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Swimming: Jump in with These Exercise Tips

August 26, 2021

Swimming is an excellent way to get exercise. It delivers a low-impact, full-body workout. Even better, people of all ages and most fitness levels can benefit. If you’re wondering whether swimming is for you, here are some tips to keep in mind.

The Advantages of Swimming

Requiring only access to a pool (or a clean body of water), a swimsuit and usually goggles, a regular swimming routine delivers:

  • Toned muscles. Swimming is a sport that requires use of every muscle group, from arms and abdominals to legs, ankles and even feet.

  • Cardiovascular health. As an aerobic exercise, swimming supports heart health by increasing its blood flow and strength, which in turn lowers your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

  • Weight loss. A 30-minute swim can burn from 200 to about 450 calories depending on your body weight and swimming intensity.

  • Increased mobility. For people recovering from injuries or suffering with arthritis, swimming and water-based exercises help recovery with low-impact strengthening, range of motion and muscle balance.

  • Stress reduction. By stimulating the production of endorphins and decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, swimming can make you happy.

Avoid Swimming Injuries

Just because swimming is a low-impact exercise doesn’t mean you’re safe from injury. Even Olympic swimmers can suffer from a variety of physical aches and pains.

To avoid minor issues such as cramping and swimmer’s ear and more serious conditions like swimmer’s shoulder (causing inflammation or damage to the rotator cuff) and tendonitis in elbows or knees, there are steps you should take to prepare your body before and during any water workout.

Before beginning any exercise program, talk with your doctor. Once you’re ready to jump in, here are ways to reduce your risk of injury:

  1. Stretch thoroughly. Swimming uses all the muscles in the body, often in directions normal day-to-day activities don’t require. Four areas to stretch include the chest, legs, ankles and shoulders.

  2. Include cross-training for bone strength. Swimming’s low-impact benefit can also be a deterrent to bone health, which requires resistance and weight-bearing to maintain strength. Consider adding walking, bodyweight training, or resistance training that uses elastic bands or weights.

  3. Stay hydrated. You can get dehydrated and even sweat while swimming in a pool of water. This can lead to cramping in your legs and feet. To avoid this, be sure you drink enough water during the day, and limit caffeine and alcohol as they can affect the body’s water balance.

  4. Ease into swimming. Even Olympic swimmers don’t start out doing the 100-meter butterfly in under 50 seconds. Adjust the intensity and length of your swim practice over time, being careful not to overtax yourself too soon. Consider taking lessons or getting a stroke coach to be sure your form is correct, and don’t compare yourself with other swimmers in the pool. Focus on learning each stroke and technique over time — and enjoy the process.  

Follow Basic Water Safety

Before swimming, the Red Cross recommends you always consider these basic water safety tips.

  1. Only swim in designated areas, preferably monitored by lifeguards.

  2. Never swim alone — especially in open water — and have a life jacket close at hand.

  3. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, including swimming, to make sure your body is fit to take on new movements.

If something does not feel right, stop and rest. Make sure to do a warm-up and cool-down to help your body recover from each swim workout. When done safely, swimming is an exercise you can do for a lifetime.

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