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by Linda Foley

January 25, 2020

All three are good for you, but there are differences

It won’t surprise anyone who works out that regular aerobic exercise can yield immediate and long-term health benefits. Studies have shown that daily doses of sustained aerobic activity can decrease the risk of premature death from 20 to 40 percent, and aerobic exercise helps keep your weight in check and prevents the onset of diabetes and other diseases.

The U.S. government’s Physical Activities Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults do at least 2.5 to 5 hours per week of “moderate” aerobic activity. A nice brisk hourly walk each day will more than meet these minimum recommendations. However, a Masters swimmer who logs 12,000 yards a week or a marathon runner who trains 10 miles a day will get more from their exercise regimens.

Both swimming and running burn significant amounts of calories. It’s estimated that swimming laps at a light to moderate pace burns anywhere from 423 to 510 calories an hour. Swimming at two minutes per 100 yards or faster can burn 700 or more calories, depending on the stroke. For example, according to Endless Pools’ swimming calculator, a 154-pound freestyler swimming 2-minute 100s for an hour uses 721 calories; a breaststroker uses 750 calories; a backstroker burns 778; and a butterflyer burns 872.

Running or jogging for an hour at 12 minutes per mile expends 500 to 600 calories, and running 9-minute miles burns 650 to 1,200 calories. Walking at a good clip for an hour burns about 300 calories.

At the onset of a workout, runners use up more calories than swimmers. But over time, swimmers can sustain a more vigorous pace longer and therefore end up burning more fat. In a 1993 study for the American Statistical Association, statistician and swimmer Howard Wainer calculated that although runners can cover significantly more distance, swimmers burn 25 percent more calories over the same time span. That’s because runners tend to slow down as they go farther.

Here are some more benefits in swimming’s favor.

  • It’s a whole-body workout. Running is strictly a lower-body workout involving limited motion range.
  • Swimming is great resistance training. Water creates 12 to 14 percent more resistance than air.
  • Swimming puts very little pressure on your joints and is a good workout at any age.


  • Health and Nutrition


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