Swimming Vs Running: What Burns The Most Calories?


– Okay Mark, so here’s
a question for you now. What do you think the quickest way for us to burn some calories is, swimming or going for a run? – That is a good question. And I know a lot of other people are wrestling with that question too. – Yep. Now I don’t know about
you, but I feel famished when I get out of a proper swim session. – Yeah, well I guess this is
a pretty tricky one for us given the nature of the two sports. Swimming and running,
particularly the swimming, because it’s fairly hard to
give a black and white answer from that one. – Yeah you’re right. So armed with our heart rate monitors, we’ve popped up here to
the University of Bath, and we’re going to do a little
bit of detailed analysis and hopefully that will shed some light onto this whole question. (electronic whooshing) – Now before we delve into the calories, we probably should take a look quickly at both the sports, swimming and running, because both do have their differences, positives and negatives. – They do. Now with running, well you can do that pretty much anywhere. All you need is a set of
trainers and you’re good to go. Well, pretty much. Swimming on the other hand,
it’s a little bit more tricky. You need to get access
to a pool, for a start. And then once you get into the pool, lane space availability
is not always the easiest. – Yeah, and with that in mind, running is more or less free once you’ve invested in the kit, whereas swimming on the other hand will continually keep costing you as you have to pay for those facilities. Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to be able to go wild swimming or maybe even have a swimming
pool in your back garden. – Yeah. And then there’s the whole social aspect. And running is a pretty sociable sport because you can do that
whilst you are havin’ a chat with your fellow runners. Whereas swimming, well, you can do that before
and after you’ve swum, but once you’re in the water it’s pretty difficult to have a chat. – And not forgetting that
running is more varied with more options on run routes. Whereas swimming, (sighs)
you’re just following that black line in the bottom
of the pool, aren’t you? (relaxing electronic music) (water splashing) – Now, we are starting to
sound a little bit biased here, but swimming does have its pluses as well. Now, for a starter it is a
non-weight bearing sport, which means that really
whatever your weight is, you can get in the pool and start swimming without very much stress at
all on your bones and joints. – And let’s not forget, also,
you can head to the pool at any point in the year and you I guess you know what to expect. You won’t be affected by
the bad weather outside, or perhaps the muddy trails. – Good point. And also let us not forget that it is a upper body workout as well, so we can make use of all those muscles that running and cycling neglect. So that’s a pretty good positive, I’d say. – Yeah. So I think it’s fair to say,
they are both great sports, both with their positives. But what if you just
want to lose some weight and burn some calories? Well, on average running
is four times quicker than swimming if you’re competent at both, meaning you’d obviously run
much further than you’d swim in a given period of time. So it’s important that we
use time rather than distance in our following experiments
into calorie expenditure. Also not forgetting that
running is weight bearing, and therefore the heavier you are, the harder running can become. Then finally, the intensity
at which you exercise will have the greatest impact. But this goes for both sports. So with all that in mind, how on earth can we compare fairly? – [Fraser] Well to do this
we are going to be tracking our energy expenditure
through the unit of calories. Now, this is actually the
unit that you will see on the back of your food packaging, and it will often tell
you how many calories that are in that product,
but shown as kilocalories. And it’s these kilocalories
that you will find displayed on your sports watches
and fitness trackers. – Yeah, but how we record calorie
consumption or expenditure in the pool is pretty
difficult and somewhat limited, because we can’t just do
a VO2 max test in the lab, which is often regarded as the most accurate
way of recording this. Instead, we have to go for the next best, recording our heart rate,
our speed, or our pace. And to make things fair, we’re
also going to do the same for the running too. – Now, there are plenty of
these smart devices out there that can record our heart rate, be that on dry land or in
fact, in there in the pool. But you just need to
make sure that you’ve put your right height and weight into there so that it can start doing
the appropriate calculation for figuring out your calorie expenditure. If you don’t have a smart device but want to estimate
your calorie expenditure, then you can use a
calculator such as this. Now Mark and I have input our details and have a rough comparison for you here. – [Mark] Now of course, we did have to guesstimate
