Which Is Better For Losing Weight Swimming Or Walking

Last Updated on August 1st, 2023

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Anyone who has ever wanted to lose weight has probably done a little bit of research to find ways to cut corners. Despite what some claim with pills and other products, there are no shortcuts to achieving a caloric deficit and losing weight as a result.

In general, swimming will be the better exercise for most people because it involves more muscles than walking, leading to more efficient calorie burning.

Continue reading to learn more about the differences between swimming and walking, why you might want to do one over the other, as well as specifics about time and calories burnt.

Woman in white bikini getting out of a pool - Which Is Better For Losing Weight Swimming Or Walking

Is it the Same Answer for Everyone?

There are many different body types out there, and each person has a unique genetic makeup (except identical twins) that can contribute to their size and shape. So, logically, there cannot be a single workout that is best for everyone.

Even so, almost everyone will reap the benefits of swimming sooner and potentially more easily than walking, but there are some factors to consider.

Swimming uses more muscles across the whole body than walking does, which is why it burns more calories over the same time frame.

There are arguments that if you’re overweight, swimming is not as good of an exercise for you because body fat is less dense than water, and so the buoyancy you experience is greater than that of a slimmer person.

This means you don’t have to work as hard to stay afloat and might not be working off the calories as a result. On the other hand, swimming is better than walking for overweight people because it is a low-impact exercise and easy on the joints.

Some also argue that the extra weight in a person’s body profile increases the drag as they swim, so they actually have to work harder to swim than a slimmer person.


Woman in white bikini getting out of a pool - Which Is Better For Losing Weight Swimming Or Walking


Which one of These Two is Long Term Better?

Even as long-term solutions to weight loss, both swimming and walking have pros and cons. Swimming can greatly increase your circulatory and respiratory health because it is more intensive than walking. It can also help prevent joint issues when done properly.

Walking can be a better exercise for those with conditions such as osteoporosis because the work done against gravity can increase bone density, especially in the legs.

For weight loss and overall health, it is best to find a way to use a combination of exercises so you experience the benefits of each with few, if any, drawbacks.


How Many Calories Do You Lose By Walking?

We walk a fair amount in our daily lives to get things done, like going to class or grocery shopping at the supermarket, but not all types of walking are equal. Three main aspects of walking must be considered:


  • The speed at which you walk
  • The incline/terrain of the walk
  • The weight carried during a walk


A leisurely two mph walk on flat terrain will burn just 95 calories in 30 minutes, hardly enough to cover a light snack. However, simply increasing the pace to 3 mph results in close to 50 percent more calories burnt in the same time at 148 calories.

Any faster, and you might not be able to consider it as walking, but by increasing the incline, you can burn up to 202 calories per 30 minutes. Adding an average backpack’s weight can go further to 238 calories every 30 minutes.


How Many Calories Can You Lose by Swimming?

Even though you’re practically guaranteed to swim at a slower pace than you walk at, you will probably be burning more calories because you have to use both leg and arm muscles. Increasing caloric loss while swimming comes down to two main factors:


  • The swimming speed
  • The amount of drag during swimming


Just like with walking, you can increase the number of calories you lose by increasing your speed. For example, a somewhat leisurely swim can burn 207 calories per 30-minute session, while a speedy swim might consume 333 calories at the same time.

Increasing drag requires specialized nets that attach to the body while swimming but will force the body to work harder and use more calories as a result.


How Long Should You Swim to Lose Weight?

The problem with this question is that it comes down to personal situations and is very subjective. Objectively, to lose weight, you need to be at a caloric deficit (use more calories than you consume in a day), but everyone eats different amounts of calories.

If you’re looking to lose weight, you may also be on some sort of diet that limits your caloric intake (this should never be under 1,400 calories daily for men or 1,200 for women), so you can calculate how long you would need to swim to lose weight based on your diet.

Assuming you have 2,000 calories in a day and burn 207 calories every 30 minutes, you would need to swim constantly for almost 5 hours to be in a calorie deficit.

Keep in mind that this estimation does not account for any other actions in your day as well as the calories used to perform regular bodily functions like maintaining body temperature.


How Long Do You Need to Walk to Lose Weight?

Similar to the question above, we have the same problems but for walking this time. Again, we must consider the limitations of this thought experiment and the individual differences in people’s exercise and body type.

If we assume the same 2,000 calories with 95 of those calories burning every 30 minutes of walking, it will take about 10.5 hours to reach a calorie deficit.

This, again, assumes that you do nothing else in your day and that no energy was spent maintaining passive bodily functions.


Final Thoughts on Swimming Or Walking Being Better For Losing Weight 

We can see that swimming is a better, casual exercise than walking based on the numbers above for purely weight loss purposes.

It is possible to reach a calorie deficit each day by performing either exercise, but it is much easier to fit 5 hours into your schedule than 10.5 hours. It is also important to realize that weight loss is not the only reason you might consider between the two exercises.

If you’re concerned about your joint health, you might lean towards swimming, while others who feel self-conscious in a swimsuit or enjoy listening to music during a workout would prefer walking.

In the end, it is still largely personal preference on which is the overall better exercise for you.