The next time you flip through channels and see a swim meet being televised; fix your eyeball on the participants. Do you see a common characteristic? I sure do. They are all fit and trim. They may not have bulging, rippling muscles, but they are definitely in good shape and lean. Just look at Michael Phelps. He’s about as lean as you get, and it’s been rumored that he puts down over 8,000 calories a day during training!

That brings is to the question of is swimming good for weight loss? The short answer is yes, but the explanation is a little more detailed.

When you hop into a body of water and start swimming—be it a pool, lake, pond, creek or ocean—a series of events takes place that all bode well for weight loss. The first and foremost is the motion involved with swimming.

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You simultaneously move your arms and legs in any number of motions. Perhaps the most notable is freestyle. This causes a heavy work output from the body. With multiple limbs flapping to keep you afloat, you end up burning a high amount of calories. The specific amount will vary, depending on your size, but it’s not out of the question to burn 300 or more in a mere 30 minutes.

Of course, you still need to take certain variables into consideration. For instance, if you swim until your arms go numb and then suck down 5,000 calories worth of fast food at the local burger joint right after, you won’t be losing much weight. You’ll end up canceling out your progress and probably gaining even more weight than you started with.

The key component is you need to create a caloric deficiency, where your body burns more calories than it consumes—burn 500 calories a day through swimming and you will lose 1 lb. of weight a week.

Another contribution you get from swimming is the muscle you gain from it. A lot of self-proclaimed experts might try to tell you otherwise, but it’s really common sense. Muscle is metabolically active tissue.

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The more you gain the more calories you will burn at rest. Sure, swimming isn’t going to make you big and bulky, but you are fighting resistance while in the water. Whenever you push against resistance of any kind, you build muscle. Any added muscle that you pack on will boost your metabolism and contribute further to weight loss. Albeit it’s a small amount, but every bit helps.

Now let’s reopen the topic of intensity. I’m sure at this stage in the game you’ve heard of this “thing” called interval training. In simple terms, you alternate your intensity back and forth from easy to hard during your workout session. This type of training burns more calories than going slow and steady, and more importantly, it also boosts your metabolism. By doing intervals with swimming, you will promote faster weight loss.

The last thing I need to address is frequency. You don’t really expect to lose weight by swimming once a week do you? I’m afraid that’s just not going to get it done my friend. Regardless if it is swimming, running, biking, climbing, jousting or swinging from tree branches, no exercise will be effective if you do not do it often enough.

To get realistic results, you don’t necessarily have to swim every day, but definitely get in the water on most days of the week.

The bottom line is, swimming is a great non-impact form of exercise that can promote weight loss and improve cardiovascular function in one fell swoop. Just be prepared to make sacrifices with your diet and work out on a regular basis for an extended period of time.

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