The average person burns 430-575 calories per hour swimming leisurely.
The number of calories you burn swimming will depend on your weight and the distance and speed you swim. A 150-pound (68kg) person swimming recreational backstroke will burn 344 calories per hour. A 200-pound (90.8kg) person swimming freestyle laps with vigorous effort will burn 935 calories per hour.
How many calories are burned while swimming?
Calories burned per minute = (MET x body weight in Kg x 3.5) ÷ 200
“MET” is a measurement of the energy cost of physical activity for a period of time. You can find an activity’s MET on the chart above.
A task with a MET of 1 is roughly equal to a person’s energy expenditure from sitting still at room temperature not actively digesting food.
A task with a MET of 2 uses twice as much energy as a task with a MET of 1. A task with a MET of 10 uses 10 times as much energy as a task with a MET of 1.
MET values “do not estimate the energy cost of physical activity in individuals in ways that account for differences in body mass, adiposity, age, sex, efficiency of movement, geographic and environmental conditions in which the activities are performed. Thus, individual differences in energy expenditure for the same activity can be large and the true energy cost for an individual may or may not be close to the stated mean MET level as presented in the Compendium.” (as quoted from the main page of the Compendium of Physical Activities).
A person weighs 180 pounds (81.65kg) and does leisurely swimming (a task that has a MET value of 6.0) for 1 hour (60 minutes).
Calories Burned from leisurely swimming (per minute) = (6.0 x 81.65 x 3.5) ÷ 200 = 8.573
Calories Burned from leisurely swimming (for 60 minutes) = 8.573 x 60 = 514
Sources and External Resources
- Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Herrmann SD, Meckes N, Bassett Jr DR, Tudor-Locke C, Greer JL, Vezina J, Whitt-Glover MC, Leon AS. The Compendium of Physical Activities Tracking Guide. Healthy Lifestyles Research Center, College of Nursing & Health Innovation, Arizona State University. Retrieved May 11, 2015, from the World Wide Web.
- Arizona State University Healthy Lifestyles Research Center – Compendium of Physical Activities – Water Activities – provides MET values for different water activities, including swimming.
- Learn about “MET” and the compendium of physical activities from Arizona State University, University or South Carolina, and Wikipedia. There is a summary of general physical activities defined by intensity from the CDC and the Harvard School of Public Health.
- Recommendations on physical activity for health from the Harvard School of Public Health and the WHO.
- Learn to swim with “How to Learn to Swim for Beginners” by Carolyn Williams of Livestrong, “An Adult’s Guide To Learning To Swim” by Kate Dries of Deadspin, “Total Immersion: How I Learned to Swim Effortlessly in 10 Days and You Can Too” by Tim Ferriss, and “LEARN to SWIM & FLOAT for BEGINNERS (easy tutorial) by SwimtoFly on YouTube.
- Find out about the health benefits of swimming with “Swimming – health benefits” by Australia’s Better Health Channel, “10 Amazing Benefits of Swimming You Never Knew” by Sarah Hansen of Lifehack.org, “7 Benefits of Swimming and How to Get Them” by Brock Armstrong of Scientific American, and the “Health Benefits of Water-based Exercise” by the CDC.
- The most popular swimming forums we know of are U.S. Masters Swimming, The Pool Forum, and Reddit’s r/Swimming.