I still have vivid memories of getting off the school bus, splashing around in the pool for an hour, then spending the rest of the time trying to pull on my socks with a towel wrapped around myself trying to hide my body. In short, I hated swimming. It wasn’t until I started to learn more about it when I was training for my Ironman did I really begin to see just how many benefits of swimming there really are.
If you’re not much of a swimmer yourself, and only go to the pool with your kids once a fortnight to make sure they don’t strangle themselves with a pool noodle while you’re hanging out on the sides doing the occasional length – don’t worry.
This article should hopefully shed some light on why swimming could become your new favourite thing, especially if you want to destroy that beer belly once and for all. And when we start comparing swimming to running or cycling, that’s when it really begins to shine.
Is swimming actually good for weight loss?
Have you ever wondered why muscular people can eat whatever they want and seemingly never gain any extra baggage? It’s because of one very simple principle.
The more muscle you have on your body, the more efficient you become at converting food into energy.
This is why lifting weights is so effective for losing weight. As you build muscle, the number of calories your body burns at rest goes up, and the more you can eat. You may have heard this being referred to as your basal metabolic rate (BMR).
How does this correlate to swimming?
Well, unlike running or cycling, swimming build much more muscle than almost every conventional form of cardio. Compare a runner’s physique to a swimmer’s. What do you notice? Every single part of their body is packed with muscle.
How many calories does swimming burn?
According to research done by the American College of Sports Medicine, one hour swimming burns between 600-1000 calories depending on stroke and intensity.
Also, alongside burning many calories from swimming, you’re also going through an intense full-body workout every time you jump into the pool.
There’s no need to target your legs today, chest tomorrow, back the day after (although if you really want to accelerate fat loss with weights and swimming keep reading until the end). Instead, you can spend an hour following one of our carefully crafted workouts and build muscle on every part of your body at the same time.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, I can assure you that it really is as powerful as it sounds.
Swimming transformed my life, and I guarantee it will transform yours too.
4 amazing benefits of swimming
If you’re looking to start swimming solely for losing weight, then that’s more than enough reason to stop reading and take a trip to your local pool with your favourite speedos.
However, if you’re looking for more reasons as to why you should take a leap of faith and commit to that monthly membership, look no further. In this section I’ve broken down 5 key benefits of swimming that’ll give you that motivational kick you need to take action today.
Swimming is great for your joints
One complaint I’ve heard time and time again from avid runners is how bad their knees, shins, ankles and every other joint in their lower body is after years of hitting the road. This isn’t a coincidence.
Every time you take a step while running you’re exerting forces upwards of 3-5x your body weight on your body. This adds up to thousands of tonnes of force whenever you go for a run. Imagine the stress you’re putting your joints under by doing that?
Now, I’m not saying you should avoid running altogether. Humans were designed to run, after all. We can run further than any animal in history and it’s what allowed us to take the top spot on the food chain. However, if you have a history of arthritis or bad joints, you probably shouldn’t be running a mile every morning.
This is where swimming comes in.
When you’re suspended in water and propelling yourself forward (or backwards, I suppose), there are no sudden impacts or jolts of energy being exerted on your body.
On top of this, exercising in water has been used for hundreds of years to help with mobility and rehabilitation. If you’re struggling with flexibility and soreness swimming could be the perfect exercise for you.
Reduces heart disease and helps you live longer
When we talk about cardio, there are generally two main types you should be aware of:
- High intensity exercises like interval sprinting that bring your heart rate up close to its maximum for a short period of time.
- Steady state cardio that elevates your heart rate to a set level and keep it there for a long period of time.
Generally, high intensity if associated with accelerated fat loss and steady state promotes long-term endurance.
Swimming is so effective because it uses a perfect mix of both to help you achieve your goals.
Your heart rate will never dip below a certain speed if you’re swimming, but it’s also very difficult to take it to the levels that sprinting will achieve. As a result of this constant fluctuation, you’re making your body much more efficient at a wide range of intensity levels.
It works well as a family activity
Often times it can be difficult to find activities that everyone in your family can enjoy. Well, depending on their age, kids generally want to do whatever their mum and dad are doing if they see that it’s enjoyable, and they’re getting benefits from it.
I’ve seen this in fathers that have taken up weightlifting. Before long they see their dad as a powerful hero, and want to grow up to be big and strong too. The same thing applies to swimming.
The next time you’re looking for something to do on a quiet Sunday, suggest going to the pool. Bonus points if it has water slides and equipment for the kids to use. Again, if they’re very young this might not work too well unless you can leave them with your partner as you’ll need to leave them unsupervised while you’re running your lengths.
One option is to alternate between doing 2 lengths of the pool and spending 5 minutes playing with your kids. You could even turn it into a challenge: “Let’s see if you can do 2 widths in the shallow end before I can do two lengths. Ready? Go!”.
Now, if you’re anything like me and enjoy your alone time a few days a week then feel free to disregard this advice. But, for busy families and dads that struggle to get a workout in this a perfect option for you, and it saved my bacon more than a few times when I was worried about missing the days exercise.
That’s originally why I built Fitter Healthier Dad – to help busy dads find the time to incorporate exercise into their lives and transform their body and mind. Anyway, onto the next point!
Huge variety of workouts so you don’t get bored
Once you can incorporate exercise into your daily life for a few months, you stop thinking about how fun a workout is and ‘just do it’.
However, in the early phases of transformation monotony can make or break a habit.
Running on a treadmill for an hour gets boring after the 2nd or 3rd time you’re doing it. Especially if you’re not watching videos, or listening to a podcast (link to podcast). This is why I love swimming so much.
You can do different strokes and progress into something like butterfly for a real challenge, or you can mix things up every time you finish a length to keep things exciting. It’s obviously different when you’re running out of nature, but it’s not like you can start hopping or skipping on a treadmill to change things up.
Also, I’ve noticed it’s very easy to lose focus when you’re running. Your mind starts worrying about other things and taking control of the situation.
If you lose focus when you’re swimming you drown.
You’re living in the moment every time you lift your arms out of the water and kick your legs behind you. There’s nothing else on your mind. Lift, push, pull, breathe, kick, lift, push…
An Effective Interval Swimming Workout to Try Today
As opposed to jumping into the pool and going crazy doing lengths for hours, try out this workout from the TT40 Method .
Feel free to use whatever stroke you like, but for the best effects we recommend something more strenuous like front crawl.
Swimming Interval Workout
- Warm Up
- 100 m (in a 25-metre pool that’s 4 lengths)
- Rest 30 seconds
- Main Set
- 100 m & rest for 30 seconds
- 200 m & rest for 30 seconds
- 300 m & rest for 30 seconds
- 400 m & rest for 30 seconds
- Cool Down
- 100 m
This will elevate your heart rate, having a brief recovery and then going again but a different distance will shift your metabolism into a fat burning state, not just during the exercise but also for hours after you have finished.
If you want the exact step-by-step process I used to transform myself from an out of shape, lethargic, and low testosterone dad into a world-class ironman athlete then check out The Total Transformation program ‘TT40 Method’ and start your journey today.