How good is swimming for burning fat? There seems to be a lot of conflicting opinions on the matter (not backed up with fact). A few places seem to say its the best exercise because its a whole body workout and some others say its not great because the water keeps your body cool.
It doesn't matter if your body gets cooled down during swimming. What matters is the number of Calories you burn during any exercise. Fat loss happens when you expend more Calories than you take in. Simple as that.
Swimming is actually a very good Calorie burner. According to NutriStrategy, swimming at a leisurely pace for one hour can burn 354 to 558 Calories depending on your weight.
Swimming is not an ideal fat burning exercise. It burns fewer calories than running or cycling (http://www.nutristrategy.com/activitylist3.htm) and although the resistance of the water does break-down and build muscle the effect is not nearly intense enough to induce "afterburn". Plus, swimming makes me incredibly hungry!
That said, swimming is a terrific exercise because it provides both aerobics and low-grade upper-body resistance training with minimal joint impact. Plus it's great for thinking because you can't read, watch television, listen to music, or talk to someone while doing it.
As for swimming in cool water, I personally find that it burns more calories simply because it allows me to keep swimming for longer. I find swimming in warm water uninspiring at best and nauseating/headache-inducing at worst.
For extremely obese persons who start with completely untrained bodies, swimming and, in particular, aquafitness are preferable over many other activities such as, say, jogging. I read so in a book about aquafitness by Mimi Rodriguez-Adami (2003, first edition)
According to this book, obese persons should:
- never go over the personal limit
- check heart rate
- drink a lot before, during and after the aquafitness workout
- switch between deep-water and flat-water exercises
- train sequences of movements that are as diverse as possible
- start with simple movements/exercises