Swimming burns calories and helps you lose weight in fact swimming for weight loss has been regularly praised for its cardiovascular health benefits, especially for older people. As swimming uses so many muscles in your body, your heart and lungs must work hard to supply them all with oxygen. This means that swimming will give your cardiovascular system an excellent workout.
Any exercise that makes you breathe a little heavier is beneficial because it means your body is working hard! As your heart and lungs get stronger you will be able to swim for a longer duration before you get tired, your resting heart rate will decrease and blood pressure will stabilise at a lower level.
So what's so good about swimming for weight loss? Water basically takes away the gravity effects of land based exercise, so you become virtually weightless when you’re swimming, giving your joints a much-needed vacation. "You can swim almost every day without risking injury," says Joel Stager, Ph.D., Director of the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming at Indiana University in the US, who has studied the effects of swimming for years.
Swimming burns a significant number of calories while the water provides the bonus of resistance training and the variety of different swimming workouts and strokes you can do will help you stay challenged and eliminate boredom.
So which swimming stroke is best for weight loss?
4th place: Breaststroke
Breaststroke is a bit of a slow burner in terms of calories. Breaststroke will burn around 200 calories for 30 minutes swimming. Breaststroke is a much better cardiovascular workout than the other strokes. It helps strengthen heart and lungs while toning thighs, upper back, triceps, hamstrings and lower legs. It helps to work and tone the chest muscles.
3rd place: Backstroke
Backstroke is the second lowest calorie burner next to breaststroke. The benefit of backstroke is its ability to improve posture. Average calorie burn is around 250 calories for 30 minutes swimming. Practising keeping yourself straight in the water can help you to lengthen your spine. Backstroke works to tone the stomach, legs, arms, shoulders and buttocks. It’s also great for improving the flexibility of your hips.
2nd place: Freestyle
Freestyle is the fastest of all the strokes, so it has earned its second place for calorie burning potential. Average calorie burn is around 300 calories for 30 minutes swimming. Swimming freestyle tones your stomach, buttocks and shoulders and out of all the four strokes freestyle has the greatest impact on toning back muscles.
1st place: Butterfly
No surprises here with Butterfly in first place. It’s the hardest to learn, and definitely not for beginners, but Butterfly is at the top of the calorie burn list. Average calorie burn is around 450 calories for 30 minutes swimming. It’s most effective all round stroke for toning and building muscles. It helps with upper body strength, toning your chest, stomach, arms (particularly your triceps) and your back muscles. It helps to increase your flexibility, suppleness and stretches out the body to improve posture.
So where to start?
Try this starter workout: Swim four lengths of the pool at an easy effort (catch your breath at the wall between lengths if you need to). Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat five to 10 times. Try that two or three times a week for the first two weeks. If you haven't swam for a while, use a kickboard for the first four lengths.
For more advanced swimmers, you will need to maintain proper form and keep your heart rate elevated to see the benefits of this cardiovascular exercise. Like the above routine, you will want to focus upon interval training. Try to sprint for three laps and then swim one lap slowly. At the end of the last lap, stop and rest for 30 seconds. Continue to repeat this process for 60 minutes. To avoid boredom, consider switching to different stokes such as backstroke or take the challenge of including butterfly in your workout. Additionally, you can add kicking exercise, where you utilize a kick board, to your routine.
As a precaution it is advisable to consult your family doctor before undertaking any new exercise program.