Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that works muscles across your whole body.
Not only does swimming provide a full-body workout, but it is also one of the most effective calorie burning exercises around.
In this article, we’re going to look at calories burned swimming, and the differences in calorie burn with each swimming stroke.
If you want to track your calories whilst swimming, here are five great fitness trackers to choose from;
- Polar Grit X Pro watch
- Apple smartwatch Series 7
- Fitbit Versa 3
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
- Garmin Instinct 2 Multi-Sport
We’ll also look at the best ways to measure the calories burned in your swimming workout.
Is swimming a good way to burn calories?
Swimming is one of the best methods you can use to burn calories. It is a low-impact form of exercise that is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that can help boost your heart rate while also helping to strengthen the muscles of your upper and lower body.
This increase in lean muscle mass has also been shown to improve your overall ability to burn calories, even while resting.
If you have joint problems or are recovering from an injury, swimming would be a great option to keep fit as the water helps support your weight while exercising.
The amount of calories burned swimming all depends on your effort level
Swimming is one of the best physical activities to get your heart rate up and work muscles throughout your body.
But how many calories you burn while swimming depends on a variety of different factors, one of these being your effort level.
As a broad generalisation, at a moderate effort level (a medium speed), you can expect to burn around 200-300 calories in 30 minutes of swimming if you’re swimming breaststroke, front crawl or backstroke (30 minutes of butterfly is tough for anyone!)
However, if you swim with more vigorous effort (a fast speed), you could burn upwards of 400-600 calories in the same amount of time.
If you’re trying to lose weight and are looking to maximise the number of calories that are burned as you swim, you will want to be training in your optimum heart rate zone.
To increase the benefits that swimming has on your weight loss journey, it’s suggested that you aim to keep your heart rate at around 60–90% of the maximum for your age group, as your body burns calories more effectively in this zone.
You can get a waterproof heart rate monitor to help monitor this.
How to calculate your calories burned swimming
Besides your effort level and the stroke you choose to swim, the exact number of calories you will burn in the swimming pool will vary from person to person based on other factors such as your weight, metabolism, and duration of swimming workouts.
Our calories burnt swimming calculator is an easy (and free!) way to get an idea of how many calories your body burns when swimming.
But if you’re keen to keep a more accurate ‘real time’ track of the calories you’re burning while you’re swimming laps of the local pool, you might consider a waterproof fitness watch.
A fitness watch can track a variety of metrics, such as calories burned and heart rate. One of our favourite sports and fitness watches that is suitable for swimming is the Garmin Forerunner 945.
What swimming stroke burns the most calories?
Another factor that influences how you burn calories when swimming is the stroke you choose to swim. The rate of calorie burn is different across each of the four swimming strokes.
According to Swim England, when swimming at moderate effort:
- Butterfly is the swimming stroke that burns the most calories, with an average calorie burn for a 30 minute swim of around 450 calories.
- Swimming front crawl / freestyle is the next best stroke for burning calories swimming, and on average burns 300 calories per every 30 minutes swimming.
- Backstroke is next on the list, with about 250 calories burned for every 30 minutes of swimming this stroke.
- You burn the fewest calories swimming breaststroke, at around 200 calories per 30 minute swim – but this is still an impressive 400 calories per hour, which equates to a similar calorie burn to jogging.
How many calories are burned swimming laps or by distance?
The number of calories burned while swimming laps will depend on several different factors, including your weight, the stroke used, and your intensity.
Below you will find a table showing the number of calories burned performing a front crawl at an average speed in a 50-metre pool.
|17 Calories||1 Lap|
|170 Calories||10 Laps|
|425 Calories||25 Laps|
|850 Calories||50 Laps|
|544 Calories||1 mile|
How many calories are burned swimming by time?
The average number of calories burned per hour depends on the stroke chosen. This table shows the number of calories burned while performing a front crawl.
|Calories burnt||Amount of time|
|150 Calories||15 minutes|
|200 Calories||20 minutes|
|300 Calories||30 minutes|
|400 Calories||40 minutes|
|450 Calories||45 minutes|
|600 Calories||1 hour|
Calories burnt compared to other sports
Whether you are a swimmer, runner, cyclist, or simply love walking your dog. To burn calories you need to be as active as possible.
Let’s compare swimming to other activities to see how many calories can be burned:
Walking is a low-impact activity, just like swimming. This means that can perform it without causing much harm to your joints.
Walking does not burn as many calories compared to swimming, with just 95 calories burnt in 30 minutes.
You can increase the number of calories by increasing your walking pace or carrying additional weight.
Running burns a similar amount of calories as swimming and helps to prevent bone loss as it is a weight-bearing exercise.
If you have any joint issues, running may not be your best option.
Cycling burns a similar number of calories as swimming. It is also a great form of cardiovascular exercise that can build muscle, particularly in your lower body.
Swimming may be the better option for those with joint problems, as the water helps support your weight while you exercise.
Balancing exercise and nutrition for weight loss
A common issue that people have when they begin a more rigorous exercise regime, including swimming, is that they don’t see any improvement on the scales.
No matter how hard they train, they are not losing weight.
With an increase in physical activity, you may begin to feel an increase in hunger levels, and in turn start to consume more calories.
It’s important to maintain a healthy balanced diet in order to fuel your physical activity, but be aware of not overcompensating.
Avoid consuming more calories than you are burning, as in order to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit.
It can sometimes be useful to consider a post-workout protein shake to help kill hunger after a workout, with the additional benefits of helping tired muscles recover more quickly.
How many calories are burned swimming in the sea?
In theory, you should be burning a similar number of calories as you would a pool. The number of calories burned depends on the same factors; weight, stroke, and intensity.
However, when swimming in the sea, there could be other factors at play that could lead to more calories being burned. For example, the waves and the tidal current.
How long do you have to swim to burn 500 calories?
This will depend on several factors. If you were to swim using front crawl, you could burn 500 calories within an hour.
How long after swimming do you burn calories?
You will burn calories while swimming, and for a short while afterwards.
To see more blogs on fitness and exercise tips, head over to our main blog here.