Swimming for Weight Loss: Tips & Advice & On Getting Started

Swimming for Weight Loss

Tips & Advice & On Getting Started

Woman swimming in pool

Swimming can be highly effective when it comes to weight loss. It not only burns calories while improving fitness levels, it’s highly enjoyable, and low-impact. If running or hitting the gym isn’t for you, you’re in the right place. But, getting started can be easier said than done.

Feeling keen to get going but unsure how it’s done is very common. This is why we’re here to lend a helping hand. Read on for some tips and tricks.

Why is swimming good for weight loss?

Asking yourself, ‘will swimming help me lose weight?’

Ask no more – we’ve got the answers.

If moving more and shifting the pounds is your goal, swimming is a great choice, one of the best exercises for losing weight. Let’s take a look at why:

  • Burns calories
  • Increases your heart rate
  • Tones muscles
  • Works a number of different muscles at the same time
  • Improves overall health and fitness
  • Is a whole-body workout

Can swimming help you lose belly fat?

Remember, you can’t target fat loss, but improving cardiovascular health and burning more calories will definitely help you shed the pounds. Swimming is an excellent way to do both. This, in turn, will see you losing fat.

Certain strokes will help you engage your core, including breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke. Swimming straight will help you engage your core. Imagine you’re trying to pull your belly button to your spine.1 This will significantly boost your performance and work those muscles.

Woman swimming

The wider benefits of swimming

Of course, it’s not all about weight and fat loss (although swimming is good for both). Swimming can help you live a more healthy lifestyle, offering other benefits such as:

  • Accessibility – suitable for all ages and fitness levels. It’s even safe during pregnancy
  • Low impact, good news for those with injuries, joint pain or arthritis
  • Improves sleep
  • Releases endorphins that improve mood
  • Affordable – no need for expensive equipment
  • Helps manage stress
  • Is fun
  • Increases flexibility
  • Is varied
  • Great for general well-being
  • Improves self-esteem2

When it comes to improving fitness levels, you need to find an activity that you enjoy and suits you best. The above reasons are just a taster of why many choose to add swimming to their weekly routines.

How to lose weight swimming

If your primary goal is weight loss, there are a number of ways to maximise results. While it’s always beneficial to do more exercise, these tips will help ensure you’re performing at your best.

1.Mix up your strokes

Not all strokes were made equal – some are more beneficial than others when it comes to weight loss. Studies have shown that Butterfly is at the top of the calorie-burning list,3 most effective for toning and building muscles.

However, it’s also the most tricky to master, particularly for beginners. It requires catch, pull and recovery motions, whilst kicking downwards at the same time.4 This is why it helps you burn the most calories. So, if you’re new to swimming, it might take some time to practice and work up to it.

The good news is that Butterfly is closely followed by Freestyle when it comes to calories burning. Third place goes to Backstroke, while Breaststroke takes fourth. Whichever you choose, you’ll be improving fitness levels and burning calories.

So, don’t be afraid to mix things up! One of the appeals of swimming is its variety, don’t feel that you have to stick to one movement. In fact, it’s recommended you don’t.

Swimming at sunset

2. Increase resistance in the water

Increasing resistance will make it harder for you to kick, therefore increasing your strength. This can be done through resistance bands, flippers, or buoys.5

You can also incorporate water weights into your exercise. Again, the water will help create resistance, working out your muscles harder.


3. Swim 4-5 times a week

Just as with other cardiovascular exercises, when it comes to losing weight, frequency is key. Although, juggling a career, family, social life and all the rest of it, can be easier said than done. Aim for four or five swims a week for the best results5, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t achieve that every time, especially in the beginning.

The more you do it, the easier it becomes, as you’ll find yourself in a routine. So, keep pushing and don’t give up – building healthy habits is simpler than you think!

4. Go in the morning

Of course, due to time constraints and commitments, going swimming in the morning is not feasible for everyone every time. But, if you can, give it a try.

Doing exercise in a fasted state, aka on an empty stomach, will cause your body to use fat stores as energy. Some studies have shown it can help burn up to 20% more fat.7 This can happen 4-6 hours after eating.

However, it’s not for everyone, despite the celebrity following. Other studies show that training after having eaten during the day can improve performance and duration. The most important thing is getting it done – not the timing.

5. Keep pushing yourself

When your fitness levels improve, your heart rate won’t increase as much. While this is good news in the sense that you’re hitting your fitness goals, it will mean your swimming workout won’t be as effective in terms of weight loss.

The solution?

Keep pushing yourself. The moment it feels a little easier, swim faster and harder. The more challenging the workout, the more likely you are to see results. A waterproof fitness tracker can help give you an idea of where your heart rate is at.

Swimming butterfly in a pool

6. Try HIIT

The faster you go, the more calories you’ll likely burn. But, not many of us can maintain a high-energy pace permanently. So, incorporate intervals, for example 30 seconds of a fast pace before a 30 second rest. This can help you maintain a highly energetic swim for longer and burn more calories.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has been proven to be a highly efficient way to burn those calories, while improving cardiovascular health.8

7. Try water aerobics

Need a break from swimming? On rest days, don’t be afraid to mix things up. Water aerobics offers much of the same benefits as swimming, but provides a bit more variety.

8. Use a swimming coach

While not for everyone, a coach can be extremely beneficial, particularly for beginners. They’ll be able to help you maximise results and perform the exercise in the best way for your body. A coach will also help break down any barriers you might have that are preventing you from getting started.

So, if it’s something you can do, it’s worth considering. Alternatively, take a swimming class. This can significantly increase your confidence when getting into the water. Plus, it will help you perform better once you’re there.

9. Follow a diet plan

If weight loss is your goal, you can’t rely on swimming alone. You’ll need to adjust your eating habits and follow a healthy diet.

Weight loss requires you to burn more calories than you take in. Swimming can help you do this, but you’ll need to ensure you tailor your diet accordingly to. But, ensure you’re taking in enough calories to fuel your exercise, otherwise your performance will be affected. Some of the best foods to eat include:

  • Carbohydrates for slow-release energy e.g. whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Protein for muscle building9

10. Have fun

Exercise shouldn’t be seen as a punishment, or to ‘make up for what you ate’. It’s an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, which is why you need to find something you enjoy. The more fun you have while doing it, the longer you’ll go on for, and the more likely you are to keep going.

11. Aim for half an hour

Try and swim for at least half an hour at a time.10 If you can do more, great, but set this as your benchmark. It’s a good amount of time to aim for and can be easily fitted into your routine, forming part of your healthy lifestyle.

12. Hold yourself to your own standards

And yours alone.

Pushing yourself too far, or comparing yourself to others, could demotivate you. Instead, celebrate your own personal wins and set yourself individual goals.

Swimming tips for beginners

If you’re somewhat of a novice when it comes to swimming, fear not. Here are some tried and tested tips and tricks to help you take to the water with ease:

  • Start slow – if you can only do fifteen minutes at first, that’s fine! Do what you can and slowly build things up
  • Don’t be afraid to use a float or pool noodle
  • Start with breaststroke (you can keep your head above water)
  • Mix up your strokes
  • Always warm up
  • Choose lane sessions (or you’ll be weaving in and out of everyone)
  • Wear a swimming cap to protect your scalp from chlorine
  • Breathing is key to successful strokes, so practice it11

Do what works for you

As mentioned, swimming can help you lead a healthier lifestyle. But, it’s just a piece of the puzzle when it comes to losing weight. You can’t rely on it alone, see it as a helping hand along the way. Most importantly – remember to enjoy yourself! You’ll start to feel the benefits more easily and quickly.

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