Is swimming better than cycling? Swimming and cycling are two of my favorite sports. Both are low impact ways to boost your mood and increase fitness. But, it’s natural to wonder if one is better than the other for your health and overall athleticism. No matter what the answer, it’s super important to be exercising and both sports are fantastic ideas. The best sport for you could just be the one that keeps you motivated to work out! But, in this guide, I’ll take a closer look at whether swimming or cycling is best and how the answer can change depending on your goals.
- Is swimming better than cycling?
- What do swimming and cycling have in common?
- The benefits of swimming
- Is swimming better for fitness?
- The benefits of cycling
- Which one is better for losing weight?
Is Swimming Better than Cycling?
Swimming and cycling are two popular and common sports for leisure, increasing fitness, and losing weight. Now, whether or not one is better than the other is really up in the air. Both sports are great in their own way and have their advantages as well as their drawbacks. It really depends on what your goals are and what you are interested in.
Before looking at any specific benefits you can get from either of these sports, let’s take a closer look at what advantages they share.
What Do Swimming and Cycling Have in Common?
Swimming and cycling are both intense cardiovascular exercises. This means that they mainly strengthen the heart and less so the muscles, as opposed to something like weightlifting.
Both sports will give you significantly better endurance and lung capacity. Basically, you won’t be panting while going up a flight of stairs. Because they’re cardiovascular exercises, they are excellent for the heart and can help fight off a whole barrage of diseases.
Also, both cycling and swimming rely on the legs heavily as a dominant muscle. Perhaps cycling is superior in this case, but both exercises will give you some serious tree logs of calves and hamstrings.
What are the Benefits of Swimming?
First of all, let’s tackle the health benefits of swimming. Swimming has always been known to whip your body into a healthy shape and it’s true. Even the CDC recognizes swimming as a very healthy activity for people with heart disease and diabetes, and the statistics reach the point of swimmers having half the risk of death than sedentary people.
Swimming is also very effective against arthritis. It’s easy on the joints, so it can help a lot with arthritis. In this case, it might be superior to cycling because cycling is harder on the joints, while swimming doesn’t put much pressure on joints.
Is Swimming Better for Fitness?
This is all well and good for health, but what about the guns? For muscles, swimming is very effective, as it works your entire body and major muscle groups: Back, shoulders, chest, arms, legs, and abs. There is a reason most swimmers look like a Dorito, with broad shoulders and tiny waists. They did it, and so can you.
A 2015 study on the effect of swimming on middle-aged women also showed very promising results. After swimming 3 days a week for 12 weeks, the study showed decreased levels of body fat, significant improvement in flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, and greater physical strength.
What are the Benefits of Cycling?
Cycling also has a wide range of benefits. Because it’s also such an endurance-focused sport, it has health benefits in several areas such as heart disease, diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and more.
Several researchers have studied the correlation between cycling and better health. For example, Cooper et al. (2006) tackled the idea of cycling to school and cardiovascular health among over 900 Danish schools. The results showed that cyclists were about 5 times as likely as the other kids to be in the top quartile of fitness. Improvements in fitness levels ranged between 5% to 11%.
Another study by Wen and Riesel, 2008 showed an inverse relationship between men who commute to work using their bicycles and obesity. As for muscles, cycling mainly works your lower body and your endurance. When you cycle, you will never have to skip leg day because your glutes, hamstrings, and calves are already so powerful.
Can Cycling and Swimming Make You Lose Weight?
This is the million-dollar question and the answer is a resounding yes. Cycling and swimming are both great for weight loss, as they are so endurance-based, but which one is more effective?
Swimming will have to take the cake for weight loss, as you simply burn more calories. Swimming is very resistance-based, and the water acts as a force that you have to power through. Because of this, you can burn up to 700 calories an hour swimming.
Of course, this is for vigorous swimming and there are factors at play, such as weight. The more you weigh, the more calories you will burn. On the other hand, cycling can burn around 400-500 calories for a 150-pound cyclist. It’s not a major difference, but swimming does burn a few more calories, so instead of burning just the Big Mac, you can also take care of the large soda.
A Note to Consider
It’s important to note that any kind of endurance cardio exercise like both will help in weight loss. However, it’s very important to supplement this with proper diet and sleep habits.
If you prefer cycling as a sport, you’re more likely to stick with a consistent routine of exercise, which will help you lose weight and stay fit in the long run. So, bear in mind which sport you feel the most motivated to go and do. Swimming won’t help you lose weight if you can never muster the enthusiasm to get to the pool!
Cycling vs Swimming: The Final Verdict
Which sport is best for you can come down to several things, including how much you enjoy each one. Swimming is generally a bit cheaper, since you only need a costume and pool access. Cycling can be a bit more demanding with the bike and gear.
Secondly, swimming is lighter on your joints. So, if you’re looking for the smallest risk, swimming is for you. And, swimming works your entire body. If you’re all about aesthetics and definition, then swimming is definitely for you.
But, this doesn’t mean you should dismiss cycling! If you’re good at it, then it doubles as transportation not just sport, so you can commute with your bike to save time working out. Cycling is also relatively more fun and freeing for those who like to feel the wind on their face. Which of these two popular sports is your favorite?
Comparing Swimming to Other Sports
- How swimming tones your body vs the gym
- Is running better than swimming?
- Is it good to swim before the gym?
- ‘Health Benefits of Swimming’, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Lee, B. & Oh, D. ‘Effect of Regular Swimming Exercise on the Physical Composition, Strength, and Blood Lipid of Middle Aged Women’, Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation (2015)
- Oja, P. (et al), ‘Health Benefits of Cycling: A Systematic Review’, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (2011)
- Andersen, L. (et al), ‘Physical Fitness in Relation to Transport to School in Adolescents: The Danish Youth and Sports Study’, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (2009)
- Wen, L. & Rissel, C. ‘Inverse Associations Between Cycling to Work, Public Transport, and Overweight and Obesity: Findings from a Population Based Study in Australia’, Preventative Medicine (2008)