Is Swimming Better Exercise Than Running?

Dear Davey,

I used to run a lot, but I’ve recently taken up swimming which I really enjoy. However, I’m wondering which is a better workout? Swimming? Or running?


sexymaleswimmersHey Lucas,

When comparing swimming to running, there are a few big differences.

The first is convenience. For one, swimming requires a pool - and often a pool membership. If you’re traveling or on vacation, you might not have access to a lap pool. Second, swimming requires more preparation. In addition to showering before entering the pool, you’ll need to pack a bathing suit, towel, goggles, etc. Running, on the other hand, is much more convenient and accessible. You can do it on any street and only need a pair of sneakers.

In terms of calories, it really depends on intensity. If you run and swim with the same intensity, the caloric breakdown is quite similar; there’s not a huge difference between the two. Personally, I find it much easier to push myself on a treadmill versus swimming in a pool - but that is a matter of preference.

There are health risks involved in both running and swimming. Regardless of the exercise, there’s always the risk of injury. It’s important to consult with a physician before starting any routine. Having said that, swimming provides lower amounts of impact on the body’s joints. Because swimming is low impact, it’s a form of cardiovascular exercise often favored by the elderly and individuals with joint or knee issues.

Above and beyond these details, there’s another important variable to consider: enjoyment. Looking forward to a workout is a huge motivating factor; if you enjoy your workout, you’re more likely to stick with it. And a good workout is a consistent workout.

In other words, if you prefer swimming to running, embrace it!



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  1. I am a full supporter of swimming. It’s good for the pulmonary and cardiovascular system but also for working out specific muscle groups too.

  2. On the contrary, you fail to mention certain factors.

    Running is mainly a cardiovascular exercise focused on lower body strength. Now take a look a body, it is a *full* body exercise that targets all muscles groups and your cardiovascular strength.

    I used to swim competitively and it was the most tiresome workouts I could possibly do. Nothing ever compared to those workouts. However, keep in mind I am not longer talking about simple laps. Different strokes and different drills focus on every muscle group… Something you simply cannot do in running (at least not without carrying additional stuff with you)

    • @edgreen69 says:

      “On the contrary” Nick (lol couldn’t resist) don’t forget that when swimming you also have to take into account breathing isn’t as easy… and we get most of our energy from respiration, it might make be a factor in your “most tiresome workouts” just sayin’.

      But that said I’m way more for swimming than running for the following reasons:
      1. Swimming is just way more fun all around.
      2. Swimming typically also involves way less clothes.
      3. Swimming is a full body, resistance workout ( if done right 🙂

      I’ve gotten a full trashing workout in the smallest of above-ground pools. And I had lots of fun.

  3. I’ve noticed you’ve tried to be fair and balanced here, Davey, but the truth is that Swimming has a lot more benefits than you’ve listed. Like Nick above me said, its a full body workout (which running doesn’t provide), it has 4 Strokes which works ALL of your muscles in ALL DIFFERENT ways (unlike running, where there’s only one way to run),

    and plus, swimmers are just hotter! A lot of runners look physically unbalanced 😉

  4. I just wanted to say that I agree with your second guy who said that swimming does take more out of you than running. But if you haven’t been with a pro-runner then that’s your fault!

  5. Guys in speedos. That always beats running 😉

  6. Plus swimming in water colder than 80degrees burns more calories, as your body is being cooled from its 97.8, and has to work harder to balance the body’s temperature.

  7. I was a competitive swimmer for nine years so I personally think that swimming is a much harder workout than running. You can take a swimmer and have them run and that’s a much easier transition than having a runner do a swim workout. That saying, for me it’s harder to run because all of my muscles have developed to help me swim, not run. But I find it very hard to believe that swimming could burn the same number of calories as running. There’s so much more resistance and movement in swimming, that just doesn’t make sense! Unless of course you’re assuming it’s someone who doesn’t know how to swim much beyond the doggy paddle…they probably wouldn’t be burning many calories lol. I’ve read a few articles comparing swimming to running and I don’t think many factor in a competitive swimmer’s speed vs. a nonswimmer’s speed.