If you want an exercise that burns a high number of calories, but doesn't particularly feel like a workout, you can't go wrong with swimming. Swimming is a fun, relaxing way to work off a few pounds and increase your fitness, without the boredom and monotony of treadmills, bikes and rowers. However, if you no longer have access to a swimming pool, or just fancy a change of routine, there are plenty of alternative workouts to swimming.
Calories and Goals
Thirty minutes of general swimming burns between 180 and 266 calories, depending on your weight. This rivals skiing, weight lifting and aerobics in terms of calories burned. Intense swimming and strokes such as breaststroke and front crawl burn even more, at 300 to 488 calories per half hour -- similar to rock climbing, fast cycling and running at 7.5 miles per hour. Swimming also combines muscular endurance for your whole body and aerobic fitness.
While you may think of swimming as predominantly a cardiovascular activity, it works your muscles, too. You don't put in maximal muscular effort as you would with a heavy bench press or squat, but your whole body does get a good workout. To replicate the full-body benefits of swimming, work your whole body each time you're in the gym. Total-body training has the advantage of burning more calories, too, writes trainer Cassandra Forsythe in "The New Rules of Lifting for Women." Perform large, multijoint movements such as squats, lunges, pushups and rows. You might consider performing them in circuit fashion to increase your heart rate and boost your fitness even more.
Any cardio activity with a similar calorie burn could replace swimming, but one of the main benefits of swimming is that it's more stimulating and enjoyable than pounding the roads or endless elliptical sessions. To get greater results in less time and beat the boredom, try interval training. Interval training combines short, sharp bursts of all-out, high-intensity exercise with slightly longer periods of lower intensity work. Intervals burn more calories per minute than steady state cardio, writes coach Jason Karp in "Shape" magazine. Pick any cardio activity you like, warm up for five minutes, go hard for 30 seconds, then ease your pace back for 90 seconds and repeat over the course of 20 to 30 minutes.
Two or three strength sessions, combined with 75 minutes per week of interval training split over three sessions, can give you the same results as swimming -- if not more. While the notion that high reps with light weights is better for toning is completely untrue, you might be better off with higher rep work in your strength sessions, as this will better replicate the muscular endurance you gain from swimming. Check with a trainer if you need help with any exercise techniques, and remember that you needn't give up swimming altogether. If you want to get back in the pool, complete a swimming session instead of one of your cardio workouts. You can try intervals with swimming, too.
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- The New Rules of Lifting for Women; Cassandra Forsythe
- Shape Magazine: Interval Training: Short Workouts That Really Pay Off
- ExRx: Fat Loss and Weight Training Myths
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.