Swim away your flab

  • Fitness
  • Saturday, 22 Feb 2014

Abdul Hafiz... Swimming is the most complete exercise out there – it provides the cardio and aerobic benefits of jogging, together with the effectiveness of endurance training.

Swimming is a great workout to melt away your post-Chinese New Year fat.

LIKE all other festivities commonly observed in Malaysia, the recent Chinese New Year holidays were an excellent opportunity for family and friends to catch up on lost time.

Kicking off with the requisite reunion dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year, the celebrations are usually accompanied with a wide array of seasonal goodies, including mandarin oranges, sticky rice cake (nian gao), preserved meats (bak kwa), various cookies, assorted sweets and other delicacies.

Even though exchanging stories and sharing laughter over a sumptuous spread may be a thing of much joy, it is often easy to overlook just how much excess weight one can potentially pile on in the short matter of a week or so.

For example, one pineapple tart weighing 5g contains 23 calories. Since it is virtually impossible to stick to eating just one tart, a typical snack of between five to eight tarts would amount to a maximum of 184 calories.

In addition to that, a slice of fried nian gao weighing 50g delivers 220 calories, while a slice of bak kwa weighing 90g packs a whopping 370 calories.

As a matter of fact, you can easily put on an additional kilogram in a week simply by exceeding your daily calorie requirement by 500 calories, depending on your metabolic rate and physical activity.

If you have packed on the pounds over the holidays however, it is entirely possible to shed the excess weight by adopting a well-rounded regimen that includes a healthy diet, adequate exercise and sufficient rest.

“To maintain or lose weight gained from festive over-eating, one can begin by taking control of the amount of food consumed, as well as adopting a more active lifestyle. Swimming is considered to be good for weight loss for numerous reasons, one of them being that it is low impact, and therefore, ideal for those with a significant amount of weight to lose,” said Peh Gin Hai, CEO, founder and director of coaching at Advanced Aquatics Sdn Bhd, which specialises in swim coaching, and a former coach for the national swimming team.

Abdul Hafiz... Swimming is the most complete exercise out there – it provides the cardio and aerobic benefits of jogging, together with the effectiveness of endurance training.

“However, swimming is only an effective form of cardio if you make it a workout. Swim fast enough to be out of breath and you will see a significant calorie burn. Those who take a leisurely couple of lengths are unlikely to see much difference in their bodies.”

“Swimming is the most complete exercise out there – it provides the cardio and aerobic benefits of jogging, together with the effectiveness of endurance training. In addition to that, swimming does not put the body under physical stress usually associated with higher impact activity such as jogging or skipping, thanks to the near weightlessness when submerged,” added Abdul Hafiz Salleh, a former national swimmer, SEA Games medallist and partner at Advanced Aquatics.

“It is also a great workout for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level, from competitive athletes to complete novices. Nevertheless, swimming can be tricky for beginners; only by mastering proper technique and form will you be able to reap the full benefits.”

Below are some tips from Peh on swimming strokes for beginners.


Time needed to burn 500 calories: 50 minutes.

How it benefits you: This is the easiest stroke to learn. It targets most of the major muscle groups throughout the body – from arm to leg muscles. As a result, you will get a lean and toned body.

Tips and tricks: To swim effortlessly, keep your body straight and parallel to the surface by keeping your eyes focused directly beneath you at the bottom of the pool until you turn to breathe. Also, make sure your ankles are extended and toes are pointed when you kick. Otherwise, you will risk kicking the water forward and slowing yourself down.

Gear: Use swim or finger paddles to improve the positioning of your hands. To master the kick, use a kickboard. It isolates the legs to develop proper kicking technique, strength and power.


Time needed to burn 500 calories: 1 hour 25 minutes.

How it benefits you: This is also an easy-to-learn stroke as long as you can move your arms and legs in tandem without much trouble. The breaststroke works your chest, back and leg muscles brilliantly. It is also great at building endurance and stamina, although it burns the least calories.

Tips and tricks: Leisure swimmers like to keep their head above the water to prevent their hair from getting wet. However, this may cause a sore neck. You should submerge your head during the recovery phase as you extend your arms forward.

Also, a fair amount of the propulsion in breaststroke comes from the kick. Instead of kicking with the top of the feet, sweep the water back with your legs together, with the sides and soles of your feet.

Try to also catch as much water as you can with your hands when you sweep your arms outwards.

Gear: Use finger paddles and pullbuoys to improve your catch position and arm pull.


Time needed to burn 500 calories: 1 hour 5 minutes.

How it benefits you: The backstroke works the same muscles as the freestyle, as both strokes are similar except for the position you face. Unlike the freestyle, the backstroke is less strenuous because there is no need for you to twist or raise your head to breath.

Tips and tricks: The most crucial part in backstroke is the positioning. Focus on keeping your head neutral, and your body high and straight on the water surface.

To swim faster, keep your body partially above the water surface and kick with your hip instead of your knees.

Gear: Use kickboard to practise holding your body in the correct position. To further improve your body positioning and leg strength, use swimming fins.


Time needed to burn 500 calories: 30 minutes.

How it benefits you: This is the swimming stroke that burns the highest amount of calories as it requires enormous strength and perfect body coordination. It primarily enhances the chest, shoulder, abs and back muscles.

Tips and tricks: Only attempt this once you have mastered the other three strokes. You can easily hurt yourself by attempting it without proper guidance.

Therefore get an experienced coach to teach you the correct technique. But for a start, keep your hands inside your body-line as you pull your stroke. This will help you to reduce drag and swim faster.

Also, start your arm recovery with the little finger up instead of thumb up to reduce strain on the shoulders.

Gear: Use swimming fins as it enables you to conserve energy by boosting your kick propulsion. This will allow you to spend more time on getting your technique right.

For more swimming solutions, including how-to videos, a gallery of technique images and expert tips, log on to www.speedo.com or follow Speedo Malaysia Facebook at www.facebook.com/SpeedoMalaysia.

Fast facts

Physical activity and the time needed to burn a piece of bak gwa, a mandarin orange and a glass of cordial drink (500 calories).

·Jogging (9.6km/h) – 45 minutes

·Cycling (21km/h) – one hour

·Football – one hour

·Simple household chores – two hours

·Walking (3.2km/h) – two hours 30 minutes

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Swim away your flab


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