Can swimming help you lose weight?

Fitness & Wellness
Written by: Manuele Trezzi at 4 January '17 0
You are reading: Can swimming help you lose weight?

Let’s find out if and how swimming can help you lose weight.

Today we will be looking at a subject that lots of people are interested in. But take note, I am certainly not suggesting that my readers have weight problems! Quite simply a “non-competitive” swimmer, who goes to the pool once/twice/three  times-a-week probably does so for various different reasons and one of these is almost certainly to lose a couple of extra pounds or, in any case, to keep in shape.

You will most certainly have heard it said that: “If you want to lose weight, then get running!”. That is most definitely true! Running certainly does help keep you slim. Nevertheless, somebody overweight who starts running is likely to find themselves in trouble very quickly. The excess weight combined with the wrong running technique very quickly causes pains and injuries to joints and tendons.

On the other hand, there is no danger of having these problems in the pool, due to the almost complete lack of gravity. Of course good swimming technique is also required; if you want to lose weight swimming you will have to make an effort, but swimming the wrong way is all wasted effort.

But let’s take a step back and look at what losing weight really means. Imagine you have two different people in front of you, Mark and Luke. They are both 30 years old, 1.80 m tall and weigh 80 kg. But Mark has a muscular, athletic physique while Luke has an ordinary physique and a little bit of a belly. Which of the two is the thinner? Obviously the right answer is Mark! The reason why I asked you this simple question was to make you realise that it is not only your weight on the scales that counts, your body shape is also extremely important.  We are made up of fat mass and lean mass (muscle). Muscle takes up less space than the same weight in fat, because it is denser. A muscular person who weighs 80 kg is less “bulky” then a person who weighs 80 kg but has more fat mass.

So losing weight also and, above all,  means reducing your percentage of fat mass and increasing your lean mass. This principle applies to swimming in particular: it has a simultaneous double effect on your fat mass and lean mass. So you lose fat while putting on a bit of muscle.

So can swimming help you lose weight? Yes, of course it can! You just need to go about it the right way. For example, if you think that swimming up and down the pool slowly for an hour will be beneficial, you are wrong.

After warming up properly, here are two training sessions you can try:

  • Aerobic intervals over 100/200m with 10”/20” rest between intervals for a total of between 20’- 40’ swimming.
  • Intervals over 300/400m alternating fast sections (not too fast)and aerobic sections (not too slow), e.g. 50m+50m with 30” rest between intervals for a total of 15’- 30’ swimming.

Obviously these two different types of training session have different effects, but this time we have focused on losing weight.

Last but not least, remember: if you want to lose weight by swimming, you will also have to make some adjustments  to your eating habits.


Written by:

Manuele Trezzi

A top-class swimmer who still competes, he has taken part in and reached the finals of Italian championships, as well as winning lots of regional titles. A FIN swimming instructor and trainer, FIT fitness trainer for tennis, and a graduate in the Motor Sciences from Milan State University, he has been working all these fields since the beginning of 2013.