But don’t get caught up in those numbers. How many calories you burn swimming depends on many factors, says Bianca Beldini, D.P.T., a physical therapist, USA Triathlon-certified coach, and certified Schwinn Cycling instructor.
Your body: “Someone who weighs more will expend more calories than someone who weighs less because it takes more energy to move a larger body than a smaller one,” she says. (Which, yes, is taken into account in the METs formula.) “But a larger body will also create more surface area in the water thus creating more drag resistance. More drag means it takes more energy to push through the resistance, therefore increasing the heart rate and resulting in higher caloric expenditure.”
Your swim speed: How fast you can swim also affects your calorie burn. “The slower you swim, the less energy output there is, resulting in less calories burned,” says Beldini. Hence, the faster you swim, the more energy you use. Using swim devices such as pull buoys, pull paddles, parachutes, and bands, to increase resistance or increase drag will also increase your energy output, upping your calorie burn, she adds.
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