Exercise! - Is swimming really bad for weight loss?

08-14-2008, 08:47 PM
Hi all,

It seems like ever since Michale Phelps got into our living rooms, people are talking more and more about swimming for weight loss. If you see his body, he is a picture of health and maybe even perfection. Also, if you read the kind of food consumtion he has to maintain, it is mind boggeling! Well, I've always heard that swimming is NOT good for weight loss. Here's an article:
http://www.thefactsaboutfitness.com/research/swimming.htm . This article refers to research that illustrates swimming actually increases appetite and, thus, doesn't seem to be a good tool for weight loss.

However, I have just recently injured my foot and I worked out at the gym today and it hurts pretty bad. I did 10 minutes on the bike, which only burned about 75 calories, and another 25 minutes on a stair machine (step mill), which burned more. Anyway, I am realizing that for cardio, swimming might be my only real option.

What are your thoughts? I really want to reach my goal and I'm SO close, but I don't know what to do because I already have a hard enough time staying within my caloric range. Please share your wisdom. Thanks!

08-14-2008, 08:50 PM
I've always heard the exact opposite. Swimming is supposed to be great cardio, and works most of your muscles, but yet is low impact. You do end up hungry, but you also burn a ton of calories, and it's great for sculpting.

Watch what you eat, and go for it, I say!

08-14-2008, 08:53 PM
The article you linked to specifically said that swimming didn't work "in the absence of a controlled diet..." meaning that they put people on different exercise programs but didn't control what they ate. The situation could be completely different if you're counting calories or restricting intake!

A great example of why you need to read these research studies carefully!

08-14-2008, 09:18 PM
Hey Heather,
Yes, I did notice that it was in the absence of a controlled diet. I guess I'm concerned that I won't be able to control my diet! ;) Either way, it doesn't look like I have too many other options so I might as well give it a go and see what happens! (I'll enlist my hubby as the night-time food police!)

08-14-2008, 09:22 PM
Swimming is cool, but yeah, after I swim for an hour I feel the need to inhale everything in my kitchen.

08-14-2008, 09:42 PM
I love swimming, and while it can make me hungrier, it doesn't make me eat. In fact, if I take a nap after swimming, I usually wake up not as hungry as when I laid down. It sort of proves what my mom always told me after swimming lessons when I was a kid "you're not hungry, you're tired, go take a nap!"

Swimming is excellent exercise, and it allows a VERY obese person like myself the opportunity to work out - HARD and get an aerobic workout, whereas on land, gravity makes that impossible (or at least VERY painful).

08-15-2008, 04:53 AM
Swimming has been a regular part of my exercise routine for a couple of years now. When I injured my knee and most other exercises were off the table, including even the elliptical for a brief period (for a while I refused to accept that my knee was injured and tried to exercise anyway, resulting in an ankle injury on top of the knee injury), swimming was a life saver.

I do not have a problem with overeating after swimming. I plan out my food for the day and that's what I eat; I'm never so hungry after swimming that I need to eat more than what I've planned. In fact, today I went swimming and then to a yoga class afterwards. I was worried I would be hungry after swimming, so I planned for and brought a small snack to eat when I got out of the pool. But I wasn't hungry when I finished my swim, so I didn't even eat my planned snack, much less feel the need to eat anything that wasn't in my plan.

The only problem I've noticed with swimming is that I really have to push myself to get a good workout. When I first started, I had no problem getting my heart rate up, but now that I'm in my best shape cardio-wise, swimming is easy, almost too easy. I include 20 min of intervals in my swim and even those don't seem to get my heart rate up to where it is when I do the rest of my cardio workouts. I haven't worried about it much because I only swim once a week and I consider it to be my "day off" from exercise, but if it were replacing my regular cardio workouts, I'd need to work on increasing the intensity quite a bit. So I would recommend that you pay a little extra attention to how feel on the perceived exertion scale (http://exercise.about.com/cs/fitnesstools/l/blperceivedexer.htm) (which is how I gauge my heart rate; I don't have an HRM) while you are swimming, just to make sure you are getting the same workout you get with your other cardio activities.

Also, you can't compare yourself to Michael Phelps. I can guarantee you that he is doing a lot more than just swimming. He is most certainly strength training and may even be doing other cardio exercise. And he's exercising a whole heck of a lot more more than you're going to be swimming. His swim workouts alone are probably longer and significantly more intense than yours will be. So, yes, he has to eat a lot to maintain that level of exercise (heck, I've read that Lance Armstrong eats 6,000 calories a day when training--no swimming involved), but that doesn't apply to you. You aren't going to have to eat that much to support your swim workouts.

And I'm not sure how much credence I'd give the stuff in that article about increased metabolism after exercise and swimming not having this effect. My understanding is that there are varying opinions as to whether any exercise really increases your metabolism after you are finished exercising unless you are training at the level of a professional athlete (and have the body fat and musculature of one). So swimming may not elevate your metabolism after you finish but it's just as possible that no other exercise does either.

08-15-2008, 08:23 AM
I did competitive swimming for years - through high school. In my late 20s and early 30s (probably till I was around 34), I swam quite regularly - a mile maybe between 2-4 times per week. I weighed around 125 during this period and had great tone, though I wasn't lifting. Go figure. I think it's great for weight loss - it burns a TON of calories.

08-15-2008, 10:15 AM
Swimming is great exercise. When you're swimming you're working a lot of your body. So it's almost like a total body work out. I was watching a show the other day where a lady had lost a bunch of weight from swimming every day and changing her diet. She swam a lot during the day and watched her calories.

08-15-2008, 10:26 AM
I also swam competitively in high school and a year in college. It did make me a little hungry but when you are burning a high amount of calories I really wouldn't expect it not to.

