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does swimming really burn that many calories?


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when i looked up how many calories are burned in an hour of swimming it was close to 500! even for leisurely, non-lap-swimming. is this for real? i really don't feel like i'm burning that many. i burn 200 calories running and i feel like i'm going to die...but i swim for 90 minutes and burn 700 and feel perfectly fine and not sore or tired at all. even when i lap swim for an hour i don't really feel tired afterwards. i just can't believe that i'm really doing any kind of effective exercise!

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Just moving in water is MUCH more restance than on land so you have to work MUCH harder on land to get the same burn.  I don't know the exact number but what CC.com has sounds right.

According to the Health Fitness Instructor Handbook, one of the reference manuals for the American College of Sports Medicine, the amount of calories burned during swimming depends "on the velocity of movement and the stroke being used, but it is also influenced by the skill of the swimmer. A skilled swimmer requires less energy to move through the water, so that person has to swim a greater distance than an unskilled person to achieve the same caloric expenditure."

The handbook says that for poor swimmers "the energy cost of simply treading water can be as high as 7.5 calories per kilogram of body weight per minute. Elite swimmers use this same number of calories per minute to swim at 36 miles per minute whereas an unskilled swimmer might require twice that energy expenditure to maintain the same velocity."

On the surface, it would seem to be more advantageous to have mediocre swimming skills to burn more calories but it backfires on you because you tire faster than you can rack up calories. In other words, you burn more calories when you are a novice swimmer but you cannot swim very long or very fast. The more skilled you become, the less calories you burn but you still burn more calories in the long run because you can swim longer and faster before you become fatigued.

If you are wondering why women burn less than men, the Fitness Leader's Handbook, another reference manual, says that because of women's "greater buoyancy associated with higher body fatness, women expend fewer calories per mile than men, independent of skill level". People with more fat have an easier time staying afloat. That in turn means fewer calories are burned. This is good news if you are a competitive swimmer so you can reserve your calories to fuel your speed and distance.

If you want even more of a caloric burn and a greater challenge to the upper body, try deep-water running. You will need a waist flotation device to keep you suspended in neck deep water. You will build more upper and lower body muscular endurance than land based running because the resistance of the water is all around you and I have a feeling from what you said about land running, you will enjoy deep-water running more!  :)

I {heart} fitnessgirl.  She's  got some good stuff!  Water is 800 times more dense than air.  Plus, you are pretty much using every muscle in your body when you swim.  I also believe that your body makes some adjustments to keep its core temperature up when in the pool.  Not much more useful info to add to FG, but thought I would throw that out there.

#4  
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thank you all of you, i am a lot less skeptical now! i'm also looking into deep-water running, so thank you for that tip. seriously, why does anyone do anything but swim? this is like my exercise calling.

I just started swimming yesterday.  I am a hiker and though I truly enjoy hiking I wanted a workout for my whole body.

I took a water aerobic class.  Afterwards I still felt energetic and swam laps for 10 mins and ran for 5 mins. 

The place I go to has this river area they built with a current and I ran against the current. 

I too am hooked on water exercising!

I totally agree with the last 2 posts, why why do anything but swimming.  I so love it, it has reshaped my entire body without hurting my knees or anything else, it also has greatly improved my cardio capabilities.

I swim 3-4 days a week at least 1500m or a mile every time.  I switch it up with drills for kicking and strokes as well as changing stroke to work my back and abs more.

I used to run and go to the gym to lift, circuit train and abs 4d a week, now all I do is swimSmile

BTW:  I have lost 37lbs in 3 months too!!!

I'm with everyone else............why do anything but swim? I used to swim a lot when I was younger, I dont even know why I got away from it other than access to a pool. I just started swimming again a few days ago, since I have a pool right down the street. I LOVE IT.........why did I ever stop........I get tired, but it is a good tired, my arms hurt....(breast stroke.............sheesh I'm out of shape!) but even so..........it seems almost effortless for me...........even when I know I am working my but off.........it is amazing how much more effort you are willing to put into a thing when you love it! I'm with you Qualquun, I have found my exercise........it works every muscle in my body, burns more and I feel good when I get out of the pool..........outside swimmers hair there is no down side!! Go swimmers!!!

Original Post by fitnessgirll:

The handbook says that for poor swimmers "the energy cost of simply treading water can be as high as 7.5 calories per kilogram of body weight per minute. Elite swimmers use this same number of calories per minute to swim at 36 miles per minute whereas an unskilled swimmer might require twice that energy expenditure to maintain the same velocity." 

Novice or skilled, that's some pretty sick speed, haha

Swimming is fantastic exercise...for cardio, calorie burn, toning...swimming does it all. I swil for 1 mile on 6 days each week and have one rest day...it keeps me really fit but apart from the body benefits it really helps me mentally. Its a great start to the day, wakes me up and gets my concentration levels up before I hit the desk for the daily grind !

I'm a competitive swimmer, been swimming since I was 4.  I swim at least an hour a day (typically 3000+ meters).  It really is great, as it build muscle and burns calories!

#11  
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The handbook says that for poor swimmers "the energy cost of simply treading water can be as high as 7.5 calories per kilogram of body weight per minute. Elite swimmers use this same number of calories per minute to swim at 36 miles per minute whereas an unskilled swimmer might require twice that energy expenditure to maintain the same velocity."

Someone's math is incorrect.  That means a 165 pound (73 kilo) person would burn up to 550 caloires per minute

I think the correct formula is in terms of hours...

Too bad that's incorrect, you could lose 9 lbs an hour in the pool.

66 laps to start the day? How do you even move throughout the rest of the day? How are your legs and arms not falling from your body? How long did it take you to work up to that and do you always use the same stroke or do you do so many laps using each stroke?

