running vs swimming

Everything You Need To Know About Running And Swimming

When it comes to exercise, you are either a dedicated athlete who spends much of their time working out or perhaps you are a beginner to the whole idea of moving about. Regardless of what you are, though, you might nevertheless be interested in improving your fitness lifestyle, whether it is a means of upping your typical workout regimen or starting one to begin with.

That said, two of the most basic exercises that serve as simple, but effective workouts are that of running and swimming. Although two very different types of workouts, both are useful when it comes to burning a lot of calories while also improving your stamina and getting you into excellent shape. In a way, both go hand-in-hand with each other.

very different types of workouts

You might, however, be wondering just how effective both workouts are, especially when it comes to your health. In addition, you may not be sure just how to get started with these different forms of exercise. That is why we are here to help! In this article, we will give you specific tips and information on running and swimming, comparing as well as contrasting them to help you figure out just which one is the ideal exercise for you. Soon enough, you will be on your way to a fitter, happier lifestyle.

Let’s get started!


What are the differences between running and swimming?

Aside from the obvious of working out on land versus exercising in water, running and swimming have other differences that need to be accounted for, in order to get a better idea of which one is the best workout for you. In this section, we will be breaking down the distinctions between the two sports in terms of how many calories and fat you burn, as well as which muscles they each work out:

I. Running

1. Works out the lower body.

Granted, running does work out a small part of your upper body (namely, the abs), but for the most part, it does a good job of toning the muscles from below your hips. Namely, here are the specific muscles which running targets:

o Calves. One of the most obvious signs of running comes from the enlargement and toning of the calf muscles, located at the back of your lower legs. They become especially toned when you add resistance to them, such as when you are running on an incline. Having toned calves not only makes you look fit, but also it helps make everyday activities, e.g. walking, a lot easier and less exhausting.

o Quadriceps. Located at the front of your upper legs, quadriceps (“quads,” for short) are built up whenever you extend your leg in the middle of a run. Each stride in which you extend your knee leads to this particular area getting more muscular, and having strong quads certainly helps to build resistance against inclines, should you end up going up them.

o Hamstrings. On the other hand, hamstrings are situated at the back of the upper legs. Whereas the quadriceps are activated when extended, the hamstrings are used whenever you bend your knee in midstride, thereby causing it to flex like biceps and eventually toning them as well.

o Gluteals. Also known as your “buttocks,” gluteals are the muscles which are worked out when expanded and contracted all at once—they are especially prominent when it comes to running uphill, as the hip flexors also work to bring them to support you in the middle of running. Considering that people strive for a toned bottom, running can give you that!

2. Consistently burning calories.

When it comes to running, you are always burning calories in some shape or form. This is due to the fact that, even if you are tired and merely jogging, you are still moving and subsequently working your muscles, to the point of continuously burning calories. Swimming can involve resting in-between laps, during which no energy is used, so running can end up burning more calories in the end.

Related Post : How Many Calories Does Walking Burn? Let Find Out

3. Increases heart rate faster.

The fact of the matter is that, when underwater, your heart rate naturally slows down, thereby making it more difficult to increase the heart rate as quickly as you could otherwise when on land. Running ends up increasing heart rate faster, which leads to a higher calorie burn count compared with swimming.

4. Generates more metabolism.

Likewise with increasing heart rate, running also leads to stimulating a faster, more efficient metabolism. In other words, even once you finish running, your body continues to burn calories up to 18 hours later, whereas with swimming, it does not burn half as much afterwards. With a faster metabolism, you can get that leaner, toner look in no time!

II. Swimming

1. Works out the entire body.

Works out the entire body

Whereas running primarily works out the lower body, swimming works out both the upper and lower bodies. After all, you need your arms to pull through the water, as well as your legs to propel you forward. Here are the muscles that swimming targets:

o Core abdominal muscles. In order to perfect that straight, streamlined form as you glide through the water, having strong abs is a must. Besides looking graceful underwater, having good form reduces drag, thereby shaving time on your water performance.

o Back (upper and lower). The back plays an important role in swimming: the upper is used in conjunction with the arms and shoulders to propel you forward while the lower works with your abdominal muscles to keep a straight form through the water.

o Shoulders. Working in sync with your biceps, forearms, and triceps, your shoulders are one of the most important elements to a successful swim—it is no wonder that many professional swimmers end up developing broad shoulders to push them through the water!

o Gluteals. Similar to the core and lower body, gluteals are tightened underwater to streamline the trajectory from one end of the pool to the other. Besides that, they keep the body balanced.

o Hamstrings. With the gluteals, the hamstrings are one of the parts of the legs which do a considerable amount of work, specifically when it comes to balancing and propelling the rest of the body forward in a smooth and efficient manner.

o Hip flexors. Especially in the breaststroke, hip flexors are used a considerable amount. They are utilized in the “frog-like” motion of bending, extending, and pushing through the water in a jet-streamed motion. As a result, they get strengthened to a good extent.

