Exercise! - Swimming: Just how effective is it?

07-27-2007, 02:28 PM
I have a pool and I figure it would be a good place to do a workout, but I feel like it's just too easy. I don't really feel any burn when I swim, and when I'm not sore I feel like I'm not doing something right. Has anyone here used swimming for exercise and found it to be effective? If so, what is your swimming routine? I appreciate any answers! Thanks!

07-27-2007, 03:07 PM
I've always kind of wondered that, as well. I do know that elite swimmers tend to have a higher amount of body fat than other elite athletes.

I ran a promotion for a sporting goods store, once, and Janet Evans was our celebrity guest. She's one of the greatest swimmers of all time. I remember hearing a guy say to his wife, "I don't care if she's the greatest swimmer in the world, she's kinda fat." And he was right, she kinda was.

07-27-2007, 03:33 PM
On elite swimmers and body fat: there's a cause and effect problem here. It could be that athletes who naturally store a bit more body fat are more likely to make it to elite levels of swimming, given the same level of strength, aerobic capacity, and conditioning. And like most elite sports, there's an on season and an off season in swimming, and an athlete's BF% will vary by 5-10% across seasons.

I'm sure there are on-line estimates of how many calories per hour swimming burns. My recollection is that it's pretty high, assuming you're doing a good-paced crawl and not the dead man's float. :) You won't feel sweaty swimming, but you'll notice that you can get your heart rate up and feel pretty dehydrated afterward anyway.


07-27-2007, 03:34 PM
It can be true that swimmers can maintain a higher level of body fat & be very competitive but it's not a rule. I certainly have only met up with a small handful who have extra weight in all my time around pools.

That said - it is easy to do a workout in the pool & not push yourself - I've also seen that a million times.

There is a great book called "Swimming for Fitness" that you could look up for reference.

If you are doing aquafitness type of workouts you need to focus on keep your core engaged & really pushing/pulling against the water. The water is spectacular for giving you resistance in every direction. Water workouts are also ideal for people with back or joint injuries because it does provide support for your body.

Without going into it in detail there are changes that happen to your body when you are in the water that can make raising your heart rate different than while exercising on land. It also is easy to become dehydrated 'cause you don't tend to feel as hot & sweaty - so make sure you drink enough water.

If you are feeling it's too easy perhaps you need to push yourself a little harder. Work in some sprint intervals. Try using some of the water workout aids like water dumbbells for aquafitness or hand paddles for length swimming.

Good luck!!! Enjoy the water - it's a great place to be!

07-27-2007, 03:37 PM
Swimming is actually a phenomenal workout. I swam competitively as a child and teen, and when I was about 30 I began to swim regularly. I started at a 1/4 mile, which was 18 laps at my gym pool (I believe it's 25 yd. laps). Those 18 laps killed me. I would have to stop after every lap or two to catch my breath. My friend and I eventually worked up to 1 mile, which we eventually managed to do in about 40-45 minutes. That is really a fairly slow pace, but it was a great workout. I always did the first 10-15 laps just freestyle, then I would alternate between free, back, and breast. On days when I was really sluggish, I would do some side stroke ... or sometimes I did that to cool down. Some days we would incorporate kick board for the last few laps.

I haven't been swimming regularly like that for about 3 or 4 years now (I'm 39 now), but I've actually recently begun thinking about incorporating it into my workout again. I was quite slim - probably the slimmest and fittest I've ever been- during my late 20s and early 30s. I know lots of swimmers (all shapes and sizes) and I don't consider them fat at all. I would say give it a try.

It really is an amazing all over body workout and calorie burner. And it's nice and easy on all of your joints. You can set your own pace, set goals, push yourself... try doing another couple of laps each time you swim until you build up to a mile. Or swim 5 minutes longer each day. Just writing about this is motivating me to start swimming regularly again.

07-27-2007, 04:24 PM
Thanks for all the answers!

07-27-2007, 04:49 PM
I swam competitively as a child and in high school and its a great workout. when I was on the team in high school we had very intense workouts and once you stopped to rest you would feel hot and feel yourself sweating even though you're already wet. I'd suggest timing yourself at a moderate pace and then try putting a workout together where you do sets of different things. For example (this is in a 25 yard pool) 5 sets of 100 yards in a fairly fast pace stopping for a 60-120 sec. rest in between sets.

07-27-2007, 07:03 PM
It's funny you mention it, when I was pregnant the first time I swam every weekday for 45 minutes without fail, right up when she was born.

I gained 33 pounds, I lost 33 pounds and life was good.

