Deciding to swim rather than jog in an effort to stay cool makes perfect sense. I also focus more on swimming during the summer. Here in California, scorching temperatures, even in the early evening, make running less than comfortable. Swimming and running are both excellent ways to boost your fitness and burn calories. And when it comes to building muscle strength, swimming has the edge. Here’s how the two forms of exercise compare, but the bottom line is that both contribute to fat loss.
Since you support your own body weight and move it against gravity, running burns more calories per minute than swimming. A 150-pound person burns approximately 340 calories jogging 30 minutes at a pace of 10 minutes per mile, and about 460 calories in 30 minutes running at the faster pace of seven and a half minutes per mile.
In comparison, swimming laps continuously at a moderate pace burns about 270 calories in 30 minutes, and stepping up the pace burns approximately 340 calories for the half hour. So if you are looking to spend the same number of calories swimming compared to your regular jogging session, you will have to stay in the pool a bit longer than your typical running session.
While you swim or run, your muscles are burning fat, besides carbohydrates, as fuel. And the more fit you get, the better your muscles become as fat-burning machines. But whether you lose body fat depends upon your calorie balance. If you burn 300 calories swimming or jogging, to lose that amount as body fat, you must keep that calorie deficit by not replacing those spent calories with food.
And here’s where swimming may differ from running. Some studies have shown that running blunts your appetite immediately following exercise. Researchers theorize that running increases body temperature a bit and this may reduce your appetite for an hour so. This may mean you’re inclined to eat less soon after a running workout. But following a swim, this appetite-suppressing effect is minimal, most likely because the water is keeping your body cool. This doesn’t mean that swimming makes you eat more or makes you prone to gaining weight, but it may indicate you should be aware of your hunger feelings after working out and monitor how much you eat.
When it comes to building cardiovascular fitness and improving your health, both running and swimming work wonders. Boosting your fitness level requires you work out with your heart rate between 60 percent to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate (220 minus your age, i.e.: 220 – 40 = 180 beats per minute.) When determining your target heart rate range for swimming, use 205 minus your age since your maximal heart rate in the pool is about 15 beats lower than when your body is upright, running and out of the cooling effects of water.
During your runs and swims, take your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply it by 6 to get your minute rate. Gauge your intensity accordingly. The tendency with swimming is to “cruise” and perhaps not work out as hard or intensely as you would with running. So an occasional pulse check will keep you on track in the pool. Or better yet, join a swim group that puts on organized pool workouts that will keep you on pace.
Unlike running, swimming builds upper body strength. A few weeks of regular swim workouts and you’ll notice the difference — improved arm, shoulder and back strength. Depending upon the type of swim workouts you are doing (varied strokes and sprinting), you can make gains in strength comparable to modest weight training. Many runners who don’t do other forms of exercise that use the upper body (weight training, calisthenics) are often weak in this area. So your decision to complement your running with swimming is an excellent choice.