What’s Better: Swimming or Running?

Dear Davey,

I’m trying to get in better shape, and I was wondering which gives you a better cardio workout – swimming or running?

Thanks,
Luis

0627-ent-olympic-swimmers-pool_awHey Luis,

First of all, both swimming and running provide great workouts. And either is better than sitting on your butt watching television. However, there are some pretty big differences between the two types of cardio.

It’s important to note that comparing running to swimming can be a lot like comparing apples to oranges. They’re both very different – and the effectiveness of either workout can depend on a number of variables. For example, a University of Florida study found that swimmers burn 44% more calories when a pool is heated to 68 degrees Fahrenheit rather than 91 degrees. The speed at which you swim or run also has a big influence. As does any incline you might experience during your run. In other words, it’s not that simple.

However, there are a few things that are quite definitive. Swimming is low-impact, and so it’s a great option for people with joint issues. Swimming will also give your upper a body a good endurance workout (running does not), assuming that’s something you want.

When it comes to calories burned, running does come out on top – but again, it depends on all those previously mentioned variables. Here are some general guidelines for a 155-lb individual who is exercising for 30 minutes:

  • Moderate intensity swimming: 214 calories
  • Running at 5mph: 298 calories
  • Vigorous swimming: 344 calories
  • Running at 10mph: 632 calories

If you can hold a 10mph pace, then running is advantageous from a purely caloric perspective. But if you run at 5pmh and can swim at a vigorous pace, then swimming could be a better choice for burning calories and getting your heart pumping.

Personally, my favorite cardio workout is high intensity interval training wherein I alternate between jogging and sprinting for a set duration. It provides a ton of amazing benefits; it doesn’t take a lot of time, minimizes muscle mass loss and provides a huge metabolic boost that you won’t get from steady-pace cardio.

But at the end of the day, the best form of cardio is the cardio that you’ll stick with. Find what works for you!

Love,
Davey

About Davey Wavey

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Comments

  1. The best cardio is the cardio you will stick with, great advice.

  2. High Intensity Interval Training, otherwise known as Fartlek running.

  3. Swimming is less painful and more fun.

  4. I am a scuba diver and occasionally a freediver so I know for a fact how important it is for people involved in such activities to be in tiptop shape when it comes to cardio. With all the physical demands of diving, the lack of great cardio could affect drastically how you perform underwater. So yeah, swimming for me.

  5. To be honest…I’ll rather look at a swimmer than a runner ;)….sigh.
    Swimmers just seem happier with their workouts and less “in pain”.
    Having bad joint issues, swimming’s the way to go for me. The biggest issue is it can get boring when you have to swim lap after lap. Thinking of getting a waterproof MP3 player though.