Cardio: Running or Swimming?

Most of us probably wish cardio was something we don’t have to do, and that we could get the body we want just by doing weight training. Of course it’s not that simple.

When it comes to cardio, are we really doing what’s best for us? I mean, it doesn’t have to be as tedious as a one-hour treadmill a few times a week. Now running and swimming aren’t your only possibilities. You can row, or cycle, and have the same impact.

Running is by far the most common form of cardio workout, whether that be on the treadmill, on the cross trainer or on the road. And it didn’t become so popular for no reason.

When we do cardio we’re primarily looking at trying to increase our heart rates, and running is perfect. It serves as an ideal way to use as many of your muscles as possible, aiding the work you do with weights.

What running is really good at is building fat-burning muscle. Essentially this means that we’re able to build muscle and lose fat, both at the same time.

How does this compare to swimming though? Is either one superior to the other?

As you’d probably expect, swimming doesn’t put as much strain on your joints as running, and therefore is more ideal for injury prevention. But this strain makes running a method for building stronger bones.

One thing affecting running and swimming is resistance – wind resistance when running, water resistance when swimming. Generally water resistance will be the greater of the two. This means that you will need to put in more effort to battle this resistance if you’re swimming. Although, in a pool this resistance is constant, whereas running leaves us open to unpredictable and varying conditions.

Terrain is an obvious factor that impacts on runners, but doesn’t really affect swimmers. Running outdoors gives the possibilities to cover all sorts of different terrains, swimming can’t offer the same.

What we really need to focus in on is burning calories, because that’s why we generally do cardio training. Let’s look at some figures. Say you weigh around 85kg, well then for every 1 hour session, if you cover 5 miles, you will burn around 560 calories. If however, you chose to swim for that hour, then you’d only burn around 420 calories.

This doesn’t mean that running is definitively better though. For example, if you’re returning from a serious injury you’ll find that it is a lot easier to swim, a long time before you are able to run again.

The fact is that cardio is something that we need to. As long as you’re increasing your heart rate then you’re probably doing the right sort of thing. It’s mainly about enjoyment.

While the weather is great, why not take to the roads? The good thing about running is that the roads are always open. Now it’s probably not best you go swimming in a local lake whenever you fancy, but if you fancy changing your form of cardio exercise, get to a pool and try swimming.

All forms of cardio will give results – the amount of work you put in will determine what kind of results you get.

Ollie Lawrence
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