Is Swimming Aerobic or Anaerobic?
Swimming can be intimidating. First, you have to get into a pool. Second, you have to know how to swim or be willing to learn how. But, we want to help shave that intimidation away. The pool offers a ton of variations of low-impact workouts and is a great place to build and maintain your strength as you age. It is worth getting to know your way around the pool, and with practice, patience, and a little research, you should be able to enhance your skills. But first, we need to start with the basics. Let’s dive into whether swimming is aerobic or anaerobic. Let’s find out now.
What Is Aerobic Exercise?
Aerobic exercise simply means “with oxygen.” It includes workouts that you breathe through for fuel. Exercises like jogging, running, dancing, cycling, skiing, etc. are all great examples of aerobic exercise. You cannot jog at your best distance without first practicing and perfecting your breathing technique. Aerobic exercise is less stressful on your body because you can consistently send oxygen throughout the body through breathing. This allows you to work out for longer stretches of time. During aerobic exercise, your body is fueled by the amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates that are pulled out of the oxygen you breathe. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity 5 to 7 days a week, making it a staple to your health routine.
Is Swimming Aerobic?
With that in mind, it can be easy to wonder if swimming is considered aerobic exercise, and it is! It may sound a little odd. How do you fuel a workout with oxygen when swimming? But, you do! Especially if you are using proper breathing techniques. So, start by learning swimming for beginners, and then work your way into building aerobic strength that can positively impact all of your health efforts.
What About Water Aerobics?
You can have a ton of fun while working out in the water as well. You can join in on classes like AquaFit to learn how to work out in the water without necessarily swimming. In these classes, you use tools like pool noodles, water weights, and body weight to get a calorie-blasting, low-impact, and fun workout. These classes offer a great way to get familiar with the water with the added benefit of having an instructor to guide you through your swimming workout.
What is Anaerobic Exercise?
Anaerobic means “without oxygen.” These workouts are usually strength-based, or high-intensity. They include HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), plyometrics, sprinting, and any other conditioning that you exert your effort for a short period of time (a few seconds to two minutes). During anaerobic exercise, your body is grabbing energy through glycogen. These are calories left behind by the foods you ate and stored for later to use when you are exerting energy. They are activated when oxygen is not being pumped to the muscles to propel you through a workout.
Is Swimming Anaerobic?
Of course, it is! Similar to sprinting on land, if you exert all of your efforts into the pool, then you will be practicing an anaerobic workout. You can complete pool sprints, swimming at your fastest for a set number of seconds or minutes, and even complete moderate strength training exercises with the resistance of the water, or also pool weights. Be sure to track your heart rate so that you can reach 80% to 90% MHR (maximum heart rate) for anaerobic workouts.
Which is Better?
It is best to do what you love. If you prefer to swim laps until your workout is through, take water aerobics classes, or strength train in the pool—you should do what you love. For optimal results, you should do a healthy balance of all of these exercises. This will help you to gain well-rounded strength in your heart, lungs, and various muscle groups and help you to be a better athlete overall.
For tips on how to start swimming, check out the swimming resources on our blog. We want to help you head to the pool with the confidence that you know how to put the workout together. Check out the locations below to find the Chuze gyms with pool closest to you. We cannot wait to see you develop your swimming skills!
Ani is the Vice President of Fitness at Chuze Fitness and oversees the group fitness and team training departments. She’s had a 25+ year career in club management, personal training, group exercise and instructor training. Ani lives with her husband and son in San Diego, CA and loves hot yoga, snowboarding and all things wellness.
- Chertoff, Jane. “What’s the Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic?” Healthline. 1 September, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/difference-between-aerobic-and-anaerobic
- DeWire, Raymond. “Livehealthy. Updated 5 April, 2018. https://livehealthy.chron.com/swimming-aerobic-anaerobic-4254.html
- Mayer Robinson, Kara. “Swimming.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/swimming-for-fitness