- Provides a good aerobic work
out: The cardiovascular benefits of swimming and aquatic exercise are
similar to other aerobic activities such as running and cycling.
- Tones the whole body: Water
offers 12 to 14 percent more resistance than air, so water is a good substitute
for weights. In addition, all swimming strokes tone the muscles of both your
upper and lower body.
- Improves and maintains
flexibility: Swimming enhances joint flexibility more readily than with
land-based programs, especially in the neck, shoulders, hips and midsection.
Much of this is thanks to the repetitive twisting movements, as your body turns
from side to side during the crawl, backstroke and butterfly.
- Mobilizes joints without stress
and pain: In water you are 90 percent lighter than in air and that makes
your body buoyant. The water supports the body while providing a head-to-toe
workout that puts joints through their full range of motion -- even if they're
inflamed -- without the problem of gravity. So swimming can be ideal if you're
obese, pregnant, have chronic back or joint problems or suffer from a sports
- Stimulates muscle growth:
Although not considered an effective activity for increasing bone mass and
reducing the risk of osteoporosis, swimming does provides a stimulus for muscle
growth because of the resistance working against the water. Stronger muscles
mean improved mobility and support for the joints, which in turn can reduce the
risk of falls and fractures. If you need to build bone, walking can be a good
- Helps with weight loss:
Water workouts have a calorie-burning potential of 350 to 450 calories per
hour. Combined with a healthy diet, swimming will help fat loss and increase
muscle mass to give your body a lean, firm, well-defined appearance. Compare
land walking, which burns 135 calories every 30 minutes with deep-water
walking, which burns 240 calories per half hour.
- Stress reliever: Swimming
can be good for the mind as well as the body. The soothing aspects of water can
help ebb away the days tensions!
Solutions For Your Swimming
Excuse #1: Swimming is
Solution: Instead of doing
only laps, shake it up. Vertical water training effectively strengthens your
muscles, providing 75 percent more resistance than simply swimming. You'll
maximize the drag effect of the water, whereas swimming minimizes resistance.
If you're not comfortable in the deep end, also try these alternatives:
- Water aerobics: This type of
water exercise involves total body movements to music in shallow or deep water.
- Water walking/jogging: This
involves step and arm moves in waist- to chest-deep water. You can do it with
head and shoulders above water, or in the deep water wearing a floatation
- Water toning/strengthening
training: Movement of the upper and lower body using the water as
resistance will strengthen, firm, and sculpt the muscles. You can make larger
movements when you're buoyant.
- Wall exercises: Using the
pool wall for support allows you to isolate various parts of the body.
Excuse #2: My eyes get red
Solution: This effect is due
to the chlorinated water. Purchase a pair of comfortable goggles. Your eyes and
visual health will thank you for them. There are dozens of different goggle
brands and styles on the market. You can even get prescription goggles!
Excuse #3: I don't like
getting my hair or face wet.
Solution: Secure your hair on
top of your head or wear a bathing cap. While the cap doesn't keep all the
water out, it helps keep hair dry and healthy. Chlorine can remove natural oils
in your skin and hair, making them look dull and dry. If you have light hair, a
cap can also prevent hair from turning green due to high concentrations of
copper dissolved in the pool water. Try water exercises such as water aerobics
or water jogging to keep your face drier.
Excuse #4: I don't feel
comfortable wearing a swimsuit.
Solution: This is a common
problem for people who are both average and overweight, but don't let worries
that others are scrutinizing your body stop you from taking advantage of the
wet and wild fun! Attend public pools with a friend to build your
Excuse #5: I get breathless
after one lap, even though I'm in shape.
Solution: New swimmers tend to
sprint a lap or two, exhausting themselves and ending the exercise session
prematurely -- and maybe permanently. Start out by alternately swimming and
resting; swim for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Gradually increase
the amount of time you spend moving until you can comfortably swim for 20 to 30
minutes without rest.
Excuse #6: I can't
Solution: Plenty of local
pools and the YMCA (www.ymca.com) offer swimming lessons for a range of
experience, as well as a variety of water activities that do not require a good
command of swimming. Your stroke doesn't have to be perfect, but the more
technically correct it is, the better the workout you will get. Here is a
description of the swimming strokes, all of which can give you a good
- Front crawl. In this stroke,
alternating over-arm strokes and the flutter kick are used, while your head is
above the water and moving from side to side
- Backstroke. Lying on your
back, this stroke requires alternate over-the-head arm strokes and a flutter
- Breaststroke. In the
breaststroke, a frog kick is used while the arms move from a point in front of
the head to shoulder level.
- Butterfly. The most difficult and
exhausting stroke, the butterfly employs the dolphin kick with a windmill-like
movement of both arms in unison.
- Sidestroke. This relaxed movement,
which entails a forward underwater stroke and a scissors kick, is performed
with the body on one side.