How Far Can the Average Person Swim? 1 mile, 10 miles, 30 min & Underwater ?!


Swimming is, by and large, a very popular activity, whether it is for sport or leisure, and with good reason as it has many health benefits (and very few cons)- both, physically and mentally. 

Whether one prefers swimming in an ocean, a lake, or a pool, swimming can be a wonderful way to get physical activity (a workout). Regardless of your preference on swim location (body of water) and whether you’re a beginner or seasoned swimmer, one may be pondering exactly how far can the average person swim (i.e., how far they, themself, can swim on average). 

Ultimately, the distance will depend on the individual swimmer. A novice (beginner) swimmer will not be able to swim, on average, farther than a seasoned swimmer [in the same amount of time]. 

Because it is such an individual-dependent stat, the metrics for this statistic and scientific information regarding the topic are lacking. So, if the [average] distance one can swim isn’t definable, what are some factors that make it such an individual-dependent stat? Some factors that affect how far one can swim, on average, include 

  1. [One’s] Stamina (conditioning)
  2. [One’s] Swimming Technique
  3. Open Water (water/wave conditions) vs Pool 
  4. Water Temperature 
  5. [One’s] Age and Athletic Ability (training) 

One will, most likely, be able to swim greater distances in a pool as compared to open water (i.e. ocean, lake, river). This is because the pool is a more controlled environment than the open water (ocean), and, as such, there tend to be fewer obstacles [in the pool], and swimming in the pool tends to expend energy at a slower rate. Thus, one can typically swim farther (and faster) in a pool than in open water (the ocean). 

Technically, a mile converts to 1,760 yards or 1,609.3 meters; however, in competitive swimming, both 1,650 yards, and 1,650 meters are used for a  “mile” distance. The pool(s) at most fitness facilities will be either 25- or 50-yards/meters in length (if you aren’t sure, you can check with the facility management to verify the length).

Here’s how many laps/lengths one would need to swim in each pool to equal one 1,650-yard/meter swimming “mile” (Let’s clarify that a “lap” is defined as just down the pool or just back (not down the pool and back). And,  a “length” is defined as, “down the pool and back”, or, just, “down and back”):

  • In a 25-yard/meter pool, one mile is 33 lengths (or, 66 laps)
  • In a 50-yard/meter pool, one mile is 16.5 lengths (or, 33 laps)

If one wanted to swim a mathematically-accurate mile, they would need to divide 1,760 yards by the number of yards in their pool or divide 1,609.3 meters by the number of meters in their pool (e.g., in a 25-yard pool, one would need to swim 70.4 laps to equal one mile. And, in a 25-meter pool, one would need to swim 64.4 laps).

Statistics show that beginner swimmers take 40 to 50 minutes to swim one mile. Intermediate swimmers are shown to swim one mile in 30 to 35 minutes, approximately. And, elite (advanced) swimmers have been shown to swim one mile in 25 minutes or less.  (On average, Olympic-level swimmers can complete a one-mile swim in sixteen minutes.) For more on this check out our post ” How Fast Do Olympic Swimmers Swim? Men VS Women Vs Average Swimmers

Thus, exactly how far one can swim on average, is not a “one size fits all” matter. It will depend on what level of swimming you’re at as well as those five factors previously mentioned. But, the rough estimates for how long it takes one to swim a mile and defining what exactly a mile is in swimming certainly help one determine the average distance a person (they) can swim. 

Also, as was mentioned in a previous article of ours, with regard to open water (ocean) swimming, in particular, one would not want to swim out more than half the total distance they can swim [for an out and back swim].  In other words, if one can swim a total of 4 miles, they would not want to swim more than 2 miles out (so they can come back that same 2 miles for a total of 4).  Though, just because one can swim a total of four miles, doesn’t mean they should max out. It is wise to leave a reserve. So, shoot for closer to 1.8 miles out, rather than the full 2 miles. 

