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Old 04-14-2009
BradMM BradMM is offline
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Default PCP says swimming not good for weight loss

I know this is an old topic but I was shocked when my Primary Care Physician said that swimming was not very good for weight loss. I've had increasing back problems over the past year or so and have gained a few lbs but I've never stopped working out. Some times, swimming is all I can do but I've discovered that my posture is my primary problem and my back has been great lately. Still, I want to lose a few lbs so I'm working on a interval style approach to swimming. I still do some of the old stuff but no longer dead lifting 300+ lbs anymore. Mostly body weight stuff like chins, push ups, bridges, etc along with swimming. I'll be 55 in a couple of months so I'm focusing on the long term plan more. I haven't forgotten diet but that's always the hardest part! Oh, btw, I'm 6'3" and about 215 but I'd like to get back down to 200.

Brad
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Old 04-14-2009
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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I think it depends on how much you swim and how intensively you swim when you do. Swimming definitely burns calories so it can't do any harm with weight loss, but in the end calories out have to exceed calories in and the more you swim the easier it becomes - especially if you swim efficiently as we TI people try to do. As you become more efficient you probably burn fewer calories for the same distance swum. I think diet has to play a role as well.

The strength workouts should help by building muscle, which burns more calories than fat does. You don't see any fat swimmers at the top level, but ordinary people can't normally afford to spend as many hours in the pool as elite swimmers do. Plenty of masters swimmers who train quite hard are overweight and often quite fit and fast. I imagine that a survey of masters record holders would show that most are rather lean, though. Such a survey would be very interesting.
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Old 04-14-2009
terry terry is offline
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Brad
I'm sure you're aware that body weight isn't the most reliable predictor of whether you're at a "healthy" weight. Your years of power lifting may have created a musculature at which 215 lbs may be "lean" at 6-3. In that case, losing body weight probably means losing muscle mass -- mostly, I'd say, in the larger "prime mover" muscles.
The muscles that contribute the most to a healthy, pain-free, back are spinal stabilizers and abs. Swimming -- at least with the balance, alignment and fluency that TI teaches -- will always help keep those muscles in good working order.
So, it seems to me that your PCP is answering the wrong question. Your expressed goal is a healthy back. Swimming is certainly helping you achieve that -- and no doubt could be augmented by yoga, pilates, etc.
If reducing body weight will also be helpful -- to reduce spinal compression -- AND your current body weight remains higher, because of "legacy musculature" from years of weight training, replacing such training with swimming should also be helpful.

The question of how swimming compares with running and other land activity for weight loss and fat reduction is a wholly different discussion. And on this he's misguided as well. Reputable research has shown that when people swim with equivalent intensity to how they exercise on land, calorie consumption is equal. Studies that suggested otherwise had compared swimming at far lower intensity levels than the running with which it was compared.

The reason for that difference was that the subjects in the study lacked the skill to sustain swimming at equivalent intensity levels as their running -- which is a nearly-universal situation. The value in pursuing weight loss through swimming is in being able to exercise with reduced impact. As Richard notes, better skill will allow you to continue exercising long enough to gain health benefits. In that case you should swim more, not less -- at least if that added time is spent increasing skill rather than "practicing struggle."

And by the way, the interval training you're doing is also a more effective choice than longer, slower swims because it will keep your HR, and thus metabolism, higher, and make it easier to practice/maintain a higher efficiency level.
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Last edited by terry : 04-14-2009 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 04-14-2009
don h don h is offline
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Default covert bailey says...

there's an exercise physiologist/nutritional biochemist (author of "Fit or Fat"), covert bailey, who has said that swimming somehow stimulates the body to produce more subcutaneous fat to be able to stay warm. covert is a really bright and funny guy, but i wonder about this particular theory.

don h
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Old 04-14-2009
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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I remember reading an article years ago about the Japanese female pearl divers who spend many hours in cold water diving for oysters (and possibly pearls). All they wore was simple old-style bathing suits. Perhaps when the writers for the magazine weren't around they didn't even wear the suits.

Anyway, although they were by no means fat, If I remember correctly they had indeed developed extra subcutaneous fat and in addition had phenomenal lung power and stamina. They were from an island in Southern Japan, I believe.

I'll try a google search to see if I can come up with anything.
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Old 04-14-2009
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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This is the best I could do in a short search

http://www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/MT/98/Sum98/mt1sm98.html

I don't think it's really very relevant to the discussion and there have obviously been changes since when I read the article many years ago.
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Old 04-14-2009
BradMM BradMM is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
Brad
I'm sure you're aware that body weight isn't the most reliable predictor of whether you're at a "healthy" weight.
Yes, you're right that I don't consider the BMI scale to always be useful (look at pro athletes) but I do know that I have excess fat. I have my body fat measured here at the university where I work and I have my own pinchers but I don't need either... the mirror doesn't lie!

For me, extra pounds also equate to higher blood pressure. After being on meds for about 11 years, I got off about 8 years ago and am trying to not go back. Of course, with age, that may not be possible.

I'm going to keep doing my interval training and work on increasing the length of each interval. My personal assessment is that I'm a fairly efficient swimmer and I have followed TI for years but I can push myself to the max for an interval and really be huffing and puffing so I know I'm doing some good.

Funny thing, there's a woman who has been the swimming instructor here for many years. Years ago, I asked her about swimming for weight loss. She said that the more inefficient you are, the harder you work. That's not completely true for, as you have said, you can be an efficient swimmer and still increase your effort!

Glad to be back at TI!
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Old 04-15-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BradMM View Post
I know this is an old topic but I was shocked when my Primary Care Physician said that swimming was not very good for weight loss.
That is absurd! hehe Really. I had to buy a belt, and now I need new jeans because I've been dropping weight. I definitely don't eat less!
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Old 04-15-2009
madvet madvet is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by don h View Post
there's an exercise physiologist/nutritional biochemist (author of "Fit or Fat"), covert bailey, who has said that swimming somehow stimulates the body to produce more subcutaneous fat to be able to stay warm. covert is a really bright and funny guy, but i wonder about this particular theory.

don h
I wouldn't be surprised that there might be something to this -- if you look at thin/fit swimmers in their 20's they seem to have an extra 1/4" of subcutaneous fat than other similarly fit/athletic people. But for most of us, the issue is a lot more than 1/4".

I think the ability to stay injury-free in swimming makes it preferable for many people over 40 especially compared to running.
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Old 04-15-2009
shuumai shuumai is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madvet View Post
I wouldn't be surprised that there might be something to this -- if you look at thin/fit swimmers in their 20's they seem to have an extra 1/4" of subcutaneous fat than other similarly fit/athletic people. But for most of us, the issue is a lot more than 1/4".

I think the ability to stay injury-free in swimming makes it preferable for many people over 40 especially compared to running.
Right. Also, especially women, look better with a little fat under their skin. It smooths out the face and maybe hides veins that might otherwise pop out in a scary way. Insulation...think of it as a light jacket or long-sleeve shirt that buffers temperature changes. hehe

Anyway, my pools are fairly warm, and when I keep moving, I'm not cold at all. So maybe my body won't feel the need to carry a little extra fat? At least not to keep warm. (In response to pizza intake, yes.)
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