Swimming, tradition has it, is not a good way to lose weight – an enduring piece of misinformation that admittedly isn’t dispelled by newspaper photos of Hindenburg-size marathon swimmers stumbling from some frigid ocean.
True, when you swim, your body is supported by water, and because you aren’t forced to fight gravity, there can be less calorie burn. It is also true that some marathon swimmers won’t be modeling underwear anytime soon (actually, it behooves marathon swimmers to carry some fat as valuable insulation against frigid water). And it’s true that a 150-pound man swimming at a leisurely pace burns roughly 6 calories a minute. He could burn nearly twice the calories running at a pedestrian 12-minute-mile pace.
But before you turn your back on the pool, consider this. That same 150-pounder can double his calorie burn by swimming faster. Swimming butterfly (the most difficult of swimming’s four strokes) burns roughly 14 calories a minute – a better caloric burn than tennis, squash, or football (soccer). What we’re talking about here is intensity, and that explains why Olympic swimmers (unlike marathon swimmers) have the sort of body that gets the role of Tarzan.
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