The stats and information above are a starting point. At the end of the day, one will want to train and pace themself as well as collect distance and time data, at a minimum, to determine exactly how far they can swim on average. (Source A)(Source B)(Source C)

How Far Should I Be Able to Swim without Stopping?!

Ultimately, this will depend on one’s swim training and physical conditioning as well as nutrition and other factors. Other things that factor in include such things as gender, age, and weight. And, lastly, whether one is swimming in open water (the ocean) or the pool will be a factor. 

Data, even if more anecdotal than scientific, shows that one can get a good swim workout in 30 minutes. Exactly how far one can swim without stopping in that 30 minutes will depend on the aforementioned factors. But, the anecdotal data shows that one at a beginner level should be able to swim approximately 25 laps. That same data shows that intermediate swimmers should be able to swim roughly 45 laps, and advanced/elite swimmers should be able to swim 60+ laps. 

For those that prefer to calculate via meters or yards, take the length of the pool you swim in and multiply it by the number of laps. This will give you your total yards/meters.

Length of Pool (yards/meters)  x # of laps (for your appropriate level) = Total Yards/Meters (distance)

Concerning training in yards versus meters, it doesn’t matter too much for the average swimmer since there is only a slight difference in distance between the two. Thus, whatever your local pool uses or you choose to use- yards or meters- is completely okay.

That said, when swimming in the ocean (open water) one will typically calculate their distance via miles versus yards or meters, or laps/lengths. 

However, based on the previous math for average swim distance in a 30-minute time frame as well as that for determining one’s total distance via the number of laps swam and the length of one lap, one can deduce how far they can swim in yards or meters. From there one can leave the distance as yards/meters or convert it to miles.  Once one has determined how far they can swim (i.e., their total swim distance), they will want to plan to swim only half that distance in the ocean/open water (as has been mentioned previously). 

So then, if the length of a single lap at one’s pool is 25-yards, and they swam 30 laps, that means they swam a total of 750-yds (roughly, 0.43 miles). Thus, when open water swimming, one could swim 375-yds (roughly, 0.22 miles). 

As we can see, the average distance one can swim without stopping will vary pending not only one’s individual stats as a swimmer but whether or not they are swimming in a pool or ocean. Though pool swimming is far different than ocean swimming, swimming in the pool can help build up one’s stamina. (Source A)(Source B)

Can an Average Person Swim a Mile?

If you have started swim training, you’ve probably heard a lot about mile pace. And, this probably has you curious as to whether or not the average person (you) can even swim a mile (or not).

Whether or not the average person (you) can swim a mile largely depends on whether or not they (you) can swim in the first place. But, surmising that we are referring to only those that can swim, it will depend on how well the swimmer (you) can swim (i.e., how strong of a swimmer one is). 

It is important to note that a mile in open water is not the same as a mile in the pool. Most swimmers will be able to swim significantly farther and faster in a pool than in the ocean. This is because the pool is a relatively static environment while the ocean (open water) is more dynamic.  

The mile in a pool is pretty straightforward. You just swim laps, back and forth, repetitively until you reach a mile (i.e., 1,760 yards/1,609.3 meters or 1,650 yards/meters- pending if one is going for a mathematically accurate mile or a competitive swim “mile”). A mile swim in the ocean on the other hand is not as straightforward since other factors such as the currents, waves, and water temperature (differences in)- just to name a few-  can affect one’s swim and swim times. 

It boils down to this: 

 Whether or not one can swim a mile is going to largely hinge on the extent of their swim training and their general conditioning, the specifics of their training-both swimming and non-swimming,  their swimming technique, as well as other (i.e., biological/physiological) factors. Other factors include things such as gender, age, and body composition.

Before looking at specific numbers, let’s look at some guidelines regarding how long it should take one to swim a mile. An amateur swimmer (i.e., non-Olympic level swimmer) should expect to complete a one-mile swim in roughly 20 minutes to one hour.