a few things here such as our equivalent pace or effort, and of course it’s limited by only having a couple of swim paces to choose from. Still though, we have selected paces that were in zone one
to two for both of us, and it’s given us a rough guide. Fraser, in theory, would burn 619 kilocalories
for an hour’s swim, compared to 880 kilocalories
for the same time running. Where as I, in theory, would
burn 623 kilocalories swimming compared to 826 kilocalories
running over the hour. Both of us came up as burning
more running than swimming. Fraser, 261, myself, just 203. – Now to back this up, we’re
going to do our own experiment using the Polar Flow app and
our own Advantage watches. Now, these already have
our height and our weight, plus hopefully our fitness
level recorded too, so that means that it
will be able to calculate the calories that we are
burning automatically. – Yeah. Now to get some fair results, and within a realistic timeframe, we’re actually going to do
both running and swimming for just 10 minutes each. And then obviously, multiply that by six to get 60 minutes, or an hour. We are also going to do it twice
through for each discipline, so two times running, two times swimming, at two different paces. As you can see, we’re at the pool so we’re going to start with a swim. First run, though, is in zone
one so a nice, easy pace. (relaxing music)
(water splashing) We’re now time for our second swim. This is going to hurt a bit more as we’ll be swimming
at our zone four pace, a threshold effort. (relaxing music)
(water splashing) – [Fraser] Having a quick
look at the calculations, if we carried on swimming for an hour, I would have burned about 703 calories working in my zone one, and
910 calories in zone four, whereas Mark, nice and
easy swimming in zone one burnt 715 calories, and when he was working
harder in zone four, he burnt a bit more at 936. So now it’s time to head
outside and go for a run! (relaxing music) – Right, so we’re going to be following the same pattern as before,
10 minutes in zone one followed by 10 minutes in zone four. And I reckon, Fraser, we could probably do
this first one together given that it is going to be at an easy and conversational pace. – I would hope so, Mark. Now I spy the start line over there so I think we should get going. (upbeat music) Now for the tough one, because we’ve got pace in zone
four to hold, so here goes. (upbeat music) So now it’s time to do some sums and reveal our results. In zone one whilst running,
I burnt 732 calories. When I was running in zone four, that upped to 1022 calories. And for Mark, in his zone
one he burned 758 calories and in his zone four, that
moved up to 1095 calories. So what we’re seeing here is over the course of our running zones an increase of roughly 29
and 43 calories respectively, whereas in our zone four effort, then that moved up to
112 calorie difference and 161 calorie difference respectively. – All right, well our
rather rough test there has shown that running burns
more calories than swimming, which I’m not all that surprised by. I was kind of expecting going into this. But I was by how little
it is between the two. So I guess it does come down
to whichever you prefer. – Yeah it does, Mark. And I guess you’ve got to remember that swimming is a
non-weight bearing sport whereas running is weight bearing. That can put a lot more
stress through your skeleton leading to more injury possibility, so you got to be careful of that. – Yeah, granted. But then, running is
just pretty easy to do. You just do it from your door. Not everyone has a swimming
pool in their back garden, hey. – (laughs) That’s true. But I, don’t know about
you, but I said earlier that you feel famished when you come out of a swim very often, and I think that is
something to be mindful when we’re talking about calories, ’cause it’s very easy to think that you have actually burnt more swimming than you possibly have, and therefore you can end up overeating compared to the amount of
exercise you’ve done swimming. – Yeah, which I guess is
an advantage to running, ’cause yeah, you’re not
feeling that hungry after and you don’t eat as much. It brings us back to the
calories in versus calories out, making sure that you stay on top of that. But ultimately, what I would say is that even if you are
looking to lose weight, just enjoy sport, it is fantastic. And actually, by enjoying
it you could, well, end up losing weight because
you end up doing more sport. So it’s a really important
thing to remember. – Yeah, I think that is a really good way to finish the video. So hopefully you have enjoyed this, so please hit that thumb-up like button. Find the globe on screen to get all the other videos
that we’ve got here on GTN. And if you want to see a video about how to lose weight from cycling, well you can see that one here. – Yeah, and if you’d like to see a video about fat oxidation and
burning fat during exercise, then you can see that by
clicking just down here.

