Burn calories with swimming: the most important questions and answers

Mit Schwimmen Kalorien verbennen: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

Many people like to go to the outdoor pool on hot summer days to cool off. Swimming is also a suitable sport to keep fit all year round. But do you burn a lot of calories while swimming? We want to answer these and other relativized questions briefly and concisely in this article and thus give you clarity on this topic.

It's a well-known fact that swimming can be used for endurance training and muscle building at the same time. In this article we want to answer how you can best burn calories in this sport. The FAQ contains the most important information, followed by other ways and methods to burn calories.

the essentials in brief

  • Exercising is a method of burning calories and can also be achieved by swimming. As with strength training exercises or other endurance sports, it is important to practice the technique correctly. In this way, injuries can be avoided and the desired results can be achieved more quickly.
  • Depending on the type of swim, certain muscles are used more. However, swimming is generally a sport that requires complete physical effort, and is therefore considered a full-body workout.
  • How many calories a person consumes after a certain training time depends on the intensity and execution of the training. On the other hand, the calorie consumption depends on the person, because some burn calories faster or slower than others.

Burn calories swimming: What you should know

So that you are well informed about this topic, we have created a detailed FAQ. Our goal is to answer the most important questions and provide you with information so that you know exactly about the topic.

How do you burn calories?

Everyone needs a certain amount of calories to consume on a daily basis. In all activities that we undertake, we consume a certain number of calories. The more energy we need for this, the more calories are consumed.

This can be explained with a simple example. When we sleep, many of our body's functions shut down. The body can recover by using little energy while sleeping, since mainly automatic processes such as breathing and digestion take place, which draw little energy from the body. On the other hand, during a sporting activity, our body has to exert force, for example, and this requires energy. This is how we burn calories.

When is it important to burn calories?

This is a point that is entirely dependent on each individual person. There can be various reasons that a person chooses to burn calories. Be it for health or personal reasons, if you want to lose weight or simply stay fit by swimming, you should not overdo anything and seek medical advice if in doubt.

The energy intake or the amount of calories we need to consume every day depends on our age and gender. Men generally need slightly more calories per day. After the growth phase, the need for both sexes decreases.

Change and progress is noticeable

Many use a measuring tape to measure their success. However, this is not always helpful, as changes and progress are also noticeable in other ways. (Image source: unsplash/ Siora Photography)

In addition to age and gender, the daily calorie requirement is also determined by our body composition and daily sporting activities. Therefore, only an estimate of the daily calorie requirement can be given, as each individual's circumstances matter.

An adult woman can consume around 2000 kcal per day (under normal circumstances) and a man 2500 kcal (1). The exact requirement should be discussed with a specialist, as these are only general values.

Swimming is a sport that can help burn calories. We have listed the different types of swimming, including technique, in the next section.

What types of swimming are there?

When we received our seahorse, we were prepared to practice different types of swimming in the future as the basic skills were checked. During our school days, some of these swimming styles may have been trained in physical education classes. The table below summarizes different swimming styles and how to practice them.

kind execution
breaststroke Fold your arms under the water and at the same time bring them forward, using your hands to push the water to the side and back. Leg movement: straddle kick (frog movement).
backstroke Execution in the supine position: alternately bring your arms out of the water behind your head and bring them back under the water in a bent position, continuous kicking of the legs (small, quick up and down movements for a stable position)
Dolphin swimming/Butterfly swimming Simultaneously bring your arms backwards and forwards under water, your upper body rises out of the water while taking a breath, your feet are positioned together and moved as a result of the arm movement in a bone kick, 2 kicks per arm stroke
crawl Fastest swim: alternating arm strokes along the side of the body, continuous kicking (small quick up and down movements for a stable position)

Now you are informed about some types of swimming and how to practice them. In the next section we will answer whether there is a certain swimming style that boosts calorie consumption more than others.

Which type of swimming is suitable when burning calories?

