Ask our expert: Is lap swimming a good choice to lose weight?

Brian Haycock gives you the low down on this aerobic type exercise

April 19, 2013
Ask our expert: Is lap swimming a good choice to lose weight?

Q. I don’t do a lot of cardio. Is lap swimming a good choice to lose weight?

A. Swimming, although an aerobic type exercise, is not ideal for weight loss. A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine looked at the effects of swimming on weight loss. Overweight but otherwise healthy young women seeking to lose weight were randomly assigned to one of three groups in which only their type of daily exercise differed: brisk walking, riding a stationary cycle, or swimming laps. All women slowly increased their time spent doing daily exercise to 60 minutes. After six months the women assigned to walking had lost 10% of their initial weight, the women who cycled had lost 12%, but the women who swam had lost no weight.

To drop pounds, try structured exercise such as using a treadmill, joining a group cycling class, or some other option you have at your gym. Of course, your cardio doesn’t have to be on a machine—hiking trails, jogging, and of course walking will all work. Because you haven’t been doing much cardio I would start out fairly light, going 20–30 minutes at an intensity at which you can still carry on a conversation. After three or four weeks, add more time or more intensity incrementally, as your fitness gains allow.