Swimming is one of the few sports that offer an intense aerobic workout while being gentle on the body. As such, it is a great activity for people of all fitness levels, particularly the elderly or people whose bodies cannot tolerate high-impact workouts. Swimming is also a good activity for pregnant women who want to strengthen their abdominal and back muscles.

Getting Started

You can learn to swim by yourself, but it may be worth your while to invest in a few lessons. There are several different strokes to master and learning to do them correctly will help you maximize your workout and avoid injury. If your health club does not have a pool, check with your local Y for information about group or private lessons.

Before jumping in the pool, it’s a good idea to invest in a bathing suit that fits properly and does not require a lot of adjusting. If your eyes tend to become irritated easily, you may want to purchase a pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the chlorine in the water. If you’re swimming outdoors, make sure to wear a sunscreen of at least spf 15 or higher and reapply every few hours. If this is your first time in the water, it may help to use a kickboard (a light foam board that floats) to support your upper body and be sure to swim where there are lifeguards close by.

Body Benefits

Swimming is an intense aerobic exercise that works your arms, abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. It also tones the body and builds endurance. Because it is low-impact swimming has a lower risk of injury than many other sports.

Another added benefit of swimming is that it may help improve bone health. In a recent study, researchers found that swimming, even if started in adulthood, produces increased bone mineral content, which helps keep bones healthy and strong. Bone mineral content in swimmers was 12 percent higher than in non-swimmers.1

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Begin your workout with a five to 10-minute warm up. That may mean swimming a few laps slowly or going for a quick walk or jog beforehand to warm up your muscles and elevate your heart rate. Slow down the pace at the end of your workout to allow your heart rate to descend gradually.

Be sure to stretch your arms, calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, before you start to swim and again after cooling down to avoid injury and soreness.


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