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by Kelly O’Mara

December 12, 2019

It’s possible to have a body transformation from only swimming

There’s a joke on the TV show Seinfeld about Kramer swimming in the East River because it’s great exercise—swimming is the only workout that works every muscle in the body, he says, and he’s a full inch taller after.

But is that true? Does swimming work all of your muscles? Can you have a body transformation from swimming as your only exercise?

On a basic level, you should do whatever exercise you enjoy and will keep at. If that’s only swimming, then have at it. If you’re looking to get fitter, though, and potentially lose weight or gain muscle tone, then you might be wondering what a swimming-only body can actually do for you.

The Benefits of Only Swimming As Exercise

Exercise tends to have a number of benefits. Some of those are aerobic or cardiovascular, and some are strength-based or muscular. Swimming can actually have a role in both.

On a calorie basis, swimming burns about as many calories as most other forms of exercise and more than many—though how many calories you burn per hour somewhat depends on how hard you go.

For example, swimming laps vigorously burns about 372 calories/30 minutes, running 8-minute miles burns about 465 calories in the same time, biking about 446 calories, and playing basketball about 298 calories.

Additionally, there’s some evidence swimming can help build your lung capacity, decrease effect of asthma, and train you to use your oxygen more efficiently.

In terms of strength, one of the good things about swimming is that it can also serve, in some ways, as strength work. The resistance you meet in the water helps build up muscular strength through your body, though more in your arms than legs, unless you kick a lot. Mixing up strokes, or doing more pulling or swimming with paddles, can also help with upper body strength, if that’s something you’re looking to get for your body from swimming.

Of course, there’s also the fact that some people just prefer swimming over running or biking or basketball or gym class. The lack of (noticeable) sweating and the peacefulness makes it more appealing to many, and there are some mental and emotional benefits to that as well. And if you’re going to swim, but you’re not going to run, then you’ll see way more of a body transformation from swimming only than from not running.

Swimming Might Not Be Enough

Although swimming is good for your muscles, your lungs, and your heart, whether or not you should only swim depends on what your goals are. If you just want to get healthy, lose weight, and gain more muscle definition, then swimming is great exercise. But if you want to run a marathon PR, for example, then you’re probably going to have to do some long runs out of the pool.

There’s also a reason even elite competitive swimmers often do dryland training. Partially that’s to cross train so they don’t over stress the same joints and muscles—swimmer’s shoulder is a real thing! Partially, though, it’s also to build up strength in the areas that don’t get worked in the pool, so those things can help them be faster in the long run.

The most common issue people face with just swimming is a lack of impact. The low-impact nature of the sport is one of its perks, but a lack of impact is also associated with lower bone density. While some studies have found that swimming can help bone density and bone health minimally, it doesn’t help as much as running. Bone health is important in the long run to prevent osteoporosis.

Can you have a total body transformation from swimming only? Absolutely. The calorie burn and cardio impacts will help you lose weight, if that’s what you’re looking for. And the strength benefits can help with muscle definition and toning. But depending on what your health goals are, you might want to also add in some higher impact activities and strength work.


Categories:

  • Technique and Training

Tags:

  • Health
  • Training