Here are some more specific guidelines 

  1. Beginner: 45 minutes to an hour (due to high potential for needing a break or two over the course of the mile)
  2. Intermediate: roughly 30 to 35 minutes
  3. Advanced: 25 minutes or less 
  4. (Some Olympic-level swimmers can swim a mile in about 16 minutes.)

One will get farther faster when swimming in a pool as compared to swimming in open water (lake, ocean, river)

  • Mile in a Pool= 25-27 minutes 
  • Mile in Open Water (lake/river)= approximately 30 minutes
  • Mile in the Ocean= 33-35 minutes 

(Source A) (Source B)

Can You Swim 10 Miles?

Many would venture that if you can swim one mile, then you can swim 10 miles. And, to a certain extent, this is true. But, ultimately, whether or not one can swim 10 miles will come down to their stamina and training [for such a swim]. 

The average beginner swimmer takes roughly 45 minutes to swim one mile (but can take as long as an hour). The average intermediate swimmer takes roughly 30 to 35 minutes to swim one mile,  and advanced swimmers take 25 minutes or less. Thus, regardless of where you fall on the scale, you are looking at a pretty significant amount of time to cover ten miles.

So, one’s stamina and training for such a swim are key factors to one being able to swim 10 miles (or not). (Source A)(Source B)

 Some ways to Increase (Boost) Stamina and Swim Speed (i.e., swim faster) include 

1. Do cross-training (i.e., cardio and strength work/training outside of the pool)

2. Set a goal of 500 yards (or meters) every day for one week for yourself

3. Every week up your daily goal by 100 to 200 yards (or meters)

4. Work on your breathing (i.e., do breathwork)

5. Focus on your form in the water 

How Far Can the Average Person Swim in 30 Minutes

As with most anything that involves distance or quantity of some kind and time, how far the average person can swim in 30 minutes will depend on pace.  Often, the pace is determined and/or set by the workout/training session and/or the swimmer’s ability. So then, exactly how far the average person (one) can swim is dependent on their specific workout and swimming ability, and, as such, is a variable value. 

Some studies show that the average distance covered in a 30-minute pool swim is 30 laps. Thus, if one swims slower than the average swimmer they will swim less than 30 laps. On the other hand, one that swims faster than the average swimmer will be able to swim more than 30 laps. 

With the exact distance one can swim in 30 minutes being variable- it depends on the swimmer’s ability as well as the swimming workout itself-here are some general guidelines for how far one should be able to swim freestyle (the front crawl)  [in a pool] in 30 minutes

  1. Beginners =  20 to 30 laps
  2. Intermediate = 40 to 50 laps 
  3. Advanced = 60 laps

(Source A)(Source B)

On a side note, we recommend that you check out our post Can You Do Too Much Swimming? How Much is Too Much?! (Age & Experience)

How Far Can the Average Person Swim Underwater?

Typically, simply holding one’s breath while swimming underwater isn’t harmful in and of itself. However, when one holds their breath underwater for prolonged periods of time it can be dangerous. As such, there aren’t many studies/ isn’t any scientific evidence for how far one can swim underwater, on average. Thus, as with many facets of swimming, particularly concerning distance, it comes down to one’s ability. 

How far one can swim underwater, in general, will ultimately depend on the level of swimmer they are. However, with regard to competitive [pool] swimming, one can only swim up to 15-meters underwater.

Though there isn’t much scientific research on how far the average person can swim underwater, David Berkoff, an American swimmer, observed that kicking underwater seemed to move him along faster than swimming on the surface.  That was nearly 20 years ago. He broke the world record for the 100-meter backstroke during the 1988 Olympics by swimming most of the race underwater. 

Shortly after the 1988 Olympics, the 15-meter rule was applied to backstroke events.  This allowed swimmers to take advantage of the powerful start that kicking underwater offers, while still assuring the race is primarily about one’s backstroke skill. Nowadays, the benefits of kicking underwater (i.e., the dolphin kick) are vastly recognized and utilized across all strokes except for breaststroke. As such, the 15-meter rule has expanded to include butterfly and freestyle strokes. 