2. Builds muscle resistance.

Builds muscle resistance

Although running also builds muscle resistance, the fact that you not only have to push your body forward, but also through water, makes it twice of a workout to perform. Essentially, you are going through zero gravity, which you are not accustomed to, and that results in more effort to stay on-par with running on land.

3. Less prone to getting injured.

To go off the previous point, being underwater means having zero gravity, which then makes swimming a low-impact exercise. In other words, it is easier on your joints and tendons, so that your body is less prone to getting injuries otherwise associated with heavy-impacted sports like running, e.g. Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, etc.

4. Lower risk of overheating.

Especially if you tend to run outdoors, particularly in the summer, then you know how hot it can get, which leads to a lot of sweating and possible overheating. That is why people prefer to swim in warm weather, since the water acts as a natural cooling system so that you do not feel overly hot at the end of the workout—rather, you feel refreshed!

For more information about the differences between running and swimming, this video serves as a useful guide for you: 

Which form of exercise best suits me?

Now that you have an idea of the differences between running and swimming, it is time to see just which one will suit you the best in terms of getting you into the best shape in the safest way possible. Here, we offer you a list of things to consider when choosing between running and swimming:

1. History of injuries.

Especially if you have a history of getting injured, then swimming is probably the better option to choose from. After all, swimming is a low-impact sport, so your joints and tendons will not get as worn down quickly as the case when it comes to running.

2. Convenience and time.

Especially in today’s society, we tend to lead quite busy lives, whether it is with work, school, family, and everything in between. Of course, it can be difficult to find time to work out, so it is necessary to see just how much time you have in terms of exercising.

That said, if you tend to have a busy schedule, then running might be the better option for you, just because it takes up less time when it comes to lacing up and hitting the road for half an hour of your day. Swimming requires more effort, since you need to not only find a pool to swim in, but also invest in the swimsuit and goggles to do so. Plus, it takes time to get in and out of the pool, so for those with busy lives, running is preferable.

3. Personal preference.

In the end, it comes down to you and what you personally like to do or, at least, what you can envision yourself doing, let alone enjoying. For instance, if you absolutely hate the idea of sweating profusely, then swimming will be the better choice, since you will not feel the perspiration. On the other hand, if you cannot afford to subscribe to a gym membership for its pool facilities, then running is ideal, for you can run just about anywhere, e.g. outdoors, at home on the treadmill. Ultimately, you will need to make the choice for yourself at the end of the day.

For some more benefits to swimming, check out this video here: 

Can you recommend some workouts I could do for these sports?

Whether you choose to run or to swim, the next step is knowing just how to get started. After all, there are many types of exercises you can do within each sport category, and here we give you some of the most popular, as well as most effective, workouts you can do to get started:


1. Long slow distance.

This is probably the standard form of running that most beginners start out with. It is not difficult to do, let alone too physically straining on your muscles and stamina. It only requires you to go at no more than 60-70 percent of your top speed, and it is a good way to slowly ease into running if you are just starting out.

2. Speed intervals (fartleks).

For more experienced runners, performing fartleks are a great way to condition yourself for that upcoming race. It is a matter of alternating between sprinting and jogging, focusing more on the former than the latter. Soon enough, you will be in top shape!

3. Circuit training.

A cross between long slow distance and fartleks, circuit training also combines core exercises into the mix, which makes it all the more physically demanding to do. Like fartleks, it is a great way of getting in shape for races.


1. Freestyle.

The most-popular option for beginning and professional swimmers, the freestyle is not too hard on any of the muscles involved, simply using the cup-and-pull, leg-kicking mechanism to propel you forward.

2. Butterfly stroke.

Probably the most technically-challenging stroke, the butterfly works the shoulders hard, thereby developing broader shoulders than you have already. It is great for working out your torso as well.

3. Breast stroke.

Known as the “frog stroke,” this stroke is excellent for working your hip flexors while also taking it easy on your upper-body movement, as compared with the butterfly.

For more information on the different strokes, check out this video: 


Overall, running and swimming are two different sports, each with their pros and cons for your health. It is a matter of knowing which one interested you more, as well as taking the first few steps to ensure that you will be on your way to physical fitness.

If you know a friend or family member who might benefit from this article on running and swimming, why not share this? Feel free to Comment if you have any questions that we did not address!


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