Since I started in May I've turned to swimming as a big part of my exercise and I think if I hadn't I wouldn't have lost as much as I have so far :) I swim about 2 miles a day though!

08-15-2008, 10:30 AM
Did you guys catch on the Olympics last night when they said Phelps burns 4000 calories in his workout session?!?! :fr:

On a side note, I've *always* heard swimming is great for you!

08-15-2008, 10:33 AM
Swimming is great but I wonder have any of you ever done the Aerobics swimming classes? I am really interested in doing those actually I plan to take them with a friend that gets guess passes from her gym.

08-15-2008, 12:47 PM
Yes, I took water aerobic several years ago, and it was AMAZING. I could keep up with all the tiny women, and I didn't feel overheated or even think I was sweating -- untill I got out of the pool. If I got out of the pool right afterward, my legs would be weak and I'd start pouring sweat. So, I'd usually do a longer cool down, just playing in the water for a while, The legs would still feel a little rubbery, but I wouldn't feel overheated.

08-15-2008, 01:06 PM
I use to love taking swim classes at my college during the summers... I always lost weight and got better muscle tone. You do have to do more than just splash around. Try timing your laps and getting your heart rate up... and don't too long of breaks at the ends of the pool... maybe try keeping it under 30 seconds.

08-15-2008, 03:43 PM
Yes, I took water aerobic several years ago, and it was AMAZING. I could keep up with all the tiny women, and I didn't feel overheated or even think I was sweating -- untill I got out of the pool. If I got out of the pool right afterward, my legs would be weak and I'd start pouring sweat. So, I'd usually do a longer cool down, just playing in the water for a while, The legs would still feel a little rubbery, but I wouldn't feel overheated.

THats really good to know!

Pink Geranium
08-15-2008, 06:00 PM
I'm a former competitive swimmer and swam (30 years ago) on a team with Olympic medalists (I was not in that league, not at all, but I did work out with them) and I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted - but I can't say I went as far as the Michael Phelps diet! It was a shock to return to reality when I stopped swimming and I immediately began my 25 year weight gain process, I think because my eating habits were so out of line with a regular life's requirements!

Well, all in the past. I can say swimming and water aerobics were instrumental in my weight loss - at first that was really all I could do and as time has passed, I've added to the routine with cardio and weights, and I also now run, but swimming is what I always come back to. The key is as you get stronger is to create workouts for yourself, rather than just swimming laps at the same speed each time, and maybe to set some goals to work toward - do a certain distance, a certain time, etc. As you become a better swimmer you do have to keep upping the intensity, introducing interval training, maybe. But it's a great exercise for the whole body and very easy on joints, etc. so just for that it's worth it.

I think it's like anything else - it is easy to become complacent and in a routine, and stop pushing yourself.

I also agree that when finishing any kind of water workout to give yourself time to cool down. It is easy to get fooled by the coolness of the water and to think a cooldown would not be necessary, but you need to get your body back to equilibrium just like running, etc.

08-15-2008, 06:05 PM
Thanks so much everyone! I'm planning to go swim tonight when hubby gets home to watch the kids! Watch out Phelps! ;) LOL!

08-16-2008, 03:14 PM
I was a competitive swimmer for 13 years (age 6-18) and trained with people who qualified for the Olympic trials. We swam 6 days a week, 5 of those days were double practices (one AM and one PM) and a long Saturday practice. I have to say I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to but it set me up for a very large surprise when I stopped swimming in college and kept eating like that. I gained 30 pounds in one summer. Then the rest crept on.

If you can up your calories but with good foods you will do fine. Swimming makes you hungry as all get out, but if you have something healthy waiting for you it won't be a big deal. Getting a large pizza for yourself like Phelps does at night, well yeah...we don't burn as many calories as he does. But if you can add in extra small meals or snacks you should do just fine. And there is no way it doesn't help you lose weight. It works every muscle on your body.

08-16-2008, 09:55 PM
In my opinion, go for it, at least you'll be moving and it's better than doing nothing. Just eat "in control" and healthy... Have fun :swim:

08-19-2008, 08:29 PM
Swimming is my other favorite workout activity, besides walking. It is a great workout! Especially when I was pregnant with the kiddies. :)
Water Aerobics is awesome as well! :)

08-20-2008, 01:08 AM
swimming is fabulous.. i have always used my parents pool in summer(winter here atm) and only last week started at a public pool . i find if i get out the pool and grab a cuppa .. Im good .. :) i eat my biggest meal at lunch time every day anyway and swim on thursday mornings.(planned now). while my duaghter is at kindy.. I grabbed a cuppa on the way out .. got my daughter came home and we made lunch.. its was perfect..
i reserve 600ish calories for my lunch most days .. so its works very well indeed

08-20-2008, 11:11 AM
I love this question because I've always wondered about it myself. When I was a skinny kid, you couldn't get me out of the water! I did notice I was really hungry after swimming all afternoon. I say do what you like. Do you enjoy swimming? If you don't, it may not do you any good. I recently completed a sprint triathlon and am at the back of the pack when it comes to swimming but I enjoy it and try to get it in a couple of times a week but I mainly bike and jog (I wouldn't call it running although I'd like to). Swimming sometimes isn't convenient (which is my problem) so you have to figure that in also. I say go for it if you enjoy it and keep up the weight training because swimming is not a weight bearing exercise. Good luck, hope your foot gets better soon and let us know how you do!

08-20-2008, 11:18 AM
it better be good for you it's the only exercise i'm allowed to do. I have to be non-impact on my ankle for life.... ugh.

actually if you continue to control what you eat it should be great.