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Comparing Body Types of Swimmers and Runners

The human body needs exercise, and for many people, a desire to look or feel a certain way inspires the type of physical activity the body receives. Some people choose their sport or hobby based on an assumption of fun or feelings of fulfillment, but others choose to focus on their body type and the strengths that would heighten the benefits of increased exercise. While exercise has generic benefits to all body types, there are vast differences in heart rate levels, muscle engagement and lung capacity based on the routine you engage in. Swimming and running are two popular forms of exercise, but these activities have separate effects on the body and physical build.

Differences in Physique

If you were going to compare the body types between swimmers and runners, you would find that the overall form is very different. Swimming in a workout that engages the entire body, requiring significant upper and lower body involvement. Since swimmers move these parts equally, their bodies tend to be more balanced with regard to the physique. They are often tall, with broad shoulders, long arms and a well-defined torso. You can often look at the upper back of a swimmer and see the noticeable “V” shape where broad shoulders narrow down to a smaller waistline.

In comparison with runners, there is more reliance on leg muscles and lighter, leaner body height and weight. The type of runner you are also makes a difference, as long-distance runners need endurance, while sprinters are looking for more power. Sprinters usually have larger leg muscles than distance runners and have a more defined muscle mass.

Changes in Body Fat

Although the point of exercise is to discard unhealthy body fat, individuals still rely on some fat to help feed cellular growth and provide an energy source to the body. However, with runners, there is generally a much lower percentage of body fat when compared to swimmers, since runners encounter more resistance with gravity the more body mass they have. This will make them inefficient in activity efforts. While swimming is a great high-intensity workout, swimmers often maintain higher body fat levels because of the benefit it brings to their sport. Because fat is more buoyant against muscle mass, those with higher body fat levels are able to float more easily in the water. Swimmers also consume more calories post-exercise routine, as cold or cool water can act as an appetite stimulant. Runners focus the majority of the muscle development in the lower portion of their bodies, such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and glutes. This can lead to lower upper body strength and more restrictive diets for the purpose of keeping their body mass lower.  

Fat-Burning Opportunities

Fortunately, if you are wanting to start an exercise routine and burn through excess body fat, both swimming and running are some of the more effective weight loss activities.  For those residents with inground swimming pools in Oklahoma City, there is plenty of sunshine and good weather all-year-round to encourage an aquatic exercise plan. Swimming is easier on your body’s joints than running, and with the help of the buoyancy in the water, you can challenge your limits with reduced stress on your bones and joints. By reducing your body weight, which swimming can do, you also relieve the stress on your body’s structure. Swimming and running are both high-intensity workouts, which means your body will be pushed to burn calories and improve your cardiac strength, but running is the activity that will burn the most calories. Running for one hour at about eight miles per hour burns about 861 calories, while vigorous swimming for the same amount of time will only blast through about 715 calories.

There is always a concern for injury during an exercise routine, and swimmers can be plagued by tendinitis in their shoulders or discomfort in the back or hips. Runners deal with threats of spraints, knee or feet inflammation, shin splints and tendinitis. Always start an exercise routine slowly, warming up and stretching to avoid injury. To make the most of your swimming goals, take lessons and be consistent with your practice.