My second daughter, I didn't have access to a pool. I was pretty good with walking for a while.....but the weather turned hot right when I was getting heavy, I ended up not exercising AT ALL for practically the last four months. I gained 45 pounds, kept half of it, felt out of shape after the baby and it turned into a giant struggle.

The moral of my story is: IF YOU'RE PREGNANT...FIND A POOL!! It made all the difference in the world for me. And so nice being weighless in the water!

And even thought I've lost weight other ways, my body was nicest in when I was swimming. My arms, shoulders and back have really never looked as nice since then.

07-28-2007, 12:30 AM
A couple of summers back we practiaclly lived at the Lake and I swam ALOT. I def lost some weight and toned up. I think it's wonderful exercise and it's fun. I go to the comunity pool every now and then and I swim a mile (36 laps) and I am SOOOOOOOOOOOO sore for the next couple of day's. I feel it in every muscle in my body. I wish I could get there more often. :)

07-30-2007, 02:56 PM
Another former competitive swimmer here. As soon as I get access to a pool, I'm going back to it.

Check this site for some ideas. It can be a little tough to stick to a good swim workout if you don't have a plan, in my experience:


07-30-2007, 03:47 PM
Swimming is a fantastic workout. It works almost every muscle group in your body and is great for cardio endurance because you are forced to regulate your breathing while you do it. But it is like any other exercise, if you don't push yourself, it won't be effective.

Body fat is an advantage in swimming because fat makes you more buoyant. So the swimmers that have a tendency to maintain a little more body fat are probably more successful. But this doesn't mean that swimming isn't a good exercise.

I try to swim at least once a week. I swim 2400 yards (just under 1.4 miles) in an hour. I make sure to include 800 yards (about 15 minutes) of intervals, where I swim one lap as fast as I can and then swim a recovery lap. I also try to swim 200 yards at a time without stopping (including flip turns if I'm swimming freestyle). This workout has served me really well. During the weeks that I swim, I notice a marked improvement in my cardio endurance (I can actually set the treadmill to a faster setting and run at that setting for longer). Also, the swim workout gets easier every time I do it.

I'm not sure how long your home pool is, but I do think that you get a better workout if you are swimming laps that are at least 20 yards long. If you have the typically small home pool, I'm not sure there is enough length to really get a good workout swimming laps. You might be better off with water aerobics and other exercises. The current issue of Cooking Light features a water workout; here is another one from Self Magazine (http://www.self.com/fitness/workouts/2007/07/0723_pool).

07-30-2007, 03:52 PM
For me I find swimming is a great workout ....sometimes..

It is much easier for me to ease up in intensity and not really notice than in any other form of cardio. I can drop from running effort to walking effort in the pool and not notice. The mind wanders etc. For that reason I primarily use it for cross training and not primary training, but if I am using as my primary training then I do timed sets rather than just "swim a mile" that way I have to focus and count, etc.

07-30-2007, 05:38 PM
Swimming doesn't add fat, instead fat is not generally as much of a liability in swimming as it is in other sports (in fact, it can be a bit of a bonus, because fat floats). The leanest person often has the advantage in most endurance sports, but in swimming the fat doesn't slow you down as much.

In college, I weighed 275 - 308 lbs, and had to take PE. I took an independent study swimming, weight lifting, and bicycling. The coach told me she was working with her little sister, and she was astonished that her little sister couldn't keep up with my swimming workout. She meant to be flattering, but it did offend me that she thought "of course" her little sister would be able to keep up with the fat chick.

I LOVE swimming. It's the only way at my size that I can get in a "real" workout. I hate when I hear people avoiding the water becaue of swimsuit phobia, because water is one of the few places very overweight people can exercise without pain.

07-30-2007, 06:32 PM
I did go for a swim the day I wrote this and was surprised how out of breath I was after swimming laps for about 15 minutes. My heart rate was definitely up, and when I stopped and treaded water I could tell that I sweating. I am planning on doing another 15 minutes of laps tonight, and hopefully by tomorrow I can add 5 more minutes.

07-31-2007, 01:16 AM
Excellent! I need to start swimming again myself. Thanks for getting me motivated

07-31-2007, 05:24 PM
Swimming is amazing, I went to my schools pool and I saw a difference in my arms in a few weeks. I would do different strokes where I used my arms more than my legs and then i also got a kickboard so I could just use my legs. A kickboard may be a good idea because you can do soo much with it and they are cheap. Have fun

07-31-2007, 05:35 PM
You can do resistance training in the water too. Aside from pulling your own body weight through the water. The therapy pool I go to has water weights. They're actually super "floaty" barbells in several sizes. The biggest take considerable pulling to bring under or move under water.