In the quest to get fit and optimise weight loss, diet and exercise are considered to be of prime importance. In terms of exercise, we often focus on weight training or cardio, or even go for walks and jogs, but swimming rarely makes it to our workout routine. That is perhaps because many believe it doesn’t burn too many calories and won’t help you shed kilos. Fitness experts, however, say swimming for weight loss is one of the best exercises you can do.
Swimming is actually a great all-round aerobic activity that has many benefits. It offers a full-body workout and tones your muscles, as well as builds endurance. It also does wonders for your cardiovascular health. Being a low-impact activity, it doesn’t harm the joints and can be of great use to people with arthritis or injuries who may not be able to run. It is also a safe exercise for pregnant women. And, of course, it is a great fat burner. “An hour’s swim can make an individual burn up to 400 calories or more if done vigorously. Resistance gear can make the workout even more intense,” says integrative nutritionist Payal Kothari.
Just 30 minutes of swimming can help you burn 350 calories, says Carlyne Remedios, group manager–clinical practices and nutrition, Digestive Health Institute by Dr Muffi. “It can also help you stay flexible, reduce inflammation and relieve depression and stress,” she says.
Wondering how does swimming help you lose weight, especially since it doesn’t help in spot reduction? Since it uses all muscle groups (large and small), it can lead to quicker weight loss than other workouts. “Swimming with resistance is harder than being on the treadmill. You could increase and decrease the intensity without stressing the body. It helps burn more calories and works the core continuously burning more belly fat. And doing some crunches post the swim could further help in toning the abs,” says Kothari.
Swimming also has an after-burn, so the calories are burnt even after the swim. “You increase muscle mass, which increases your metabolism and helps you burn fat even while not exercising,” explains Remedios. But, bear in mind, diet is of great importance if you have chosen swimming as your main workout. “You can’t be eating too many calories if your aim is to lose weight with swimming,” says Kothari.
To strengthen and tone your stomach and abdominal muscles as well as lose weight, try the breaststroke, freestyle, sidestroke, butterfly, and backstroke. For beginners, it’s best to start with 30 minutes of moderate intensity swimming 3-5 times a week, while regular swimmers can practise for an hour.