Swimming - your ideal holiday workout

Whether you're doing a few laps in the hotel pool or enjoying a day at the beach, there's one form of exercise that's the perfect holiday workout - swimming! When the sun's shining, swimming is the best workout you could hope for - it gives you a full-body workout, gets those endorphins flowing around your body and it cools you off too. What more could you ask for really? We've got the lowdown on the strokes to try, the health benefits of swimming and how you can burn off the calories from those cheeky beach-bar cocktails!

The strokes

There are four main strokes in swimming - breast stroke, back stroke, freestyle/front crawl and butterfly stroke - and each provides a different type of workout.

Freestyle/Front Crawl

One of the most popular swimming strokes, this stroke uses alternating arm movements and it's also the fastest of all swimming strokes, so it's the one to use if you're feeling competitive! Because you are working out one side of your body at a time whilst the other side recovers, you're getting a full body workout without the intensity of butterfly stroke. Did you know you use 48 muscles in front crawl?

Butterfly Stroke

Best for a total body workout, the butterfly uses both arms at once to propel your body through the water, building muscles and burning calories. Butterfly stroke uses your trapezius, latissimus, pectorals, hamstrings, quadriceps, shoulders and hips as well as working your heart and lungs to the max (1). If you're looking for a challenging stroke, this is the one!


The most popular swim stroke, breast stroke gives you more of an upper-body workout compared to the two previous strokes. Both arms make half-circle movements simultaneously under the water in front of you, toning your shoulders and arms and strengthening muscles.


This is a great choice for focusing your wokrout on your arms and shoulders. Travelling on your back, you use alternating circular arm movements over your head. It's also one of the most relaxing swimming strokes - great for unwinding on holiday!

The health benefits

Swimming is an excellent all-round exercise and anyone of any age or level of fitness can get stuck in. Even if you're a beginner swimmer, you'll benefit instantly from the full-body workout it gives you, although we recommend seeing your GP before starting swimming, particularly if you are older or have not exercised in some time.

Did you know that swimming regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, as well as other chronic illnesses? Swimming can also help you to stay in shape and maintain a healthy weight, as well as boosting your mood. It also:

  • Boosts heart rate and helps build cardiovascular fitness
  • Builds endurance and muscle strength
  • Reduces impact stress compared to some other workouts
  • Builds strength and tones muscles
  • Helps you to maintain your weight
  • Improves heart and lung health
  • Gives you a full-body workout as it uses almost all of your muscles

Swimming is also a great exercise for relaxation - many people find it is a peaceful activity which can help to reduce stress and leave you feeling calmer. It can boost your flexibility and mobility, improving your posture, balance and co-ordination, so it's great to go swimming at any age!

Taking a dip in the pool or heading to the beach on holiday gives you the perfect excuse to cool off whilst practising your favourite strokes. If you suffer from existing sports injuries, swimming can help to strengthen muscles and tendons and is a low-impact workout which will improve your fitness and reduce your risk of injury in the future.

The calorie burner

It's not all about building your muscles and improving your fitness - what about burning off those cheeky extra calories you've consumed on holiday? Holidays are the time to treat yourself, so whether you've had a couple of cocktails or some ice cream, hit the pool and burn off that tasty local cuisine with a swim. The number of calories you burn will depend on your weight, your metabolism and how intense your swimming workout is.

Here's an idea of the number of calories you could burn during 60 minutes of swimming (2):

If you weigh 130lbs (just over 9 stone)

  • Freestyle/front crawl (slow) - 413 calories
  • Breaststroke - 590 calories
  • Butterfly - 649 calories
  • Backstroke - 413 calores

If you weigh 180lbs (Just over 12 stone)

  • Freestyle/front crawl (slow) - 572 calories
  • Breaststroke - 817 calories
  • Butterfly - 89 calories
  • Backstroke - 572 calories

Plus, spending time at the pool or on the beach means you could get involved in other activities in the water too, such as water polo, water aerobics, volleyball, diving or even watersports - why not try something new on holiday?

Swimming tips for beginners

If you're totally new to swimming, don't worry - it's a beginner friendly sport! We recommend taking classes, either with a professional instructor or from a friend, if you don't know what you're doing. Or you could just get stuck in and give it a go! Here are a few tips to make sure your swimming workout goes smoothly, whether you're on the beach in sunny spain or enjoying a dip in your hotel pool in Greece:

- Make sure you warm-up and stretch your muscles thoroughly before entering the water

- Don't go swimming directly after eating - wait at least an hour or two

- Don't forget to stay hydrated, especially if the weather is hot and sunny

- Always swim in a safe environment and pay attention to warning signs or beach/pool closures

- If you're not an experienced swimmer, stay close to the shore if swimming at sea as strong currents could be dangeous

We think swimming is the best workout there is this holiday season, so no matter where you're heading, make sure you find time to fit some swimming into your schedule - it definitely beats a workout at the gym!

READ THIS NEXT: 8 Ways to make your holiday healthier

Works cited:

  1. http://www.livestrong.com/article/400695-the-best-swimming-stroke-for-an-overall-workout/

  2. http://www.nutristrategy.com/caloriesburnedswimming.htm

Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 21st Apr 2015 at 13:34

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