Swimming vs. Running: A Comprehensive Comparison of the Benefits and Drawbacks of Each Workout

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When it comes to choosing a workout routine, swimming and running are two popular options that offer numerous benefits. Both activities provide excellent cardiovascular workouts and help in building strength. However, determining which one is better depends on various factors such as individual preferences, fitness goals, and physical condition.

Benefits of Swimming and Running

Before diving into the comparison, it’s essential to understand the unique benefits each activity offers:

Swimming Benefits:

  1. Low impact: Swimming is a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress on joints, making it suitable for individuals with joint pain or injuries.
  2. Full-body workout: Swimming engages the entire body, working multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including the arms, legs, core, and back.
  3. Improved flexibility: The range of motion involved in swimming helps improve flexibility and joint mobility.
  4. Enhanced lung capacity: Swimming requires controlled breathing, which helps increase lung capacity and overall endurance.
  5. Cooling effect: Swimming helps regulate body temperature, making it an excellent workout option during hot weather.

Running Benefits:

  1. Convenience: Running can be done almost anywhere, making it a convenient workout option for many.
  2. Weight loss: Running is an effective calorie-burning exercise, making it an ideal choice for individuals aiming for weight loss.
  3. Bone density: The impact of running helps stimulate bone growth, resulting in improved bone density.
  4. Mood booster: Running releases endorphins, which can enhance mood and reduce stress.
  5. Competitive opportunities: Running offers various race events, allowing individuals to challenge themselves and set goals.

Which Workout Burns More Calories?

When it comes to calorie burn, both swimming and running are excellent choices. The number of calories burned depends on factors like intensity, duration, and individual weight. On average, running tends to burn more calories per minute than swimming due to its higher impact and increased effort. However, swimming provides a longer-lasting calorie burn due to the resistance of water, which requires more energy to overcome.

To provide a general comparison, here’s a table showcasing the approximate calories burned per 30 minutes of activity for an individual weighing around 155 pounds:

ActivityCalories Burned (30 minutes)
Swimming223 calories
Running298 calories

Please note that these numbers are estimates and may vary depending on individual factors.

Building Strength: Swimming or Running?

Both swimming and running contribute to muscle development, but in different ways:


  • Builds upper body strength: The resistance of water engages the muscles in the arms, shoulders, chest, and back, helping to tone and strengthen the upper body.
  • Core activation: Swimming requires stabilizing the core muscles to maintain balance and proper technique, leading to increased core strength.


  • Leg muscle development: The repeated impact of running activates and strengthens the leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.
  • Core engagement: While running, the core muscles work to stabilize the body and maintain proper posture, resulting in improved core strength.

In terms of overall muscle engagement, swimming offers a more comprehensive full-body workout, while running primarily focuses on lower body strength.

Cardiovascular Health: Swimming vs Running

Both swimming and running are excellent aerobic exercises that promote cardiovascular health. Regular engagement in either activity can help:

It’s important to note that the cardiovascular benefits vary based on the intensity and duration of the workout. Engaging in either swimming or running for at least 30 minutes, several times a week, can significantly contribute to overall cardiovascular fitness.

Impact on Joints: Swimming vs Running

One of the primary concerns when choosing a workout routine is the impact on joints. Here’s how swimming and running compare in this aspect:



  • High impact: Running involves repetitive impact on the joints, especially the knees and ankles. This can potentially lead to joint pain, stress fractures, or other related injuries.
  • Shock absorption: Proper footwear and running on softer surfaces, such as grass or trails, can help minimize the impact on joints.

Individuals with joint conditions or those seeking a low-impact workout should consider swimming as it provides a safer option.

Finding the Right Workout for You

Choosing between swimming and running depends on personal preferences, fitness goals, and individual circumstances. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Preferences: Determine which activity you enjoy more, as it will increase your motivation and consistency.
  2. Physical condition: Assess any existing injuries, joint conditions, or health concerns that may impact your choice of workout.
  3. Fitness goals: Consider whether you aim to build overall strength, improve cardiovascular fitness, lose weight, or train for a specific event.
  4. Accessibility: Evaluate the availability of swimming pools or suitable running routes in your area.
  5. Variety: Incorporating both swimming and running into your routine can provide a balanced and diverse workout regimen.

Remember, consulting with a healthcare professional or a certified fitness trainer can help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and goals.


1. Is swimming or running better for weight loss?

Both swimming and running can contribute to weight loss when incorporated into a calorie-controlled diet. Running generally burns more calories per minute, but swimming provides a longer-lasting calorie burn due to water resistance.

2. Can swimming or running worsen joint pain?

Swimming is a low-impact exercise that puts minimal stress on joints, making it a suitable option for individuals with joint pain. Running, on the other hand, can have a higher impact on joints and may worsen joint pain if not approached with caution.

3. Can swimming or running improve cardiovascular health?

Yes, both swimming and running are excellent aerobic exercises that improve cardiovascular health. Regular engagement in either activity can enhance heart health, lower blood pressure, and increase lung capacity.

4. Can I incorporate swimming and running into my workout routine?

Yes, incorporating both swimming and running into your routine can provide a balanced and diverse workout regimen. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of both activities and target different muscle groups.

5. Which activity is more suitable for beginners?

Swimming is often considered more beginner-friendly due to its low-impact nature and the fact that it is easier to learn proper technique with the help of swim lessons or a coach. However, beginners can also start with running by gradually increasing intensity and duration.

6. Can swimming or running help with stress reduction?

Both swimming and running release endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce stress. Engaging in either activity can contribute to stress reduction and overall mental well-being.

7. How often should I swim or run to see results?

To see results, aim to swim or run at least three to four times per week, with each session lasting 30 minutes or more. Consistency and gradually increasing intensity are key to achieving desired results in terms of strength, endurance, and overall fitness.

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