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Swimming is the Worst Exercise for Fat Loss

By on March 18, 2008

Question: I’m extremely overweight and out of shape. To get back in shape, I have been swimming daily for cardio for about 6 months. I’m feeling better, but not getting much of a result. I’d like to get back into weight training…. how would you recommend I start off? It’s been so long since I did a regular routine with weights…


Answer: Swimming is the worse exercise for fat loss. When you swim breastroke or backstroke, you’re burning about the same number of calories as a fast walk or a slow jog. However, for some reason, swimming appears to be less effective than other forms of exercise at promoting weight loss.

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 fat loss.

Most swimmers notoriously have higher body fat and to combat this are given on land exercise to help take fat off such as running or cycling. But most importantly they’re give a resistance training program. In order to take fat off you need to boost your metabolism and resistance training especially one that promotes eccentric work (letting the weight down slowly) will help to build muscle and reduce fat.

So, what does all of this have to do with swimming? Most of the work your body does in the water involves concentric muscle actions. There’s virtually no eccentric work there at all. Because of this, I’m guessing that swimming has only a minor impact on your metabolic rate after exercise.

Any form of exercise, be it swimming, walking or weight-training, is good if the alternative is doing nothing. A mixture of some form of resistance exercise and cardiovascular exercise is better, while combining interval exercise and resistance – in my opinion at least – is the best way to get in shape.