Two runners at bewl park

Is swimming better than running?

When it comes to cardiovascular exercise, running and swimming are both tried-and-true options popular amongst athletes and fitness lovers alike.

Often paired together during cross-fit training, the two sports pack a host of health benefits including strengthening and toning muscles, weight loss, lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease, and boosting your mood, immune system, and ability to handle stress.

But the question is, which is better – swimming or running? If you’re not sure whether you should be gearing up for a run or a few laps across the pool, here’s all you need to know.

The benefits of swimming

The benefits of swimming are incredible, but chances are the exercise isn’t a regular part of your workout routine with gym classes and jogging often taking priority.

But why? As an exercise for people from all backgrounds, and with various levels of experience, swimming is one of the few sports you can do from a young age all the way up into your 90s meaning it’s never too late to start! From the well-known to the not so obvious, these health benefits will have you reaching for your cossie in no time.



  1. An all over workout

One of the biggest benefits of swimming is that it truly works your entire body, head to toe! Not only does it increase your heart rate without stressing the body, but swimming uses almost every muscle to burn calories and build endurance and strength whilst improving cardiovascular fitness and the health of your heart and lungs.

  1. Injuries, arthritis, and other conditions

Aside from aiding injury recovery, swimming helps improve pain in a number of physical health problems. From joint trouble to sprains and strains, the exercise works your muscles in a consistent, rhythmic fashion that doesn’t add wear or tear to an already-aching part of your body, improving conditioning and building muscle whilst minimising impact.

  1. Sleep improvement

If you want to get more shuteye, try swimming more often! According to researchers from the National Sleep Foundation there is a direct correlation between the two. Aside from biochemical changes in the brain, the alternation of stretching and relaxing the muscles while simultaneously deep breathing in a rhythmic pattern like Yoga has been found to leave swimmers feeling more relaxed aiding a better night’s sleep.

  1. Stress management

Scientific research has offered various reasons as to why swimming positively benefits our mental health and wellbeing. As with any exercise, regular swimming releases endorphins in the brain which send out feel-good signals, reducing the stress hormone, cortisol.

Not only this, but the ability to regulate your breathing is an integral aspect of swimming which acts as a great workout for your lungs that in turn can help in lowering blood pressure, eliminating toxins from the body, assisting in relaxation.

The benefits of running

We all know running is good for us. Not only do our hearts get stronger and our minds clearer, but it allows us to look and feel great, maintaining a weight we sit most comfortably at. Its benefits however go far beyond the obvious.


  1. Running boosts your mood

The “runner’s high” isn’t one of the many rumors that circulate the fitness industry but rather a rush of mood-boosting endorphins brought on by running, jogging, and even brisk walking! A good run can leave you feeling proud and energised, ready to conquer anything that comes your way as well as stabilise your mood and alleviate symptoms of stress and depression.

  1. It keeps your mind sharp

While the immediate release of dopamine and other endorphins provide the perfect remedy for a stressed-out brain, recent studies have found running also contributes to a more profound change to brain function. Just 10 minutes of moderate intensity running a day regulates executive function – a blanket term covering mental flexibility, self-control, planning, and working memory!

  1. It’s good for your joints

You’ve probably heard it before – running is bad for your joints. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Knee and joint pain may be common complaints among runners, but chances are slim that the exercise itself is the culprit and it will usually come down to poor form, bad shoes or running on the wrong surface. Multiple studies have shown that regular and correct running actually strengthens the joints and protects against development of osteoarthritis later in life, just avoid going too hard, too fast and allow your body time to adapt.

  1. A low cost exercise

One of the greatest benefits of running is that it costs very little to get started. (Think no hefty gym bills or expensive equipment!) Sure, you can spend lots of money on carbon-fibre trainers and high-tech gadgets, but at a basic level all you need to get started is a decent pair of running shoes and a comfortable outfit.

So, should you swim or run?

Both swimming and running are great cardiovascular activities, helping with weight loss and muscle toning, so it mostly comes down to personal preference, health conditions, and goals.

If strengthening and toning your upper body is a priority, swimming is probably a better option. That’s because swimming offers a full-body workout that targets most of your major muscle groups.

Swimming should also be a priority if you have pre-existing knee, ankle, hip, or back problems as these can be made worse with high impact running.

However, if you suffer from a shoulder injury, the repetitive strokes swimming requires can cause for irritation, making running a better option. Running is also great for getting outside, building bone density, and finding the runner’s high.


Swimmer swimming

The best of both worlds

If you’re still not sure which one to choose, why not include both in your fitness routine? Since the body needs variation to reach its full potential, cross-training between the two is an excellent way to incorporate a new stimulus which creates more progress over time and prevents injury.

If you want to challenge yourself, join us here at Bewl Water on September 11th where we’ll be hosting the Keen as Mustard Swim Run!

Soak up the stunning views and experience open water swimming at its finest in a fantastic course catered for varied abilities. Expect a host of adventure as you navigate through woods, paths and trails using naturally occurring swim entry and exit points after choosing from a selection or solo or team courses!

To book your place, visit