It's tough to beat taking a leisurely swim on a sunny, summer day. But whether you enjoy swimming in the backyard pool or take a dip every now and again at your neighborhood athletic center, swimming is an effective way to burn calories. You won't burn as many calories swimming leisurely as you will powering your way through the water vigorously, but even at a relaxed pace, a single swim can help you burn a few hundred calories.
Swimming Calories Burned
The more you weigh, the more calories you can expect to burn during your leisurely swim. According to Harvard Medical School, a 125-pound person will burn 180 calories in 30 minutes of leisure swimming. People who weigh 155 or 185 pounds will burn 223 or 266 calories, respectively, during a half-hour swim.
Being able to burn 180, 223 or 266 calories, depending on your weight, during a 30-minute leisure swim puts the activity on par with a number of other types of exercise. Expect to burn the same number of calories during 30 minutes of fast dancing, fencing, cross-country hiking, water skiing and wrestling. In the gym, you'll burn calories at the same rate as leisure swimming when you use the stair climber machine and lift weights at a vigorous pace.
Other Swimming Workouts
Although leisure swimming isn't without its charms, you'll dramatically increase the calories you burn if you increase the intensity of the activity. The two most vigorous strokes you can perform are the butterfly and front crawl; each will burn 409 calories in 30 minutes for a 155-pound person. The same person will burn 372 calories in 30 minutes of swimming the breaststroke and 298 calories in 30 minutes of the backstroke.
Other Water Activities
If you've finished your leisure swim but aren't quite ready to climb out of the pool, a number of other water-based activities can burn calories. Treading water will help you burn 372 calories in 30 minutes if you weigh 155 pounds, while a 30-minute water aerobics session will burn 149 calories. If you're the sporty type, consider water volleyball or water polo. In 30 minutes of either activity, a 155-pound person will burn 112 or 372 calories, respectively.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.