Is swimming cardio? Absolutely! Swimming has long been considered an excellent exercise to incorporate into your fitness routine, but many people worry that it isn’t cardiovascular enough to be considered cardio—i.e., capable of burning calories quickly and effectively. That’s simply not true, though, and this article explains why swimming is actually one of the best cardio workouts around!

What is Cardio?

Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise, is any type of physical activity that increases your heart rate. When your heart rate increases, your heart, and lungs work harder, and your body gets more oxygen. This type of exercise strengthens your heart and lungs and helps to improve your overall cardiovascular health.

Swimming is an excellent form of cardio because it works all of the major muscle groups in your body without putting too much stress on your joints. Unlike other forms of cardio, like running or cycling, swimming is low-impact, meaning it doesn’t put any pressure on your knees or hips. This can be easier even on those who are older or recovering from injury.

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is swimming cardio, young woman in the swimming pool

What Are the Benefits of Swimming as a cardio exercise

1. Great for Endurance

One of the main benefits of swimming for cardio is that it’s great for endurance. When you swim, your body has to work harder to move through the water, which means your heart and lungs get a great workout. This can help improve your overall cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

Swimming also improves stamina because it requires constant motion and effort. With an improved endurance level, you’ll be able to exercise more vigorously without feeling as tired or exhausted after 30 minutes or so.

The buoyancy of the water also makes it easier on your joints and muscles, so swimmers often experience less soreness than other athletes. Plus, as you grow stronger in the pool, you’ll find yourself working up a sweat more quickly during workouts–making them more effective for weight loss!

2. Strengthens the core

Most people think of swimming as an excellent way to tone the arms and legs but don’t realize that it also strengthens the core muscles in your body. This is because you have to use your abdominal muscles to keep yourself stable in the water. A strong core can lead to better balance and stability, both in and out of the pool. It will also help with posture and even decrease back pain.

3. Improves flexibility

When you swim, you use all of the muscles in your body to move through the water. This gives you a full-body workout and helps improve your flexibility. In addition, the resistance of the water helps to strengthen your muscles. You can also work on different muscle groups by varying your strokes – breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly stroke, etc. With so many benefits and no pressure on joints or bones, swimming is a great way to increase flexibility while also increasing strength!

4. Increases metabolism

When you swim, your body has to work harder to move through the water. This resistance helps to increase your metabolism, which is the rate at which your body burns calories. In fact, studies have shown that swimming can help to boost your metabolism by up to 15%. While this may not seem like a lot, it can make a difference if you’re trying to lose weight.

Research has also shown that people who swim at least three times per week have less belly fat than those who don’t exercise at all or just focus on other types of cardio like running or biking.

5. Builds Coordination and Balance

Most people think of swimming as an excellent way to build cardio endurance, but it’s also a great way to improve coordination and balance. That’s because when you’re in the water, you have to use your entire body to move through the resistance of the water. This full-body movement helps improve coordination and balance.

6. Promotes joint health

The low-impact nature of swimming is easy on the joints, making it an ideal cardio workout for those with joint pain or arthritis. Water can also provide resistance to help build muscle and promote joint health. It has been found that aerobic exercise performed in water may decrease the risk of osteoarthritis.

A study found that people who exercised in a pool three times a week had lower levels of inflammation and better mobility than those who didn’t work out at all.

A long-term study by Denmark’s National Institute of Occupational Health found that swimmers are far less likely to suffer from back problems than people who do other forms of exercise.

7. Boosts mood

When you’re swimming, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that block pain signals from the brain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of a runner’s high. So not only will swimming help your physical health, but it can also boost your mood and mental health.

8. No need for equipment

One great thing about swimming is that you don’t need any equipment to do it. All you need is a body of water, and you’re good to go. This makes it a very accessible form of exercise, especially if you live near a beach or lake or when you’re traveling or don’t have access to a gym.

And since you don’t need any equipment, it’s very affordable. It costs nothing but your time and the gas to get there. And if you want to really maximize your workout time, just swim laps in your backyard pool.

9. Swim Less Time, Get Better Results

You don’t have to spend hours in the pool to reap the benefits of swimming. In fact, you can get a great workout in a shorter amount of time than you would with other cardio exercises like running or biking.

How Much Do I Need to Swim Each Week to Get Fit?

Swimming is a fantastic way to get your heart rate up and get in some cardio, but how much do you need to swim each week to really see results? Well, that depends on your fitness goals.

