Activities Sports & Athletics Is Swimming The Best Way to Lose Weight? Share PINTEREST Email Print Simon Wilkinson/Iconica/Getty Images Sports & Athletics Swimming & Diving Health & Safety Gear Workouts Technique Diving Baseball Basketball Bicycling Billiards Bodybuilding Bowling Boxing Car Racing Cheerleading Cricket Extreme Sports Football Golf Gymnastics Ice Hockey Martial Arts Professional Wrestling Skateboarding Skating Paintball Soccer Table Tennis Tennis Track & Field Volleyball Other Activities Learn More By Mat Luebbers Mat Luebbers is head coach and program director for the Marine Corps Community Services' Okinawa Dolphins Swim Team in Japan. He has a master's degree in sports science. our editorial process Mat Luebbers Updated January 28, 2019 There is no doubt that swimming is one of the best exercises you can do for yourself, and you can burn about 500 calories per hour when you swim but is swimming the best way to lose weight? Is swimming a good exercise choice if your primary goal is to get rid of extra pounds or body fat? Experience and some research may show that swimming is not the best way to lose weight. We have a few ideas on how to swim to lose weight, but that swimming needs to be a part of an overall plan. You need to do more than go to the pool and swim. Exercise alone is not the best path to weight loss. You can lose weight by including swimming as part of the exercise component in a weight loss plan, but according to research on swimming and weight loss reported on by: "Burke in SWIMMERS: Body fat mystery!" It is not going to be easy. This is for several reasons, including: Many people feel like "eating a horse" after they finish a swim session, and may eat more calories than they just used during that swim.Swimmers may be so tired from the training that they sleep, sit or otherwise do generally nothing outside of their swimming workouts. The Merck Manual explains that swimming may not be the best way to lose weight due to the cooling effects of being in the water: while you do use a lot of calories swimming, once you get out of the swimming pool much of that calorie burning stops. When you are in the pool, you don't heat up as much as you do on land, and your body does not have to work to cool you down as much once the exercise session concludes. Swimming does exercise almost the entire body—heart, lungs, and muscles—with very little joint strain. Swimming is great for general fitness and health, just not the best way to drop excess pounds. To lose body fat, you must use more calories than you eat through a combination of controlling your food intake and increasing your exercise routine—like doing more swimming. Some new ideas are coming on the effects of cooling the body's core temperature and weight loss. Swimming in a cool or cold pool, lake, or ocean (following proper safety precautions) might increase calorie burning while your body works to restore your core temperature. Swimming in the cold water makes you colder, and your body then works (burns calories) to heat you back up again. That could mean that if the pool is cold enough, you could lose weight by swimming (maybe more so because the environment is cold, but it is still swimming to lose weight). If you do go this way, take precautions against hypothermia. Do you want to swim and try to lose weight? You must do enough swimming, at a high enough effort level, that you impact the "calories eaten and calories used balance" so that you use more calories than you take in. That is the key to any weight loss or weight control plan that involves exercise. We think you might be able to do it. We know many swimmers that have, but we know plenty that has not been able to lose weight with swimming, too. The key to losing body fat, to losing unwanted pounds, is an overall plan of good, healthy activity coupled with healthy eating. Swimming can help with half that; it is a healthy activity. The other half? That takes self-control or discipline when eating.