Swimming for Exercise

An hour of moderate-pace swimming burns about 475 calories an hour (based on a person weighing 150 pounds). Want to burn more? Fire up your swimming workout with these tips:

  • Switch strokes. Tired of swimming freestyle lap after lap? Switch strokes. Learn the butterfly, which burns about 750 calories an hour. It uses most of the muscles in your body, mainly focusing on the arms, core and legs. Teach Yourself to Swim Butterfly. Or try the breaststroke, which can burn up to 680 calories per hour. The breaststroke utilizes many different body parts, allowing you to build strength, power and endurance.
  • Try something different in the pool. A simple exercise such as water running (which is harder in the pool due to the greater resistance water provides) is an excellent way to burn calories. In fact, a moderate jog in the water can burn around 550 calories an hour and is a great workout for your legs. Or try a water aerobics class.
  • Add resistance. Training aids, such as pull buoys and kick boards, allow you to focus on specific muscle groups. Choose a kick board if you want to work your legs, or a pull buoy to target your arms. Kick board Exercises.
  • Reduce your rest periods. If you spend more than 10 percent of your time in the pool resting, aim to reduce your rest periods. Resting less and swimming longer will keep your heart rate up and help to burn calories. When swimming, aim to keep your heart rate around 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t know your target heart rate, subtract your age from 220 and multiply it by .8 for an estimate.
  • Swim in intervals. Picking up your swimming pace burns more calories, so add speed intervals to your workout. You don’t need to speed through your entire workout in order to get the benefits of swimming at an increased pace. Try swimming one lap regular and two at a faster pace, or two regular and then two fast.

Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.

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