Swimming Vs. Running for Exercise

Swimming provides less impact, but running burns more calories.

Swimming provides less impact, but running burns more calories.

When weighing the available options for a new exercise to follow, it's important to consider the fitness benefits and ease of each. Doing pushups all day will get results, but it isn't exactly fun. Swimming and running, however, both offer total-body exercise and can also be the source of enjoyment after a long day of being stuck in the office. If you've narrowed your new exercise down to these two choices, comparing them will help you choose which one you'll try.

Consider the convenience of swimming versus running when making your decision. Although it sounds simple, you can lean toward one exercise based on its availability, your location and the type of schedule you have. If you live in an apartment or condo with a swimming pool on the premises, taking up swimming makes sense. If your home backs onto several miles of running trails, lace up your shoes and give running a try.

Understand the physical benefits of each sport and consider the areas of your body you want to tone up. Each sport provides exercise that works the entire body, which is more than you can say about some workouts. Swimming provides significant resistance for your arms and legs, which makes them pump harder. If you suffer from arthritis, swimming in a heated pool can reduce the pain in your joints. Running strengthens your core muscles and tightens your buns, which might be appealing to you.

Weigh the caloric benefits of each sport to help you understand which activity burns more calories in a given length of time. According to NutriStrategy, a 130-pound person will burn approximately 472 calories in an hour of slow running, but if you can increase your speed to 8 miles per hour, you'll burn nearly 800 calories in the hour. Leisurely swimming for a 130-pound person will burn 354 calories an hour, while fast, freestyle laps will burn nearly 600 calories.

Evaluate your body to see if you have any joint problems that could factor into your decision. Although swimming doesn't burn quite as many calories as running, its chief benefit is that it's devoid of impact. Running, on the other hand, creates impacts in your ankles, knees and hips with each step. If you suffer from sore joints, swimming is a better choice than running.


  • If you suffer from any serious health problems, consult your family doctor before adopting a new exercise regime.

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About the Author

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.

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