What Burns More Calories, Swimming or Weight Lifting?

Torch hundreds of calories by swimming laps.
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Not all gym routines are created equal. Even though swimming and weight lifting both burn more calories than inactivity, they don’t do so evenly. Swimming is a cardiovascular sport that gets your heart rate elevated for an extended period. Unfortunately, weight lifting doesn’t get your heart pumping quite as fast. But this doesn’t mean you should put down those weights -- strength training still comes with a host of benefits.

Swimming Basics

    Pulling on a cap and goggles and sliding into a pool is a killer workout that not only torches hundreds of calories but also helps you tone from head to toe. With each stroke, all of your major muscles engage to propel you forward. This builds muscular endurance. Because water creates more resistance than air, swimming also strengths and tones your muscles. A 155-pound woman can burn 446 calories per hour swimming laps at a moderate pace. If that’s pushed to vigorous, calories burned jumps up to 744 per hour.

Weight-Lifting Basics

    When you routinely lift weights, you build lean muscle mass, reduce body fat and burn calories. Compared to swimming, weight lifting doesn’t raise your heart rate as much. This means you won’t burn as many calories. Yet this doesn’t mean you should skip the dumbbells. Strength training helps you develop strong bones, boosts stamina and reduces your risk of injury. The added muscle mass also increases your basal metabolic rate, meaning you’ll burn more calories throughout the day. While a 155-pound woman burns only 224 calories per hour lifting weights, she can increase her overall basic metabolic rate by 15 percent by adding strength training to her routine.

Combining the Two

    If you are looking to lose weight, do your swim and weight lifting on the same day. A combination workout is more effective for weight loss, according to “BMC Public Health” in 2012. Researchers separated participants into four groups: aerobic exercise, strength training, combined exercise and a control. At the end of 12 weeks, those who combined aerobics with strength training lost more fat and weight and improved their overall fitness more than the other groups. Go for a 20-minute swim followed by a 10-minute lifting session, five days a week, to maximize benefits.


    If you are concerned about caloric burn because you want to lose weight, know that you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. Eating fewer calories than your body burns, increasing your physical activity or a combination of the two can all help you achieve this deficit. This gives swimming and weight lifting both a place in your weight loss strategy.

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