Is Swimming Aerobic or Anaerobic & The Benefits of Both!

There’s no doubt about it: swimming is a wonderful and effective form of exercise. Still, you may have wondered whether swimming is considered an aerobic or anaerobic activity. Let’s dive right into the answer to this question. First, what is the difference between these two types of exercise?

What Is Aerobic Exercise?

Aerobic exercise is a term that most people have heard at some point in their lives. Many of us picture aerobics instructors clad in spandex, wearing white sneakers, and shouting inspirational commands through television screens. However, aerobic exercise can take many forms.

Any sort of cardiovascular conditioning, or "cardio," is classified as aerobic exercise. Your breathing and pulse rate increase for an extended amount of time during this cardiovascular exercise. Swimming laps, jogging, and cycling are all examples of aerobic exercise.

Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

The benefits of aerobic exercise are profound. It’s well worth it to incorporate aerobic activities into your daily life, and here are some of the reasons why:

  • It strengthens your heart
  • It can improve your lung capacity
  • Can help you to boost your weight loss and maintain it
  • Can increase stamina
  • Boosts your immune system, which means you may get sick less
  • Improves your mood and state of mind

One of the biggest benefits of aerobic exercise is that some evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly in an aerobic fashion tend to live longer than those who don’t.

What Is Anaerobic Exercise?

As the name suggests, anaerobic exercise is essentially the opposite of aerobic exercise. Rather than exercising at a sustainable pace for a long period of time, anaerobic exercise involves quick, short bursts of energy.

Anaerobic exercises cannot be performed for long periods and involve exerting maximum effort for a few minutes, seconds, or a number of repetitions. Some examples of anaerobic exercise include lifting heavy weights, sprinting, or jumping.

Benefits of Anaerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise isn’t the only type of activity to incorporate into your routine. Anaerobic activity is great for your health as well, just in different ways. Some benefits are:

  • Helps to maintain and build bone density
  • Burns fat, and can keep burning calories long after the workout ends
  • Has the potential to build muscle
  • Can increase stamina

The Versatility of Swimming as a Form of Exercise

Depending on a number of conditions, swimming can be an aerobic or anaerobic activity. The key difference is whether your body uses oxygen, which is affected by your fitness, the intensity of your workout, and the length of time you swim. As you can see, aerobic and anaerobic activities have their benefits, but understanding each and how to use them correctly can help you improve your fitness.

For the most part, any exercise that you can maintain for longer than two to three minutes is considered aerobic. Since most people who swim for exercise are swimming for durations much longer than this, this is the most common type of swim exercise. In aerobic swimming, your body is under a limited amount of stress, and you can keep it up for a long time.

During anaerobic swimming, however, your muscles quite literally cannot keep up with your body’s demand for oxygen. This creates a build-up of what is commonly known as lactic acid in the muscles, which is what makes us sore after intense exercise.

Anaerobic swimming occurs when swimming at an intense pace, which is not sustainable for very long.

Swimming: Aerobic Exercise for Health and for Life

Swimming is most typically considered an aerobic activity, which is a good thing! Aerobic activity is beneficial to everyone, regardless of age, weight, or athletic ability. Aerobic exercise provides numerous health benefits. You'll become stronger and fitter as your body responds to regular aerobic activity.

Though very short swimming sprints may be considered anaerobic, most swimming is an aerobic exercise. One example is swimming laps for an extended period of time.

Swimming is one of the best exercises a person can do to stay in shape and keep their body healthy. One thing that sets swimming apart from most other exercises is the lack of impact and less wear and tear on the body.

Because of this, swimming is a great activity for those who may be rehabilitating from an injury, those with arthritis, or those who are older (but who are, of course, young at heart).

General Benefits of Swimming

Regardless of the type of swimming you want to pursue, you will experience some truly amazing benefits. Whether you’re doing it for the cardio or the strength, here are just a few:

  • Toning muscle and building strength
  • Upping your cardiovascular ability
  • A total body workout: Swimming uses nearly all of the major muscle groups with just one simple form of exercise.
  • Fun! Most people who do swimming for exercise do it because not only is it beneficial, it is also just plain fun.

How To Get Started With Swimming

If you are thinking about getting started with swimming and you are new to this form of exercise, you’re in the right place! We have some great tips for how to break into aerobic exercise, specifically swimming.

  1. Get yourself the right gear. One of the best things about swimming is that minimal equipment is required. Many people like to wear goggles to keep the water out of their eyes, a comfortable swimsuit to exercise in, and a bathing cap to protect their hair. It’s worth noting that many swim clubs, gyms, and pools require bathing caps, so it’s a good idea to check with your local swimming pool.
    1. Choose your setting. Most people who swim for exercise do so in a pool. You may be lucky enough to have a pool in your backyard or apartment complex, but if not you’ll have to figure out where to swim. Public pools are typically free but can be crowded. Swimming at a gym or other fitness center does cost money but is often the best option.

      A less common choice is to do your fitness swimming in a lake, river, or in the ocean. This can be tough because the weather constantly changes, and conditions can be unpredictable.

      1. Start small. If you are just getting started with swimming as a form of exercise, don’t do too much too soon. Some people erroneously believe that swimming is an easy form of exercise. Not true! Though it is low impact, it can be physically exhausting if you try to tackle too many laps too soon.

Just Keep Swimming

The most common type of swimming exercise is aerobic, but depending on your purposes and how you choose to swim, it can be anaerobic too. Swimming is a wonderful exercise for anyone of any age, shape, or size, and has incredible benefits for both mental and physical health. Grab your suit and get in the water!


Differences Between Aerobic and Anaerobic: Benefits and Risks | Healthline

Health Benefits of Swimming | WebMD

Aerobic exercise: Top 10 reasons to get physical | Mayo Clinic