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Is Swimming Effective For Weight Loss And Tone Muscles?

By Chris Chew | Recreation Sports | Rating:

Well, most people think swimming is effective to tone muscles and lose fat and that is why the swimming pools everywhere are always packed in the evenings and weekends. Well, I must first declare that I am not anti-swimming. In fact, I swim regularly. However when I researched materials for my articles, I came across some negative aspects of swimming from the scientific community.

Swimming is considered as one of the best exercises to lose weight and also to build and tone muscles. Not surprisingly so because when you swim, all your major muscles are called into action. It also has an aerobic effect, so heart and lungs get a good workout too.

However, a research published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine shows that in the absence of a controlled diet, swimming has little or no effect on weight loss.

Professor Grant Gwinup conducted an experiment with the following results

  • Test subjects following a walking program lost 17 pounds of weight during the three-month study.
  • Those following the cycling program lost 19 pounds of weight.
  • However, subjects following the swimming program actually gained 5 pounds.

Astonishing isn't it? I was surprised too when I first read the report.

Professor Gwinup then assumes that swimming in cold water stimulates the appetite to increase caloric consumption.

Professor Louise Burke, Head of Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, pointed out that competitive swimmers typically have body fat levels that are higher than those of runners or cyclists who expend a similar amount of energy when they train.

Many people feel hungry after swimming and may simply replace all the calories they've burned with a large meal after their swim.

"Some research suggests that this is due to the cool temperatures in which swimmers train. By contrast, runners and cyclists usually experience an increase in body temperature during training, which may serve to suppress appetite - at least in the short term" said Professor Burke.

Professor Burke further said that competitive swimmers are less active outside their training sessions. They are so tired from the hours spent training that they sleep, sit or otherwise avoid any real physical activity outside their sessions.

Now on building muscles, because most of the work your body does when swimming involves positive muscle actions, like pushing up a bench press, there is no negative action like lowering the weights during a bench press at all. We know that the negative move during weight training is important to build muscles and burn fat.

Doing any exercise is better than not exercising at all. So go ahead and swim so that you can have various forms of exercises to beat the boredom of doing the same things all the time. Just make sure that you don't eat more or become more sedentary after your swim.

Chris Chew

Chris Chew is an American Muscle and Fitness Institute Singapore based personal trainer. He trains models, pageant winners, actors and other celebrities to look great in their glamorous professions. Presently, he is running a local fitness school at http://www.sgfitnessonline.com and written an ebook "Burn Fat Build Muscles Fast". 

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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Matthew)
    "or otherwise avoid any real physical activity outside their sessions." So even placed back into context, it's stating that swimming is not a real physical activity.

    This is fucking stupid, the reason they actually GAINED weight, is because swimming builds an intense amount of lean muscle, deep in the core of your body, and everyone knows that muscle is heavier than fat. If you want to have a trustworthy study, check the BF before and after, not just the weight. So what if you have more #'s on the scale, you're healthing because you have more muscle and less fat.
  • Comment #2 (Posted by Anon)
    Good article points out some misconceptions with swimming exercise.
  • Comment #3 (Posted by Emma)
    ''However, subjects following the swimming program actually gained 5 pounds'' - you do realise that MUSCLE weighs more than fat right? you don't gain weight from swimming. that's ridiculous - if swimming did help muscles then the weight gain would be from muscles. it's inches you need to measure for body fat - not weight.
  • Comment #4 (Posted by David Sullivan)
    I agree entirely with these comments. In addition the intensity of your swim greatly impacts on the toning and or building of muscles.