Calories Burned by Pool Running Vs. Land Running

Although running on land is more widely performed than running in a pool, aqua running is gaining in popularity, reports "The Sunday Times." When done consistently and correctly, both modes of running effectively burn calories.


A calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree. Nutritionally speaking, a calorie is a unit of energy that is supplied by food. In order to lose 1 pound of body fat, you must reduce your normal, needed caloric intake by 3,500 calories. Metabolism is the process of breaking down food for use as energy. Increasing activity, such as adding running to a fitness regimen, increases metabolism and thereby helps reduce calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends performing at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.

Land Running

Running on land is a high-impact activity. Injuries can occur as a result of the stress put on the body, particularly the knees, legs and feet. When running on land, wear proper-fitting shoes that are not worn out. Use proper running form to not only avoid injuries, but also to improve efficiency. When running on land, proper mechanics includes landing your foot directly under your hips, which is center of gravity, landing your foot toward the outside edge behind the little toe, leaning slightly forward with erect posture and hanging your relaxed arms close to the body. All movement should be forward without bouncing or hopping.

Aqua Running

Running in water has been used by physiotherapists since the 1980s to help rehabilitate injured athletes. Water cushions the body and is gentler on joints than hard surfaces. According to the 2000 article Dr. Robert Wilder of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, published in the “Charlottesville and Albemarle Observer,” aqua running closely simulates land running in intensity yet provides a lower impact on the body. To maintain proper form when aqua running, the water should be at shoulder-level with your mouth out of the water. You should look straight ahead, your body slightly forward with hands clenched, your arms should be positioned as if running on land and your feet should not touch the bottom of the pool. Finally, your leg motion should also be the same as with land running. Use a vest or belt for buoyancy.

Burning Calories

According to Wilder, running on land burns approximately 8 calories in one minute. Running in water burns approximately 11.5 calories in the same amount of time. He attributes this difference to water resistance and the fact that an aqua runner must work the upper body more than a land runner. Other factors that affect calorie burn are the intensity and duration of the running, body weight, degree of fitness and metabolism. A person weighing 130 pounds will generally burn fewer calories than a person weighing 180 pounds doing the exact same activity.