Original Post by ukpmel:

The handbook says that for poor swimmers "the energy cost of simply treading water can be as high as 7.5 calories per kilogram of body weight per minute. Elite swimmers use this same number of calories per minute to swim at 36 miles per minute whereas an unskilled swimmer might require twice that energy expenditure to maintain the same velocity."

Someone's math is incorrect.  That means a 165 pound (73 kilo) person would burn up to 550 caloires per minute

I think the correct formula is in terms of hours...

Too bad that's incorrect, you could lose 9 lbs an hour in the pool.

Lol. Did you notice that the swimmers were swimming 36 miles per minute!?

Original Post by fitnessgirll:

According to the Health Fitness Instructor Handbook, one of the reference manuals for the American College of Sports Medicine, the amount of calories burned during swimming depends "on the velocity of movement and the stroke being used, but it is also influenced by the skill of the swimmer. A skilled swimmer requires less energy to move through the water, so that person has to swim a greater distance than an unskilled person to achieve the same caloric expenditure."

The handbook says that for poor swimmers "the energy cost of simply treading water can be as high as 7.5 calories per kilogram of body weight per minute. Elite swimmers use this same number of calories per minute to swim at 36 miles per minute whereas an unskilled swimmer might require twice that energy expenditure to maintain the same velocity."

On the surface, it would seem to be more advantageous to have mediocre swimming skills to burn more calories but it backfires on you because you tire faster than you can rack up calories. In other words, you burn more calories when you are a novice swimmer but you cannot swim very long or very fast. The more skilled you become, the less calories you burn but you still burn more calories in the long run because you can swim longer and faster before you become fatigued.

If you are wondering why women burn less than men, the Fitness Leader's Handbook, another reference manual, says that because of women's "greater buoyancy associated with higher body fatness, women expend fewer calories per mile than men, independent of skill level". People with more fat have an easier time staying afloat. That in turn means fewer calories are burned. This is good news if you are a competitive swimmer so you can reserve your calories to fuel your speed and distance.

If you want even more of a caloric burn and a greater challenge to the upper body, try deep-water running. You will need a waist flotation device to keep you suspended in neck deep water. You will build more upper and lower body muscular endurance than land based running because the resistance of the water is all around you and I have a feeling from what you said about land running, you will enjoy deep-water running more!  :)

Glad to see quotes from ACSM, instead of some goofy internet article. Your description, while focused on swimming, is equally germane to the notion of "muscle confusion" as recommended by many self-appointed "experts". I believe it was popularized by the P90X commercials, but unfortunately it is being repeated by a lot of people who should know better. 

Even in cases where "inefficiency" might result in a higher caloric burn at a certain level of intensity, it is a self-limiting phenomenon and it is more than offset by what you describe above: a) the less efficient person cannot work out as long (by a significant amount); b) the more efficient person can achieve MUCH higher intensity levels (and sustain them for longer) and c) the inefficiency often prevents the inexperienced person from achieving a significant level of intensity at all.

Vary your training intensity? Absolutely YES.

"Muscle confusion"? Absolutely NO.  

Original Post by oldguysrule:

Original Post by ukpmel:

The handbook says that for poor swimmers "the energy cost of simply treading water can be as high as 7.5 calories per kilogram of body weight per minute. Elite swimmers use this same number of calories per minute to swim at 36 miles per minute whereas an unskilled swimmer might require twice that energy expenditure to maintain the same velocity."

Someone's math is incorrect.  That means a 165 pound (73 kilo) person would burn up to 550 caloires per minute

I think the correct formula is in terms of hours...

Too bad that's incorrect, you could lose 9 lbs an hour in the pool.

Lol. Did you notice that the swimmers were swimming 36 miles per minute!?

That's how fast I swim. Cool

Original Post by ambereva:

Original Post by oldguysrule:

Original Post by ukpmel:

The handbook says that for poor swimmers "the energy cost of simply treading water can be as high as 7.5 calories per kilogram of body weight per minute. Elite swimmers use this same number of calories per minute to swim at 36 miles per minute whereas an unskilled swimmer might require twice that energy expenditure to maintain the same velocity."

Someone's math is incorrect.  That means a 165 pound (73 kilo) person would burn up to 550 caloires per minute

I think the correct formula is in terms of hours...

Too bad that's incorrect, you could lose 9 lbs an hour in the pool.

Lol. Did you notice that the swimmers were swimming 36 miles per minute!?

That's how fast I swim.

sounds fishy to me.

Hi! I am a competitive swimmer, and very rarely do I swim a mile without stopping. The key is to do sets of shorter distances, repeat them, do different strokes and speeds, etc, much like weight training or any other sports practice. Between swimming, take moments to breathe, from 20-45 seconds depending on your skill level. Otherwise, yes, our arms would possibly fall off ;)

I iz eat brains now?

I have been swimming 3 miles per swim session (1.5 hrs) between 4 and 6 times per week for 9 months and can attest that No, your arms will not fall off.  I swim my 3 miles non-stop and find it the most relaxing, meditative exercise ever!  Challenge yourself to increase your non-stop lap swim sessions and you to can get there.  I went from swimming one mile sessions to 3 miles in January of 2011 (first going for a 30 min non-stop swim, then 45 minutes, then made the jump to 3 hrs) and by May was swimming the 3 miles non-stop.   I get out of the water ready to take on my day and have so much energy and the endorphins are a wonderful bonus!

Keep on swimming...but not in my lane!

 FYI, I was never a competetive swimmer but love the sport nonetheless.

I wish I could swim more. I just dont get the opportunity. When I went swimming regularly I worked up to about 60 laps an hour within a month or so. I loved it, was so effortless and made me feel energized. Kinda transferred to other exercises now but maybe I'll get to go back to swimming soon. 

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