(Source)

Is It Ok To Swim Every Day? What Happens if You Swim Every Day for A Month?

By now we can all agree that swimming has several health and wellness benefits- physical and mental- whether it’s swimming in a pool or the ocean. Check out Why is Swimming and/or Hydrotherapy Often a Popular Choice for Physical Therapy?

But, is there such a thing as swimming too much? With questions like this floating around and/or as a swim fanatic, one may be wondering if it’s ok to swim every day. Or, even what would happen if they swam every day for 30 days. In other words, one may be wondering if it’s healthy to swim every day… for 30 days [in a row]. 

That said, the short answer is, yes! One can swim daily and it is absolutely okay to do so. This is doable, at least in part, because swimming is low-impact (i.e., it doesn’t put as much stress on joints and muscles) compared to other physical activities/sports such as running or strength training (lifting weights). Though it is healthy (Okay) overall to swim daily, there is a potential for adverse effects in the long term… as with many things, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”.  So, you will want to assure you are allowing for adequate (proper) rest/recovery between swims/swim sessions. 

Here are some guidelines as to how often one should swim 

  • Beginner Swimmers → two to three times a week
  • Intermediate and Advanced Swimmers → at least four to five times a week
  • Elite Swimmers → five to ten times a week.

While having a regular aerobic exercise routine such as swimming can have a positive impact on one’s overall health and well-being- physically and mentally, it can have [potential] harmful effects on someone who has a pre-existing condition of the cardiovascular system such as blood clots or that has experienced a cardiac episode like a stroke. Thus, one should always talk with their primary health care provider/a health care professional before starting a daily swim routine (or any workout for that matter).

By and large, swimming daily is healthy and safe; though, it does have its pros and cons as well as some contraindications. If you fall into the contraindicated category, you will want to avoid swimming daily (if not all together). However, many of the cons are either completely avoidable or can be lessened so long as one is aware of them. 

Pros of Swimming Daily Include: 

  1. Swimming daily burns calories
  2. Swimming tones the entire body
  3. Swimming can lower blood pressure
  4. Swimming reduces stress
  5. Swimming regularly helps control your blood sugar
  6. Swimming daily improves brain health (i.e., improves cognitive function/skill)
  7. One will sleep better after swimming
  8. One’s body composition improves (i.e., one may lose weight)
  9. Swimming (water) can heal the body 
  10. Swimming (water) promotes a better pregnancy 
  11. Swimming can have a positive effect on smoking cessation 
  12.  One may live longer 

Cons of Swimming Daily Include: 

  1. Risk of damaging your hair
  2. One may find swimming daily irritates the skin on their shoulders
  3. Depending on where one swims (i.e., the water you swim in), they risk getting a “swimmer’s itch”
  4. Swimming in a pool daily can cause chlorine rash
  5. Chemical conjunctivitis is a real risk when swimming in a pool regularly 
  6. If you swim in certain oceans (i.e., the Atlantic or Caribbean), you could get sea bather’s eruption (a rash from contact with jellyfish eggs and/or baby jellyfish- which are super tiny) 
  7. Swimming every day may lead to “Swimmer’s Ear”
  8. One could sustain sun damage from swimming outside daily
  9. One may gain weight (this is generally from muscle though which is a good thing; since most see weight gain as a negative it is placed on the cons. It very well could be a positive as well.)  (Source A)(Source B)(Source C)

Can Someone Swim in An Ocean?

Though open water (ocean) swimming has many rewards (pros/benefits), it does come with some risks (cons/downfalls)- even if just a few. Swimming in the ocean (open water) isn’t like swimming in a pool. The waves (and currents) can be strong and variable. A  slight shift in wind can cause changes to the water at a moment’s notice. In other words, the open water environment, due, in part, to its exposure to weather elements, is constantly changing; it’s dynamic. 

