CYCLING VS SWIMMING – WHICH IS BETTER?

Shaun George BOTS Guides

Both cycling and swimming are some of the most effective ways to keep healthy and fit. Which is why it has most of us asking, which one is better? Both are low-impact forms of cardio exercise that burn a lot of calories. But if you needed to choose between swimming and cycling, is it better to pedal or paddle your way into better shape?

Bike to work

As far as we’re concerned, there’s no wrong choice. There are a few factors to look into before figuring out which sport suits you and your current lifestyle. Whether either – or both – options fit into your life depends on everything from the equipment you have, the health of your muscles and joints, and even how much time you have to spare. Ideally, you’d incorporate both cycling and swimming — among other activities — into a well-rounded workout routine but not all of us have that luxury.

It’s recommended to partake in anywhere between 75 to to 150 minutes of exercise a week (minimum), and cycling is a great way to get those minutes done for people just starting to get fit.

WHAT IS IDEAL FOR ME?

This is something that is very subjective. What works for someone may not for someone else, which is why it’s important to try out everything.

The great thing about swimming is that it engages all major muscle groups, and is a strenuous workout for heart and lungs.

Water supports body weight, so there’s no stress on joints, and being about 14 times thicker than air, it offers ideal resistance to work your muscles. Swimming is also known to be a great recovery exercise when you’ve injured your muscles or joints. At a moderate pace, the average person will burn about 700-750 calories per hour of swimming.

Cycling on the other hand is a great aerobic workout that improves stamina. It’s a low weight-bearing, non-impact sport – as joint-friendly as swimming. To get the most out of swimming you need the skill to develop an efficient stroke, but with cycling you just get on and pedal.

Cycling also helps build a significant amount of overall strength (especially the lower body and the core).

1. EFFECTIVENESS

Swimming is a favorite amongst most people and it comes with some fantastic benefits. Firstly, it’s an all-body exercise. Whatever stroke you’re doing, you’re using loads of muscles in your body. Your core holds you straight in the water whilst your legs kick and your arms pull. With a variety of strokes available, you can vary the muscles you’re using and keep it interesting. After all, you’re cycling in a large tub.

Cycling is great for your legs, cardiovascular system, and engages your core as well. Riding in the great outdoors exposes you to the fresh air and on a bike you can go much further than you could if you run, allowing you to explore a lot more on a daily basis.

You can also fit cycling into your life easily – using it get from point A to B – even swapping a car or public transport for commutes so you almost don’t lose any spare time. That way you’ve saved up on a lot of time. Commute to work by bicycle and you won’t need to spend any additional time working out during the day.

2. COSTS

How accessible a sport is, also makes it more/less favorable. When it comes to cycling, apart from the bicycle itself, you’ll find yourself investing in a myriad of accessories like cycling shoes, a helmet, and all new clothing. The cost of this equipment can easily set you back a few thousand Rupees.

Swimming, on the other hand, doesn’t require much to get started. All you need is a pair of swimming trunks/shorts and a top if you so wish. Goggles aren’t essential but we’d recommend them for sure. This is all you really need – especially if you’re swimming in a pool. This equipment will cost a few thousands at the most. Additionally, you may want to consider the swimming pool fee charges depending on where you swim.

3. CONVENIENCE

Cycling, in most scenarios, is considered to be the more convenient sport to partake in. Yes, it requires access to a bike. But once you’ve checked that off the list, you have many more options of where to ride. You can pedal on an indoor trainer at home or a stationary cycle at the gym or take to the road as you would usually. Better yet, you can save time and cut costs by using your bicycle to commute to work.

Swimming, on the other hand, isn’t the most accessible sport. Though most apartment complexes and societies these days have a swimming pool. It necessitates a body of water, be it a pool, lake, or ocean, which, depending on where you live, this can be challenging to find. Additionally, we’ve noticed that quite a few people have a fear of water and are too afraid to even give swimming a shot.

4. FUN FACTOR

This is super important. What’s the point of doing either of the two activities if you aren’t enjoying them. The thing is, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing then you won’t be able to sustain it on a regular basis – and guess what? The key to fitness is consistency.

If you enjoy a type of exercise, you’re far more likely to stick with it, thereby increasing the benefits you’ll reap from your routine over an extended period of time.

5. RISK OF INJURIES?

Injuries during sports are often a common occurrence due to their physical nature. Swimming makes you less susceptible to injuries but they can happen in the pool too.

Your shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body and the most susceptible to injury. Over time, training in the pool can lead to tears, inflammation, or other types of complaints in both your shoulders and your back. The risk increases significantly if you swim or cycle with poor form. Enlist the help of an experienced swimmer/cyclist friend who can guide you through the sport of your choice.

Cycling especially, requires you to ride a bike of the right frame size and dimensions to your body. Failing to do so can lead to some serious injuries and weaknesses later in life.


Whatever sport you choose, remember that you’ve not made a wrong choice. If possible, try and incorporate a bit of both sports into your daily life. If not, stick to one sport that you truly enjoy and that you have time for.

How helpful was this article?

Click a star to rate.

Average rating 3.7 / 5. Vote count: 3

Shucks. We're sorry this post was not that useful

How can we improve this post for you?