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.

  • Only a quick comment because this is not an answer but only personal experience. A year ago I used to be 6 times per week in the swimming pool (1 hour for each training). For 2 moths I almost didn't see any results. I started to be quite frustrated... but after these 2 "starting" months I dropped during next 2 months really huge (well, by huge I mean 1/10 former body weight to be more specific) amount of fat. I literally felt my body became fat burner itself. With proper diet and intense swimming you can get into the shape quite quickly ;) good luck!
    – tsykora
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 10:33

4 Answers 4


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.

  • 4
    And if you want to burn faster, just swim faster :)
    – user2567
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 17:18
  • @friz, exactly. I said "leisurely" to illustrate that you can still enjoy swimming while burning almost the same amount of Calories while running.
    – Ron
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 1:04
  • imo this is jut wrong. our body is not as simple as a calorie burning mahine and if we take in less than we burn we loose weight. the question is also specifically for fat burning. swimming in cool water actually consumes a lot of calories but is not good for fat burning. it is good after having a carbon rich meal but not if you want to loose fat. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 13:07
  • @TheSurrican, opinions aside, it actually does, and can be scaled to more exercise than almost any other. At one point in my youth I needed 5000+ calories a day to prevent being underweight, all from swimming. In the macro scheme, a calorie burned is a calorie burned. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 17:07

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.

  • I don't think that the link you provided is a good measure to say that swimming doesn't burn as many calories as running because the stats for swimming don't mention anything about speed while the running stats do
    – aaronman
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 14:12
  • That's true, the table doesn't have that kind of granularity for swimming. Although "fast" swimming burns about as many calories as running 6mph, which is not "fast" running. I also should have made it clear that I was talking about freestyle swimming, which admittedly is the least calorie-intense stroke, but is the one most people use to swim laps. Butterfly burns more calories, but I don't think I've ever seen anyone do serious laps (30 minutes or more) in that stroke.
    – Amir Roth
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 14:22

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

Keeping your body warm uses up quite a lot of calories because your body has to burn something to generate heat, and water drains heat quickly because it's a good heat conductor. Swimming (the movement) by itself is not very energy demanding, but doing it in cool water is.

  • 1
    Did you mean keeping your body warm?
    – Amir Roth
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 18:19

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