Is Swimming Good for Losing Fat?

Swimming can help you loose weight because swimming is a great cardio exercise that is gentle on your joints.

To make it short - yes, swimming can help you with your weight loss goals. Swimming is a total body and cardio workout that can be a great calorie burner.

How many calories can swimming burn?

When done right, swimming can be recommended to those seeking to work on their weight or fight obesity. Swimming at a slow but steady pace will burn almost twice as many calories as walking and almost the same amount as jogging or running. Main benefits of choosing swimming over running for body fat loss is that:

  • Swimming doesn't stress your joints.
  • Swimming is still easy to do when you are obese, due to the fact that gravity doesn't affect you in water.

But before you pick swimming as your main sport to fight obesity or simple belly fat, let's learn of how swimming workout for weight loss should look in the first place.

How long you have to swim to lose weight?

Getting to the point where you can swim on a constant pace for at least 30 minutes, would be the first goal. Increasing your swim practice to roughly an hour of steady pace would be second. From 30-60 minute practice goals should not be simply swimming longer, but swimming a higher, yet steady pace for as long as you can.

Learning how to do a proper water exercise for so long will require you to really learn a clean swimming technique, so we recommend getting some swimming lessons even if you are an adult. It's not that hard to learn swimming but it's really important to learn to swim right.

Cardio Swimming for Weight Loss

After you reach your goal of 30+ minutes of steady pace swimming, you will need to get to a point where you do a 15-20 minutes set that maintains your hearth rate in fat burning pace. When your hearth rate is around 70-85% of your maximum hearth rate, your body will tap into your fat storage for energy and will stop using basic sugars and carbohydrates. In other words, when you keep your swimming and hearth activity at 70-85% you will get in the zone where you will start loosing weight.

This means that if you use swimming as your weight loss sport (or any other sport for that matter), you should spend ~20-25% of your practice warming up. Then 50% of the practice time should be in target hearth rate that is above 70% of your maximum hearth rate. Last 25% of your practice should be used to warm down, so that your hearth rate drops gradually.

What is fat-burning hearth rate for swimming?

Average human will have a steady heart rate of 60-100 times per minute in their natural state. But at what rate we start loosing fat? Here's some estimates of what heart rate should set you up in a body fat burning zone, but keep in mind that these are just estimates and they can be affected by many factors like obesity, medication, blood pressure and many other personal health traits.

Swimming heart rates for fat burning according to your age:

  • 18-40 years - 120/140 bpm
  • 40-60 years - 110/120 bpm
  • 60+ years - 100/110 bpm

Can you burn belly fat with swimming?

Absolutely yes. Keep in mind that there are better sports that will do it faster, but those sports will not make you feel as great as swimming does. Some of those sports can also be more dangerous than swimming, because they will be harder on your joints due to gravity. Here's a tiny, personal retired athlete rant coming your way if the only thing you seek is simply burning that stubborn belly fat...

Swimming is one of the main sports that require you to keep a steady cardio-respiratory pace for the longest time. Swimming is one of the best Aerobic exercises out there. These sports are: swimming, running, biking and and all sports that keep your heart rate up for a long time.

If you need to burn fat, doesn't matter if it's belly fat (abdominal fat), subcutaneous fat, visceral fat, doesn't matter where that fat is: on your arms, legs, belly or chin... You will need to be in Aerobic Cardio Exercise mode for at least half an hour, at least 3 times a week. Period.

Aerobic Swimming for Fat Loss

You can't weasel your way out of this. You will need an aerobic workout. In order to loose excess fat, you will need to increase your heartrate and you will need to keep that heart rate up for as long as you can. And you will need to do it constantly, best done every day, but multiple times a week can also work. Oh and you will also need to change your diet, because it is possible to out eat any type of exercise and not to loose weight even though you are sweating hard.

Good diet first, then loads of aerobic exercise. That's the only way to loose weight. Period. Choose swimming cardio if you like swimming, because you will need to spend hours every week doing the same thing over and over again. Doesn't matter if it's swimming laps, running on the mill or cycling for hours. You will need to be in that fat burning aerobic exercise zone and you will need to stay there for at least 10-30 minutes at a time.

Swim and Diet for Weight Loss

Look, it's simple math that anyone can understand. If you want to loose weight, you will need to burn more calories than you gain. In other words, if you want to loose fat, you will need to increase your exercise and you will need to eat less. You can't do one, without the other.

I know your brain now tries to still lie and think: "Yes, but (everything after but is always a lie :D) I still want to keep eating ice-cream and cookies...". The answer is, well in theory you can... but I doubt you will like the sacrifice you have to make if you want to keep eating as much as you want.

Personal story time... When I was 14-18 years old, I was swimming 10+ times a week, with an average practice in the water being roughly 2-3 hours. Besides spending almost 30 hours in the water every week, I also spent 10+ hours in gym and doing other types of dryland exercises.

During a casual swim practice I would spend 2 times 20+ minutes in the extreme heartrate zone which would be 200+ beats per minute. We called it 200+ maximum heart rate zone, because you usually loose count after 36 beats per 10 seconds as it's just too fast to count. Try to guess what I would eat when I am not training?

What it takes to eat whatever you want when swimming?

I would eat at least 5000+ calories a day of whatever I wanted. Well I still chose healthy organic food and nothing processed and drank only water and tea. But the sheer amount of food was insane. I would have 2-3 lunches at school. I would eat two dinners. People who met me, thought I am only eating all the time. Which meant I mostly trained, ate and slept... and read books.

Needless to say I was skinny, had great muscle mass and nobody could tell I ate so much. But at wat cost?

If you can afford this kind of life and have such time recourses to spend training at the highest professional athlete level, most likely you will be able to easily eat whatever you want. I am an adult now and I know I no longer have such luxury time, so my weight strictly depends on how little and how healthy I eat. Sport helps, but food comes first when trying to maintain a steady weight.

Retired backstroker with a small beer belly, SEO expert and content manager at

Best swimming blog for...
Related swimming topics:

Related Articles

All Swim FAQ Articles