How Many Calories Does Swimming Burn

Good news for those who dream of losing a few pounds but dread the thought of running. Regular swimming burns calories considerably. Indeed, it’s true. But how many calories does swimming burn? There is no definitive answer to exactly how many calories you can burn by swimming. It actually depends on several factors, such as;

  • Gender
  • Body composition
  • Body weight
  • Swimming stroke you do often
  • Swimming speed and duration
  • Size of the pool
  • Level of exertion

To be specific, swimming burns an average of 400 to 950 calories per hour. You will burn calories in between based on your specific body type and surroundings. This article will help you find specific answers based on the above factors.

swimming for 30 minutes calories

How Does Swimming Burn Calories?

Harvard scholars examined how many calories are burned in each type of exercise. They observe how many calories burn by individuals weighing 125 lbs, 155 lbs, and 185 lbs. Out of all, swimming comes out as the winner. Swimming is somewhat more challenging than running or cycling. Because when swimming, your body must pull against the water’s resistance.

The water is indeed denser than the air. While you pull your muscle from one end to the other end of the pool, it burns calories. Metabolism also plays an important role here. The rate at which the body burns calories for energy while swimming is known as metabolism. While swimming, the metabolism rate increases and burn more calories.

Is Swimming Good for Burning Calories?

Researchers state swimming works incredibly well for burning calories compared to other types of workouts. It is possibly the best cardiovascular workout for anyone can do of any age and body composition. As a Non-Weight Bearing activity, swimming is an excellent way to burn calories.

You can swim without stress and burn many calories regardless of your weight. What’s more? Swimming works on your entire body. It helps to build lean muscle as you are using your arm and legs. Besides, it builds a strong core and elevates your heart rate. All of this help to burn calories faster than other exercises.

How Many Calories Swimming Burn?

Scientists and scholars usually find the number of calories burned while swimming with a formula. That is;

Here, MET = Metabolic equivalent; it is the amount of energy your body utilizes while swimming.

The value of MET and how many calories a 150-pound swimmer burns based on the MET value are given in the following chart;

Swimming StyleValue of METCalories Burned
Water aerobics, water calisthenics5.5394
Backstroke, recreational4.8344
Breaststroke, recreational5.3379
Laps, freestyle, front crawl, slow, light, or moderate effort    5.8415
Leisurely, not lap swimming, general6430
Sidestroke, general7501
Crawl, medium speed, ~50 yards/minute, energetic effort     8.3594
Laps, freestyle, fast, energetic effort9.8702
Backstroke, general9.5680
Crawl, fast speed, ~75 yards/minute, energetic effort10716
Breaststroke, general10.3737
Butterfly, general13.8988

Factors That Decide How Many Calories Are Burned in Swimming

The listed numbers are just estimated values determined by scientists. In fact, the number of calories swimming burns depends on many factors. Depending on which, your body will burn calories.

Body Weight

Being overweight is a big plus for burning calories while swimming. A heavier person is likely to burn more calories than a lighter person during the same exercise. The heavier you are, the more calories you are likely to burn.

If people of different weighs do swimming leisurely, not laps for an hour, they will likely burn;

Body WeightCalories Burned
130-pound354 calories
155-pound422 calories
180-pound490 calories
205-pound558 calories

If people of different weight does recreational swimming for 30 minutes, they’ll likely burn;

Body Weight (Women)Calories Burned
125-pound180 calories
155-pound223 calories
185-pound266 calories

If you turn up the heat and swim laps vigorously for 30 minutes, you’ll burn;

Body Weight (Women)Calories Burned
125-pound300 calories
155-pound372 calories
185-pound444 calories

Swimming Strokes

When it comes to burning calories by swimming, a question comes to the pool goer’s mind. That is, which swimming stroke burns the most calories? Experts say butterfly and swimming freestyle (front crawl) lead the pack.

In fact, the butterfly is by far the most strenuous stroke and the king of calorie burning. According to,

Swimming ButterflyCalories Burned
130-pound649 calories
155-pound774 calories
180-pound899 calories
205-pound1024 calories

The butterfly stroke may burn the most calories, but freestyle swimming is the most performed stroke. However, freestyle swimming burns a considerable amount of calories as well.

Swimming FreestyleCalories BurnedCalories Burned
130-pound413 calories590 calories
155-pound493 calories704 calories
180-pound572 calories817 calories
205-pound651 calories931 calories

Breaststroke ranks 3rd in calorie burning. It burns 10% more calories than freestyle swimming.

Swimming BreaststrokeCalories Burned
130-pound596 calories
155-pound711 calories
180-pound825 calories
205-pound940 calories

How to Boost Calorie Burning in the Water?

All right, swimming to burn calories is now in your wheelhouse. But, is it possible to burn more calories enjoying swimming? Indeed, it is. Following the tips mentioned below, you can burn maximum calories.

  • As a beginner, start swimming for half an hour without a break but aim for an hour.
  • Strive for High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Interval training is proven to burn calories like crazy.

So, split up long, slower swims with many high-speed efforts. If you keep doing long sessions, you’ll tend to lose motivation.

  • Mix up swimming strokes to get the maximum outcome and reduce fatigue. Here is an example;
    • Start with four length freestyle to warm up yourself. Then, perform four-length breaststroke and 4-6 lengths of freestyle at high speed.
    • If you are tired or feel out of breath, change your stroke to breaststroke or backstroke. You can also try the kicker board. After you get your breath back, perform freestyle again.
  • Record your progress and try to break your own records every week.

Wrapping Up

No matter how many calories you burn swimming, what matters is whether you are having fun! The more you enjoy in the water, the more effort you can put into burning calories. Besides, consistency is another key to getting good results.

If you decide to start swimming to burn calories, it is wise to start slow. Start with a stroke that you enjoy doing. Make sure you eat the right food enough to get energy for your next swimming session.

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