My body doesn't seem to float in pool water. I think that's making it so that I have to work hard just to even stay up. That makes my swimming endurance kind of poor. Is this a known issue for some people or am I just making excuses? Anything I can do to get around this issue?

  • You're not the only one who has problems! For 30 years I've been an adequate swimmer (enough to enjoy holidays by the sea and exercise at the pool), recently though I've lost a little weight (I'm now just over 10 stone and 5ft 9). On my last holiday, by the Mediterranean, I found I no longer float on my back, treading water is exhausting, and swimming out my depth is not an option. I've had no health issues (the stone and a half I lost was through a healthier diet). Embarrassing and frightening.
    – queeg
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 23:47
  • this question seems (at least to some extent) related: sports.stackexchange.com/questions/4796/…
    – Martin
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 11:34

4 Answers 4


Kinda need more information to adequately answer but I'll give it a shot. People don't normally just float unless they maximize their surface area in contact with the water to distribute the weight across the water most efficiently. This is usually achieved by laying flat on your stomach or back. Other issues might cause this to still fail. For example, it is easier to float on ocean water because it is more dense than freshwater. Also if you are overweight you will have more weight per unit of area to distribute and make floating on your back harder or even impossible.

People who aren't strong swimmers are advised to wear a life jacket for a reason. We don't just float in the water without using our limbs to provide upward force. If you are talking about treading water when you say "stay up" then endurance is probably your best bet here, which is only made by practicing.

Start by treading water for 5 min before each swim session. Then try to see if you can do 15 min before resting. Eventually you'll be able to tread for longer periods and should feel safer in the water. Treading water for an hour without resting after 3 months of practice is an attainable goal as long as you are not morbidly out of shape. And if you can tread water for an hour you'll never fear not being able to "stay up" in the water ever again.

  • How tall are you and what do you weigh? The more steady you are the easier it should be.
    – ACD
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 15:52
  • That's strange. Without seeing a video it's impossible to know what's going wrong but I'd say you should definitely be able to float on your back no problem. Try watching a quick youtube video of someone doing it and see what they are doing different?
    – ACD
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 15:57

If you are floating by Back... then ensure 2 things while floating

  1. Your head must be drowned enough in water so that your ears can be underwater and

  2. Additionally free your lower part of body. Make it loose as much as you can.Don't make it stiff.

    This trick will make your head and body stretched enough on water and lower part of body will eventually come up. In couple of days you'll found your body floating. Worked for me in swimming pool. Hope will be helpful to you too.

If you are floating by Belly... then ensure that your chin is closer to upper chest. Best will be if both are in contact and yes free your lower part of body. It will work.


I don't know how you are expecting to float, really. Humans do float, even in fresh water, but only barely. Try it for yourself next time at the pool. Fill your lungs and just hang vertically in the water. The only thing above the surface will be the top of your head. Now try it on your back, horizontally in the water. Same thing: only a bit of you (a few toes, a bit of swimsuit, or your nose) will poke out of the water. To be able to breathe, you have to make sure those few percent of your body that reaches above the surface is your mouth. Poke your foot out, and your head sinks.

Now bring this experience into your swimming. In order to not waste effort on staying above water – just don't. No matter what stroke you do most of you is submerged. Even in breaststroke your face is under water except when you breathe. If that is where the problem lies, get a good pair of goggles if you plan on swimming any more than just paddling in the hotel pool or cooling off at the beach.

That is, I think, the only way around the issue: realise that keeping your head above water takes effort (that is why we have to tread water and not just float), and work on your swimming skills to not waste so much effort on that. That is, get your head and face in the water when you swim. Then keep going and start swimming for exercise regularly.

Good luck!


I have been trying to solve the same problem for years. It's unsolvable for me. I'm 1.84 cm, 75 kgs, and allegedly having 12% body fat ratio. So, my way of solving the problem is improving my water treading skills.

Females float better than males and both males and females float better in saltwater than in freshwater. Very few adults can float horizontally in the water, yet most children can hold a star float in the horizontal position.

It must be noted that a persons weight has little to do with their density. Muscle is denser and therefore heavier than fat, making fatter people better floaters.

Here is the full reading: http://www.swim-teach.com/how-do-I-float.html


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