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Swimming vs Cycling: Which burns more calories?

In the fitness world, the battle for calorie supremacy often pits swimming against cycling. Both activities are fantastic for your health, but which one reigns supreme when it comes to burning calories? Let's dive in (pun intended) and explore the factors at play.

Written By: Rahul Pratyush New Delhi Published on: April 08, 2024 18:00 IST
Swimming vs Cycling
Image Source : FREEPIK Swimming vs Cycling: Which burns more calories?

When it comes to choosing an exercise regimen, both swimming and cycling stand out as excellent options for cardiovascular fitness. However, individuals often wonder which activity burns more calories and offers better weight management benefits. Let’s dive into the depths of swimming and cycling to determine which reigns supreme in the battle of calories.

Swimming: The aquatic workout

Swimming is a full-body workout that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. It offers a low-impact form of exercise, making it suitable for people with joint issues or those recovering from injuries. Whether you’re doing freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, or butterfly, swimming provides an effective cardiovascular workout.

One of the key factors influencing calorie burn during swimming is the intensity and duration of the activity. Faster strokes and more vigorous movements generally lead to greater calorie expenditure. Additionally, swimming in colder water can potentially boost calorie burn, as the body works harder to maintain its core temperature.

Cycling: Pedaling towards fitness

Cycling, whether outdoors or on a stationary bike, is another popular choice for burning calories and improving cardiovascular health. Like swimming, cycling engages multiple muscle groups, particularly the legs, glutes, and core. It can be adapted to various fitness levels, from leisurely rides to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions.

The calorie burn during cycling depends on factors such as speed, resistance level, and terrain. Uphill cycling or riding against resistance on a stationary bike typically requires more effort and thus burns more calories. Additionally, factors like wind resistance and body weight can influence calorie expenditure during outdoor cycling.

Comparing calorie burn:

In general, both swimming and cycling can help you burn a significant number of calories per hour. According to Harvard Health Publishing, a person weighing around 155 pounds can burn approximately 372 calories per hour swimming leisurely, and up to 744 calories per hour swimming vigorously. On the other hand, cycling at a moderate pace of 12-14 mph can burn around 596 calories per hour for the same individual.


In general, swimming tends to burn more calories per hour than cycling, particularly at moderate intensities. This is because of the water's resistance and the full-body workout swimming provides. However, the key factor is intensity. High-intensity cycling can rival swimming's calorie burn.

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