Is Swimming a Good Workout? Your Questions Answered!

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No Way, Swimming isn't a good workout at all, Nope doesn't burn fat...

Frugal Fitness, me and my friend are having an argument about swimming. She thinks that swimming is a waste of time and will not help you lose weight or build muscle. I tend to disagree. What is your standpoint on this?

Frugal Fitness Answer:

Great question, your friend is absolutely wrong to say that swimming is a waste of time and doesn't build any muscle or burn bodyfat. Swimming is a total body workout that works pretty much every muscle group in the body and therefore burns a large amount of calories (the more/larger muscles involved in a movement, the more calories required to perform it). It works every joint range of motion and plane of movement so you may be less likely to neglect certain muscle groups or joint ROM. Swimming can be done in bursts of high intensity intervals or long bouts of low-moderate intensity lap swimming, both options will emphasize different muscle fiber types and energy systems in the body. Like jogging and doing sprints afterwards, you can include both types in your workout.

One of the greatest benefits of swimming is that nearly everyone can enjoy the benefits because it is very low impact on the joints. Therefore, it is a great option for those with arthritis, tendonitis, limited range of motion, post-surgery / injury rehabilitation, or those with other physical limitations. Swimming can strengthen your muscles without adding bulk and increase your metabolism and lung capacity significantly. There are many different strokes you can perform so you can emphasize certain muscle groups as you desire and keep your body from adapting by mixing things up. This will help prevent hitting plateaus in your progress when it comes to fat loss and performance.

There are a plethora of other benefits that swimming can provide for you but there are almost too many to mention in one blog post. Also on a related topic, water aerobics and treading water are both excellent options as well for burning fat so feel free to add those in to your swimming workouts for extra variety.

That being said, swimming doesn't necessarily cover all your bases when it comes to achieving all of your health, fitness, physique, and athletic goals. While swimming can provide excellent resistance for your muscles and connective tissue, it is not a weight-bearing activity and will not cause nearly as much adaptive increases in bone density compared to weight training, elliptical, stairmaster, or even walking. This is very important to keep in mind if you are at risk for osteoporosis or osteopenia. Water aerobics provide assisted/partial weight-bearing activity since the buoyancy of the water  Swimming may provide light to moderate resistance for your muscles to work against but for many athletes and weightlifters / bodybuilders, it will not be enough to mimic their specific event or create the desired muscle hypertrophy (mass increase). To achieve a completely well-rounded and effective workout regimen, I would recommend complimenting your swimming workouts with traditional weight-bearing cardiovascular bouts, weight training, and core exercises.

So overall, swimming is an excellent workout when combined with other forms of cardiovascular and resistance training throughout the week. It is great for those looking to get back into fitness, minimize joint strain, rehabilitate an injury, work multiple muscle groups, or just do it to relieve stress in a positive manner. If you aren't hitting the pool this summer (or at your local health club in the winter), then start now!

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