Depending on the swimming style or type of swimming, certain muscles in our body are used. The following table gives you a good overview of this.

kind Stressed muscles/areas
breaststroke Shoulder, back and glutes on the arm movement, quadriceps on the leg movements
backstroke Biceps and triceps, torso because they shouldn't hang down if they are in the right shape (should have a stabilizing effect), abdominal muscles interacting with the torso
Dolphin Swim/Butterfly Technique Upper body: back, delts (lateral), trapezius, biceps, triceps, abs, lower body: glutes, quadriceps
crawl Upper body: pecs, abs, biceps, triceps, lower body: quadriceps, glutes

The dolphin or butterfly style is an extremely strenuous swimming technique that also has to be learned first. It is an advancement of the breaststroke and is the second fastest swim, after the front crawl.

Intensive training guarantees high calorie consumption. If you prefer one of the other types of swimming, don't worry. All types require full physical effort with the right technique, and thus lead to calorie consumption.

When and for whom is it useful to burn calories through swimming?

Anyone who feels more comfortable in the water than with a home workout or at the gym might give swimming a try. This sport can be enjoyed and practiced by everyone, with a few exceptions (3). When considering swimming, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, it would be beneficial if you have a swimming pool nearby. If you have to file long journeys, the time investment can be demotivating and you don't stick with it.

You also have to consider the additional costs, such as entry and maybe equipment that you don't already have. Should swimming become a regular sport, you will need comfortable and fitting swimwear and perhaps extras like a swimming cap, goggles or a nose clip. A little tip: annual tickets or monthly tickets are often cheaper than paying an entrance fee each time.

What do professional swimmers use when training or competing?

Professional swimmers typically wear a hair cap and goggles during training and competitions. (Image source: unsplash/ Pete Wright)

Compared to other endurance sports, the risk of injury is very low. So if you're not afraid of water and enjoy the rocking and weightless feeling of being in the water, consider swimming as a calorie-burning method.

What should you consider if you burn calories by swimming?

The most important thing is your health. If you are not yet an experienced swimmer, you should not throw yourself into the deepest pools. You should also approach lakes, rivers or the open sea with caution.

Currents and waves can easily take you off shore. Also take care of your skin, especially in the summer in the pool. The water reflects the rays, so wear a water-resistant sunscreen.

How effective is swimming to burn calories?

Swimming can be extremely effective for burning calories. But only with consistent use. Leisurely drifting in the water or relaxing minutes in front of the massage showers as we know them from the thermal baths do not count as swimming training.

The most important thing, however, is that you train your stamina through good technique. This can burn more calories over the long term than a few bad workouts. In order for you to master this technique well, you should go swimming a few times a week.

In this table we want to give you an approximate indication of how much each type of swimming contributes to the calorie consumption. The values ​​are an approximate indication of how many calories a person of a certain weight could burn after half an hour of training.

type of swimming (5) about 55 kg about 70 kg about 185 kg
breaststroke about 300 about 370 approx. 445
backstroke about 240 about 300 about 355
Dolphin swimming/butterfly technique about 330 about 410 approx.490
crawl about 330 about 410 about 490

You can also find many calorie calculators online based on your age, measurements, weight, and gender. If you want to calculate your calorie consumption yourself, you can use this formula:

Basal Metabolic Rate (Calories) x MET : 24 x Duration

Swimming has other health benefits for people with spinal and bone disorders, according to one study (2,3).

What alternatives are there to burning calories through swimming?

After reading this FAQ, you may find that this type or method of burning calories is not for you. So that you don't have to give up your goal of burning calories, we have listed and explained 3 alternatives for you.

  • Nutrition: with the right diet or change in diet, you can achieve a lot without breaking a sweat.
  • Water sports: If you would like to combine sports and water, there are some activities and games that can also be done in the pool.
  • Other sports: If you don't like sports in the water to lose calories, there are other sports that achieve the desired effect.

In the following sections, we've included a brief explanation to give you a good overview of the alternatives.


The word change in diet or diet is often directly related to starvation. However, this does not have to be the case with a good changeover. It's important to get your daily calorie intake. Viewing starvation as a way to lose calories can have unintended consequences. If you starve for a long time, the well-known yo-yo effect can kick in. The progress achieved could have been in vain.