Because of the unpredictability of the water/waves and weather, a location that was ‘safe’ to swim at today may not be ‘safe’ [to swim at] tomorrow. When one swims in open water, they are responsible for their [own] safety.  Thus, one needs to assure they are a strong swimmer before swimming in the ocean (open water).

Ultimately, learning how to swim in the ocean comes with time. And, with time, comes experience. One of the first steps to open water (ocean) swimming is respecting the water (sea). 

Before one goes for a swim, one should take a few moments to observe the water

– What’s happening? How is the ocean/water behaving? 

– What do the waves look like? What are they doing  (i.e., How are the waves breaking/behaving?) 

– Also, plan for how you’re going to exit the ocean before you get into the water- be sure to consider the currents, the tidal flow,  and the wind direction

Other safety measures one can (and, will want to) take include wearing a brightly colored swim cap and using a tow float (an air-filled, thus buoyant, waterproof bag that attaches to a strap and floats behind a swimmer as they swim). Both of these items will make one more visible in the water. 

Check out the very light swim buoy that we recommend using which provides a safe way to float and be visible during your swim workouts: New Wave Swim Bubble (Amazon Link)

For more on this, check out our post on How Far Can You Swim in The Ocean ? Must-Know Tips to Pick a Safe Spot & Timing!

When it comes to attire [for open water], if you plan to swim regularly/year-round in open water it is worth investing in a wetsuit. Additionally, one may want a swim robe to put on after coming out of the water. A swim robe is a long changing robe that has a waterproof lining; it doubles as a towel and keeps one modest as they change in and out of their wetsuit/clothes. 

So, we can see that it is, indeed, possible and acceptable for one to swim in the ocean. In fact, it has many benefits to one’s health and well-being -physically and mentally. However, while ocean swimming has many benefits, it does have some drawbacks- namely, safety concerns. 

Here are some additional safety points/tips to keep in mind  when ocean swimming 

  1. Weather: It is advised by The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to check the official surf zone forecast prior to heading to the ocean. 
  1. Sea Life: This will largely be dependent on which beach (ocean) one is heading to. But, in general, one will want to be aware of what sea life exists in the ocean(s) they will be swimming in. (I.e., one will want to know which sea life is harmful and which is safe.) 
  1. Rip Currents: One should know how to ID a rip current as well as get out of one before getting into the ocean/water. 
  1. Lifeguards: It is recommended by NOAA to swim only, at beaches that have a lifeguard and to never swim without anyone else present. (So, if a lifeguard is not present at your particular beach, assure that you are swimming with a buddy or group.) 
  1. Flags: Be sure to brush up on your flag knowledge (i.e., know what the most common flags mean. 

Common US Flags include

Red: High Hazard. All swimmers should refrain from entering the water. Those entering the water do so at their own risk (i.e. they should take significant care).

Yellow: Medium Hazard. Advises weak swimmers to refrain from entering the water. For others (i.e., stronger swimmers), greater care and caution than usual should be used.

Green: Low (No) Hazard. The water is safe for all swimmers; though, caution should still be exercised given the unpredictable nature of the ocean. 

Purple: Dangerous Marine Life Present. This is intended for such creatures as jellyfish, stingrays, sea snakes, or other marine life that are present in the water and can cause minor injuries. This flag is not utilized to indicate the presence of sharks in the water. In this case of shark presence, the red flag (or double red flag) may be flown

Red over Red (double red): Water is closed to/for public use

(Source A)(Source B)

Melissa Frank

My passion, outside of animals, is helping people and adding value to their lives…I strive to leave the world a little better than I woke to it each day. The first part of my career, for a total of about 15 years, was spent in the public safety field as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT-B and 9-1-1 Operator. In 2019 I obtained my personal trainer certification (ACE certified) as well as many group fitness certifications and certification as a Corrective Exercise Specialist.

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