Is Swimming Better Than Running: Here’s The Reality

Swimming and running are two popular forms of exercise that fitness enthusiasts have embraced for decades. They each offer unique advantages and provide numerous health benefits. Yet, the debate over which is superior – swimming or running – has long been a topic of discussion among those seeking to make the most of their fitness routines.

In this article, we’ll delve into the merits of both activities and uncover the reality behind whether swimming is better than running or vice versa.

Comparing Swimming Vs. Running

Examining which activity excels in calories burned, impact on bone health, cardiovascular fitness, muscle strengthening, and contributions to mental well-being. 

By delving into these facets, we aim to shed light on the age-old debate: Is swimming better than running, or is it the other way around? 

1. Calories Burned

When it comes to burning calories, both swimming and running have their strengths. Running is often touted for its calorie-torching potential. It’s a high-impact exercise that can rapidly elevate your heart rate, resulting in significant calorie expenditure. 

A 30-minute run can effectively aid weight loss and promote healthy body composition by burning a significant amount of calories.

On the other hand, swimming also proves to be an excellent calorie-burning activity. While it may not raise your heart rate as quickly as running, swimming engages various muscle groups and requires continuous movement against water resistance. 

In a study conducted by Harvard, researchers found that people weighing 185 lbs can lose 252 calories in 30 minutes of swimming. 

2. Bone Health

Both swimming and running can contribute to bone health, albeit in slightly different ways. Running is a weight-bearing exercise, which means it places stress on your bones. This stress encourages bone remodelling, increasing density and reducing osteoporosis risk.

Swimming is better than running, particularly for those with joint problems or a history of stress fractures. Swimming, being a non-weight-bearing exercise, doesn’t place the same stress on your bones as running does. However, it can still have a positive impact on bone health. 

The resistance of the water against your movements encourages muscle engagement, which indirectly benefits bone health. Additionally, swimming can be an excellent exercise option for those who need to avoid high-impact activities due to joint issues or injuries.

3. Cardiovascular Health

Both swimming and running provide significant cardiovascular benefits. Running, with its ability to quickly raise your heart rate and improve aerobic fitness, is often praised for its cardiovascular advantages. 

Regular running can strengthen your heart, increase lung capacity, and enhance overall cardiovascular endurance.

Swimming, too, is an exceptional choice for improving cardiovascular health. Swimming engages the large muscles of the upper and lower body, and the continuous movement against water resistance challenges your heart and lungs. 

This aerobic exercise can boost your cardiovascular fitness and improve circulation, making it particularly beneficial for individuals with respiratory conditions.

4. Muscle Strengthening

While swimming and running engage various muscle groups, they do so differently. Running primarily targets the muscles of the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. It can help tone and strengthen these muscles over time.

Swimming, on the other hand, provides a full-body workout. As you propel yourself through the water, you engage your arms, shoulders, chest, back, core, and legs. This comprehensive muscle engagement leads to a balanced and well-rounded strengthening of your entire body.

5. Muscles Worked

In addition to muscle strengthening, it’s important to consider the specific muscles worked by each activity. Running predominantly engages the muscles in the lower body, as mentioned earlier. It also involves the core muscles to stabilise your torso while you run.

Swimming, with its wide range of strokes and movements, works a variety of muscles throughout your body. The freestyle stroke, for example, targets the muscles in your shoulders, upper back, and chest, while the breaststroke emphasises the legs and inner thighs. 

The butterfly stroke engages the core and lower back, providing a challenging workout for these muscle groups. As the body resists the water, it also slowly builds your muscle. It can give you an athletic figure better than weight training alone.

6. Risk Of Injury

Because it is a high-impact activity, running can place a significant stress on your joints, particularly in the knees and ankles. Over time, this repetitive impact can lead to conditions like shin splints, stress fractures, and a runner’s knee.

Also, running frequently and pushing your body too hard without adequate rest can lead to overuse injuries, such as tendinitis or muscle strains.

Swimmers, especially those who engage in high-intensity training, can be susceptible to shoulder injuries like rotator cuff issues due to the repetitive motion of the arms during strokes. Much like in running, swimming for extended periods without proper technique and recovery can lead to overuse injuries.

7. Mental Health Benefits

Exercise can impact mental health, and both swimming and running offer unique benefits in this regard. When you go for a run, your body releases endorphins, which make you feel good. They help to boost your mood and reduce anxiety. 

This is especially true when you run outdoors, connect with nature and enjoy the fresh air and natural surroundings. 

Meanwhile, swimming can be a meditative activity. The focus required to maintain proper form and rhythm can clear your mind and provide a sense of mental clarity, which can benefit mental health

The rhythmic and repetitive nature of swimming strokes, combined with the soothing properties of water, can promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.

How Can Running Help Swimmers?

Swimming lessons often incorporate running into training routines to complement swimming workouts. Running improves cardiovascular endurance differently from swimming, making it a valuable cross-training option for swimmers to enhance their overall aerobic capacity. 

Additionally, running engages lower-body muscles not as intensively used in swimming, strengthening leg muscles crucial for powerful kicks, especially during sprint events. This cross-training approach helps prevent muscle imbalances and improves overall body strength and balance.

Overall, swimmers strategically incorporate running into their training routines to develop a well-rounded fitness profile that complements their swimming performance and enhances their competitive edge.

Conclusion About Swimming And Running

The debate of swimming vs. running comes down to individual preferences, fitness goals, and physical condition. Both activities offer a multitude of benefits, and the best choice depends on your health needs and preferences.

Swimming provides a low-impact, full-body workout that is gentle on the joints while running is a high-impact, calorie-burning exercise that can strengthen the lower body. 

Incorporating both swimming and running into your fitness routine can provide variety and help you reap the many rewards of an active lifestyle. 

The reality is that the best exercise you can stick with and enjoy is the one that resonates with you and fits your needs. And if you happen to love swimming more, consider taking your skills to the next level by enrolling in our swimming lessons! 

Join JustSwim Singapore’s swim classes for an unforgettable aquatic journey where you’ll refine your strokes, boost your confidence, and discover the true joy of swimming. Whether you’re a beginner or aiming to compete, our experienced coaches cater to all skill levels and ages.

Sign up today!

Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming And Running:

Which Burns More Calories: Swimming Or Running?

Running burns more calories per minute than swimming due to its higher intensity. A person weighing 125 lbs may burn 240 calories after a 30-minute run, and 180 calories after a 30-minute leisurely swim. However, the actual calorie burn depends on factors like intensity, duration, and individual fitness levels.

Is Swimming Better For Joint Health Than Running?

Yes, swimming is generally considered better for joint health as it is a low-impact exercise, putting less stress on the joints compared to the high-impact nature of running.

Can Swimming And Running Help Reduce Stress And Improve Mental Health?

Yes, both activities release endorphins, which can reduce stress and improve mood. Swimming’s soothing properties and the meditative nature of running can be particularly beneficial for mental well-being.

How Can I Choose Between Swimming And Running For My Fitness Goals?

Your choice should align with your goals and physical condition. If you have joint issues or prefer low-impact exercise, swimming may be a better choice.