Balanced diet is important

A balanced diet is important for leading a healthy lifestyle. (Image source: unsplash / Jannis Brandt)

There are many different diets that can help burn calories. It is important that you stay on the ball and are patient. All beginnings are difficult, and letting go or reducing certain things can seem like an insurmountable hurdle. Work your way up slowly but consistently, and don't go hungry. This is not a good way to lose calories!

Other water sports

The following water sports are commonly practiced in groups or teams, making them appealing to groups of friends and families.

In water volleyball, the whole body is needed to get the balls over the net. A one-hour workout can burn around 200-300 calories with a weight of 70-90 kg.

If you want to incorporate some rhythm into your sport, you can often train with encouraging music during aqua training. With a weight of 70 - 90 kg, you can burn between 280 and 370 calories in one hour. In addition, according to one study, upright water exercises increase the speed of blood in the arteries (4).

Water polo is the equivalent of handball. This is so tiring because, in addition to the goal of scoring a goal, you have to stay afloat all the time, and move quickly through the water. The whole body is stressed. With a body weight between 70 and 90 kg, approximately 700-900 calories can be burned per hour.

Depending on how intense the training or game is, more calories can be burned. However, there are also calorie-consuming sports for which you don't even have to drive to a swimming pool.

Other sports

If swimming doesn't turn out to be your sport, don't worry. There are many other types of exercise that burn calories.

HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training / high-intensity interval training) are at the top of the sports trend. It stands out from other cardiovascular workouts in particular because the many different exercises create a varied workout. HIIT workouts can burn up to 900 calories an hour for a weight between 70 and 90 kg.

Other sports

HIIT workouts are a well-known trend in the fitness world to combine building muscle and burning fat. (Image source: unsplash/ Karsten Winegeart)

Jogging is a well-known sporting activity to train your stamina and you are guaranteed to work up a sweat. Aside from working your legs, calves, and foot and ankle muscles, you learn to control your breathing. Again, you can burn between 300 and 700 calories at a weight of 50-90 kg (5).

Many have also discovered dancing as a sport through programs and workouts such as Zumba or similar. For anyone who enjoys listening to music and wants to add rhythm to their exercise routine, play the music and get started. Depending on your dance style, you can burn from 100 to 300 calories per half hour (weighing 50-90 kg) (5).


So we've learned that swimming is a great way to burn calories. Swimming uses all of your body muscles and is also a good way to train your stamina. However, if you prefer other sports, workouts such as HIIT workouts are a way to burn calories.

A balanced diet will help you reach your goal faster. It is important to be patient and not to expect a complete transformation overnight. The body has to adapt, give it time and don't let relapses stop you.

In addition to burning calories, swimming also has a fun factor. The sport can be done with family, friends, alone or in a class, offering anyone who is not necessarily averse to water a fun, sporty activity and easy way to burn calories and stay fit.


  1. German Nutrition Society (DGE), Austrian Nutrition Society (ÖGE), Swiss Nutrition Society (SGE). DACH reference values ​​for nutrient intake, 2nd edition, 3rd updated edition. Bonn 2017. Source
  2. Conti AA. Nuoto, attività fisica e salute: una prospettiva storica [Swimming, physical activity and health: a historical perspective]. Clin Ter. 2015;166(4):179-82. Italian. doi: 10.7417/CT.2015.1867. PMID: 26378756. Source
  3. Alkatan M, Baker JR, Machin DR, Park W, Akkari AS, Pasha EP, Tanaka H. Improved Function and Reduced Pain after Swimming and Cycling Training in Patients with Osteoarthritis. J Rheumatol. 2016 Mar;43(3):666-72. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.151110. Epub 2016 Jan 15. PMID: 26773104. Source
  4. Shoemaker LN, Wilson LC, Lucas SJE, Machado L, Thomas KN, Cotter JD. Swimming-related effects on cerebrovascular and cognitive function. Physiol Rep. 2019 Oct;7(20):e14247. doi: 10.14814/phy2.14247. PMID: 31637867; PMCID: PMC6803778. Source
  5. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Heart Letter, Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Updated: August 13, 2018. Published: July, 2004 Source
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