If you are new to swimming, start with a shorter workout of 5-10 minutes and work your way toward longer workouts by adding a lap or two each session. It doesn’t matter what type of stroke you use (e.g. freestyle, butterfly, etc.), what is important is that you are moving. Choose the stroke that feels most comfortable; you can even alternate strokes during a workout.

Don’t forget to warm-up and cool-down. Start and end every swim session with a slow, relaxed lap or two.

What advice do you have for new swimmers? Swimming does requires a certain amount of skill but don’t let that stop you from reaping the benefits of this great aerobic activity.

  • Take lessons. If you are new to swimming or if you feel a little rusty in the water, consider taking lessons. Learning proper technique will really help you to get the most out of your workouts.
  • Build in breaks. Just because you are in the water doesn’t mean you have to continuously swim laps. Build rest periods into your workouts. Stop for a minute between laps to tread water, walk or run through the water, or hold on to the side and kick. These breaks will give you a chance to catch your breath while you continue to burn calories.
  • Be safe. Take extra precautions to be sure you are safe in the water. Choose to swim where there are lifeguards on duty and always swim within your comfort zone.
  • Have fun. The best swim workout is one you will look forward to doing. Find a workout that you enjoy and add it to your physical activity calendar on a regular basis.

 

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