Which swim strokes are best for exercise and weight loss?

Nov 08, 2021 | Blog

Last month, we dived into the Blue Mind and how it has been shown humans are drawn to the water, as amongst other things it makes us happy, so this month it seems only apt to have a look at the physical benefits of swimming and something I am asked a lot – what is the best stroke to swim for exercise and losing weight?

Swimming, as well as being great for our mental health and mindfulness, is a fantastic source of exercise. The NHS advocates it as a great way to improve health with regular swimming being shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as type two diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, as well as being a great cardiovascular workout -improving heart, lungs, and circulatory system health.

Popping along to your local swimming pool offers benefits to all ages as a total body workout; engaging your core, arms, and legs whilst focusing on balance, but with the benefit of near weightlessness, meaning less strain on joints and bones whilst exercising.

So let's drill down into the four different swimming strokes; 

  • Butterfly – this stroke has been shown to burn the most calories with on average 400-500 burnt in a 30min session. It is excellent for toning muscles, especially in the arms, chest, and back. However, many would say it is the hardest stroke to learn to swim.

  • Front crawl – often shown to be the fastest stroke, this is because of its effective use of the muscles in our body. It is particularly good at toning muscles in the shoulders, abs, and buttocks and with a burn rate on average of between 250 and 350 calories per half hour, it's going to be effective at weight loss as long as you don’t eat a chocolate bar straight after!

  • Backstroke or Backcrawl (however you like to refer to it) helps to improve overall posture and flexibility in the hips, as well as toning abs, legs, arms, shoulders, and buttocks. You can effectively burn between 200-300 calories in 30 mins so it still rates well for weight loss.

  • Finally, and often a preference for swimming is breaststroke. The granddaddy of the strokes having possibly been around since the Stone Age is going to burn fewer calories with 150-250 every half an hour, however, it is argued this is the best stroke for a cardiovascular workout. It also tones the legs, arms, and upper back.  

Plus, breaststroke has the added benefit of improving your social interactions as you can talk to a friend whilst swimming and that is definitely going to make us feel better.

And what about asking for a float or noodle and doing some kicking in the pool? Well, this might be a great option for you as it can burn between 200-400 calories over 30mins!

My best advice – Go to the pool and mix it up and most importantly do what you enjoy and ask if equipment like floats, noddles/woggles, or pool buoys are available so you can isolate arms or legs. At the end of your workout lay back on your noddle and float, take a few deep breaths and stretch out. Sleep better that night and feel better.

With that in mind, I am off to the pool now.


For more information about swimming at Ladywood Leisure Centre, visit our Swimming page.