If you’re just looking to maintain your current level of fitness, then you only need to swim about 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes at a time. But if you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness or lose weight, then you’ll need to swim more often and for longer periods of time.

For example, the American Heart Association recommends swimming for 40 minutes 3-5 days per week to improve cardiovascular fitness. And while it may seem like an intimidating goal, remember that you can break up your time into smaller increments throughout the day – even 10 minutes here and there can be enough when it comes to getting your heart rate up!

Which Strokes Are the Best?

When it comes to swimming, there are four main strokes:


Involves the upper back, chest, abs, triceps, abs, and thighs.

When you swim freestyle, also known as front crawl, you alternate arms while propelling yourself forward through the water. This stroke is considered one of the most efficient ways to swim, and it’s often used in competitive events. Your legs move in a flutter kick motion, and your head and torso rotate so that you can breathe every few strokes. Because freestyle uses large muscle groups in your arms, legs, and core, it’s an excellent cardio workout.


Involves upper back, chest, shoulders, triceps, butt, and legs

The breaststroke is a swimming style in which the swimmer propels themselves through the water using a breaststroke kick. This kick consists of both legs moving together in a symmetrical flutter kick while the arms move in a synchronized alternating pattern. The breaststroke is considered the slowest of the four main competitive strokes, but it is also one of the most difficult to master. While it may not be the fastest stroke, it is definitely an excellent choice for those looking for a challenging cardio workout.


Involvesshoulders, chest, back, core, arms, and legs

The butterfly stroke is a swimmer’s best friend when it comes to getting into a great cardio workout. This stroke works the largest muscles in the body, including the chest, back, and legs, making it an extremely efficient way to get your heart rate up and your blood pumping. What’s more, the butterfly stroke is also a great way to build strength and endurance – two key components of any good cardio workout.

It involves keeping both the legs close and kicking them together using both the knees and hip at the same time.

This stroke is best for short interval training and may not be good for those looking to swim for an extended period. This stroke also requires good mobility, flexibility, and strength. Otherwise, the range of movements that occur simultaneously on both shoulders may be tough on your shoulder joints. So if starting out, this stroke may not be a good option for you.


Involves shoulders, chest, upper back, core, and legs

It is swum on the back and is usually the first stroke learned by new swimmers. The backstroke can be swum either freestyle or with a specific backstroke technique.

So which stroke is the best?

Of these four strokes, freestyle is generally considered the best for cardio. It involves using both arms and legs in a coordinated pattern, which means that more muscle groups are getting worked.

Freestyle also uses the entire body while other strokes only use certain parts of the body – making it a more efficient workout than others.

However, what stroke is right for you ultimately depends on your goal, experience, medical condition, and personal preference. If you have any underlying medical conditions, make sure you work closely with a trainer to help you determine and master what’s best for you.

What is the best time to go swimming?

If you’re looking to add more cardio to your routine, swimming is a great option. But when’s the best time to swim? First thing in the morning, or after you’ve already exercised on another day?

The answer depends on what you want to get out of your workout. Mornings are a good option if you need an intense but short and quick workout that will wake you up and energize you for the rest of the day.

It’s also a good idea if you need something easy that doesn’t require much equipment, like at the gym. And since you can’t do anything else while you’re in the water, it’ll make sure you work hard during your workout.

Finally, mornings are a good option if getting outside early is important to you.

The downside of swimming first thing in the morning: while it might give you energy, it won’t help with fat loss. A post-workout swim can lead to more calories burned than before exercise, so keep this in mind.

Another way to structure your days is by alternating between swimming on one day and going running or doing some other form of aerobic exercise on the next. You can even alternate them within the same week. Whatever works best for you!

Final Thoughts

Swimming may seem like more of an upper body workout, but the fact is that it’s an intense full-body cardio workout that gets your heart pumping just as much as jogging on the treadmill or doing crunches at the gym.

The reason swimming provides such an excellent cardio workout lies in the water itself, which supports your weight and provides resistance as you move through it. This resistance forces your body to work harder in order to propel you forward, so all of your muscles get a great workout, including those in your legs and butt!

Incorporating swimming as a cardio exercise in your workout routine is cheaper and can help promote endurance, increase metabolism, improve flexibility and core strength, improve joint health, promote balance and coordination, and boost your moods. 

To ensure optimal benefits, make sure you choose a swimming stroke that works for you.

Also, put into consideration your best swimming. But ultimately, swimming after other workout activities may enhance the benefits.

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