Swimming is a great way to get exercise. It offers a gentle full-body workout. Even better, people of all ages and fitness levels can benefit from it. If you’re wondering if swimming is for you, here are some tips to keep in mind.
The benefits of swimming
A regular swimming routine only requires access to a pool (or clean body of water), a swimsuit, and usually swimming goggles:
Toned muscles. Swimming is a sport that uses all muscle groups, from arms and stomach to legs, ankles and even feet.
Cardiovascular health. As an aerobic exercise, swimming helps heart health by increasing blood flow and strength, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Weight loss. A 30-minute swim can burn 200 to around 450 calories, depending on your body weight and swimming intensity.
Increased mobility. For people recovering from injuries or suffering from arthritis, swimming and aqua aerobics help them recover with gentle strengthening, freedom of movement, and muscle balance.
Stress reduction. Swimming can make you happy by increasing the production of endorphins and decreasing the production of stress hormones like cortisol.
Avoid swimming injuries
Just because swimming is a gentle exercise doesn’t mean you are protected from injury. Even Olympic swimmers can suffer from a variety of physical ailments.
To avoid minor problems like cramping and swimming ears, and more serious conditions like swimmer’s shoulder (which causes inflammation or damage to the rotator cuff) and tendonitis in the elbows or knees, prepare your body before and during a water exercise.
Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. Once you are ready to jump in, here are some ways to reduce your risk of injury:
Thoroughly stretch. Swimming uses all the muscles in the body, often in directions that are not necessary for normal everyday activities. The four areas to stretch include your chest, legs, ankles, and shoulders.
Include cross training for bone strength. The low impact of swimming can also put off bone health, which requires resistance and weight loading to maintain strength. Consider adding walking, bodyweight training, or resistance training with elastic bands or weights.
Drink enough. You can become dehydrated and even sweaty while swimming in a pool of water. This can cause cramps in your legs and feet. To avoid this, drink enough water during the day and limit caffeine and alcohol as they can affect the body’s water balance.
Just swim. Even Olympic swimmers don’t start the 100-meter butterfly in less than 50 seconds. Adjust the intensity and length of your swimming training over time, being careful not to overwhelm yourself too soon. Consider taking lessons or hiring a swim coach to make sure your shape is correct and don’t compare yourself to other swimmers in the pool. Focus on learning each shot and technique over time – and enjoy the process.
Follow basic water safety
The Red Cross recommends that you always consider these basic water safety tips before swimming.
Only swim in designated areas preferably monitored by lifeguards.
Never swim alone – especially in open water – and keep a life jacket close at hand.
Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, including swimming, to make sure your body is fit for new movements.
If something doesn’t feel right, stop and rest. Make sure to warm up and cool down so your body can recover from any swim training. When done safely, swimming is an exercise that you can do for a lifetime.
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