Swimming vs Running – Find out Which is Better & Why?

When it comes to cardiovascular exercises, both swimming and running seem to be some of the most popular activities. We figured that we would put together a ‘quick guide’ which aims to compare the two, so you can work out which one is going to be the most beneficial for you.

For Weight Loss

If you are looking to lose weight, then swimming is going to win easily. It may not seem like it, but swimming burns off a lot more calories than running does. Put the same amount of effort into swimming as you do into running and you may be burning 200-300 calories more per hour. This means that you will be able to get more out of your workout session! It may not seem like a lot, but trust us, if you were burning an extra 300 calories per hour, it means the weight is just going to “fall” off. Remember the extra calories burned may go up if you currently have a lot of weight.

Winner for weight loss: swimming

For Building up Muscles

Running works out your leg muscles and, at a push, your arm muscles too. However, you are really going to need to focus on building up your arm muscles. This means that you need to get those arms swinging as you run. Some people find it hard to do this. IN most cases, if you run, you are going to end up with toned legs and that is it.

On the other hand, if you are swimming, then every single muscle in your body is going to get a workout. It is going to be some serious resistance training too. Remember; you will be gliding through that water. That water is going to be putting ‘pressure’ on your muscles. This will cause them to work a bit harder.

Obviously, with neither of these activities are you going to get that ultimate ‘toned’ body. If you really want to build up your muscles to be really toned, then you are going to need to consider strength training. Although, we are positive that you are considering that already since you want to get into shape.

Winner for building up muscles: swimming


If you want to work on your breathing, and ultimately lead to a boost in your overall stamina, then swimming is going to win here. When you do certain strokes, you will need to learn how to regulate your breathing properly. This is not going to be easy at the start. In fact, people have a lot of difficulty when it comes to regulating their breathing while swimming, but over time you will find that it gets easier. When you swim, you will end up with stronger lungs, and your heart is going to better at pumping the oxygen around your body.

Of course, when you are running, you are still going to be breathing and giving those lungs and heart a good workout. However, you do need to remember that most people are abysmal at regulating their breathing when it comes to running. This is because you are never really put in a position where it needs to be regulated. When you are swimming, your head will often be under water so you need to plan to breathe at the right time. When you are running, you can huff and puff as much as you like. It is not always effective to do that, but most people never really learn any better than that.

Breathing: swimming is going to win here too.

Swimming is better when injured

When you are swimming, there is very little pressure placed on your body. The water ‘hugs’ it somewhat. This means that swimming is fantastic if you are looking to exercise but your muscles are injured in some way. When you run, you will be putting a lot of pressure on your leg muscles.

You should also remember that as you get older, or if you are suffering from a disability, running becomes a lot more difficult. Swimming is something that you will only not be able to do if you have lost complete control of either your legs or your arms.

Swimming is fantastic if you are looking to recover from an injury, but we are positive that once you start swimming to recover from an injury, this will be the exercise that you turn to in the future. It just feels…great!

Ease of getting into

Obviously, the major downside of swimming is that you are going to need to have access to a swimming pool. When it comes to running, you just need access to the great outdoors. We are going to assume that the latter is going to be easier for you to access here unless you have a swimming pool in your garden. Therefore, this is one of only a few ‘points’ where running is going to win.

Ease of getting into the activity: running

Swimming is less boring

Seriously. It is. There are so many different strokes that you can experiment with when you are swimming. It helps to keep things interesting. When you are running, you are just going to be running. You may run some intervals on occasion, but even that is not going to be all that interesting!

Is Swimming Harder Than Running?

Not really. No. Obviously, it is going to be harder to swim if you have never had a swimming lesson, but for the most part, swimming is going to be nowhere near as hard as running. In fact, for many people swimming is quite a relaxing experience.

Remember; one of the main benefits of swimming is the fact that it puts minimal strain on your muscles. This means that you can swim even if you are injured. There is absolutely no way you would be able to run if you are injured. It could do more damage. Most people use swimming as a way to recover from serious injuries, which goes to show just how beneficial it can be!