50 thoughts on “Swimming Vs Running: What Burns The Most Calories?

  1. What a conundrum, swimming to lose weight, but swimmers tend to have a little bit higher body fat percentage than distance runners or cyclists!! Hmmm!

  2. honestly speaking, running in Z1 is… briks walk 😉
    one thing you omitted: 30min of running takes… 32min (including putting the clothes up and down) while swimming will take 1h+ if not 1.5h+ (getting to swimming pool, changing clothes, drying up etc.). So probably running is much more affordable from all resources point of view. Great video anyway.

  3. As an outdoor swimmer, I always swim in the lake (Lake Geneva in Switzerland) even in Winter and people told me that when you swim in cold water you loose calories just because you’re shivering and cold. So I wonder if that actually makes swimming more efficient in terms of calories loss ?

  4. I've always thought of it as running will burn more calories, but swimming gives the better full body workout. And as you two mentioned there's a lot of extra requirements to swim (drive to pool, change, have right equipment etc.)

  5. I was also expecting running to burn more calories but I wasn’t expecting it to be so close to swimming. This is so interesting. THANK YOU for doing this.

  6. I'm confused. Zones are often defined by heart rate, no? Then you also used heart rate to determine calories burned? Wouldn't this methodology, by definition, conclude that all sports burn the same number of calories? I think the only thing you demonstrated here is that picking zones by feel is inconsistent across sports?

  7. With time very often the pulse is going up because of exhaustion. That may be interesting. Do we burn more calories in our first 30’ or second 30’? 😊 Nice video!

  8. Good video, and you might want to consider that you did not take into account the water temperature factor and the body reaction to that temperature. The energy lost through heat in the swim forces the body to burn calories not accurately accounted for on the HR test. There is good work on this by the Author Ray Cronise (SP?) https://www.wired.com/2013/02/ff-cold-weight-loss/

  9. remember: Swimming in colder water forces your body to spend additional Kcal to make up for heat-loss. The colder the water, the more you burn (in theory).

  10. There isn't a consideration of calories burned from dramatic increases in body temperature POST swim. In water your core temperature stays cooler… therefore, a significant amount of calories are burned when you leave the cooler water. This is called a body temperature spike. This spike does not occur while running. And, this body temperature spike also explains hunger from post swimming work outs.

  11. I think at the intensity you guys swim at they're much closer. But for the median amateur athlete, our swim KCAL burn doesn't remotely approach what we burn on the run. And for the BOP swimmers, the gulf is even greater…but swimming always makes you more hungry!

  12. Running obviously, your lactate threshold is so much higher up the VO2 as you can actually breathe. It’s a no brained.

  13. Hey GTN? Any suggestions on ways to keep your sunglasses from getting covered in sweat when running? It makes things blurry and harder to see.

  14. EXCEPT most swimming is done in intervals with rest stops at the pool, not continuous Z4 for 60 mins. So take that into account as well.

  15. When the guys zone 1 swim is still better than your max effort! 🤦🏻‍♂️ Great video chaps, so the difference is half a pint of larger!? 🤔🍺👍

  16. I'm at 0:45 and know that your calory burn rate depends on your body ability to consume oxygen. With small variations, anything you doing in the same HR zone will burn about the same amount of calories per time unit.

  17. 9:54 I don't know if you are considering (or event be able to estimate for) the fact that in water your body needs to compensate more for the temperature difference – the air is a better insulator, while the water is not and on top of it it touches the skin directly. I recon a lot of calories will be burned just to maintain the body temperature. This would be enough anyway to top the results from running. You cannot argue with the hungry sensation after swimming…

  18. One variable is key: good technique vs average or (for triathletes) bad technique

    A triathlete who has trained as a swimmer will burn much less calories than a bad swimmer for the exact same session

  19. Great video!
    But have you considered an all out test in both of them? And also for cycling (on a turbo, for instance)?

    I mean, if you were to do an all out 10' test, or even a 5' test, wich one would take the most energy out of you?

    I think doing this sort of test in zone 4 is not a very reliable method. One can always push more or less regarding the technical aspects of each sport. You can look at the watch while running to know ir ARE in zone 4 whilst in swimming you go by feel, and no matter how well you know yourself this always plays a part. You can also be in a lower or upper end in each zone.

  20. Serious running burns serious calories. A good runner can burn 1200+ kcal in an hour at moderate intensity. Swimming? Not so much. A good swimmer can expect to burn around 600-700 kcal swimming at maximum effort. There is absolutely no comparison. Intense biking burns a little bit more calories than swimming. Running is hands down the most efficient form of cardio to burn calories followed by rowing, then cycling and only then by swimming.

  21. Swimming 100% is more sustainable than running and arguably compliments running due to its effects on the lungs. At a competitive level its more situational but at a passive athletic level; swimming is way better. The toll running can take on the body requires more costly recovery and sometimes cant even be repaired completely. Running also requires more gear and in some scenarios could be just as facility-based as swimming. You do burn more calories running, but unless your trying to cut weight for a weigh-in, there really is no need for emergency. You can repeat swimming sessions more often than running. A big mistake an untrained swimmer can make is go swimming without an instructor or safety, a big mistake a runner can make are same but their gear is more costly and requires special knowledge to choose. You cant just run with any shoe, most untrained and even trained runners make that mistake and results in demoralizing/detrimental results.

    I ran for many years and I see more older folks in the pool than the tracks wherever I go. I got way more injuries from running than swimming. Swimming does have a bigger learning curb than running, but if you have access to a pool, a pool is way better than a track, trail or the streets. Plus you get more gains and get to enjoy more of the world which is mostly water…

  22. Isn't true that at lower Zone you'd burn more fat vs higher Zone you'll just burn glycogen? Not all kcal are the same

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