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9 Ways Swimming Can Boost Every Woman's Fitness

From HealthNewsDigest.com

For those who think a workout means running or aerobics, and a pool is just for play, the women of United States Masters Swimming (USMS) have news for you: Swimming can be a rigorous, effective fitness workout and be fun in the process.

Swimming is not always the fastest way to lose weight, but swimming provides excellent overall conditioning because you use lots of different muscles, as opposed to running, said Jane Moore, M.D., a physician and active USMS swimmer in Tacoma, Wash.

People who consistently swim strenuously enough to be out of breath when they finish, and elevate their heart rate, do burn calories and lose weight. The key is to push yourself a bit.

Putting on a swimsuit, by itself, will encourage you to lose, and keep off, five to 10 pounds, adds Kris Houchens, a USMS swimmer who holds a masters degree in biomechanics from Ball State University.

In addition to helping you strut your stuff in a swimsuit, here are nine ways swimming can benefit your body:

1. Heart helper: With good technique, swimming provides important cardiovascular fitness benefits. Swimmers can brush up on technique by taking adult classes offered by the American Red Cross, local rec centers, YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, or the Transpersonal Swimming Institute (www.conquerfear.com, 510-526-6000).

2. Keep it lean: Swimming builds long, lean muscles that complement the shorter, bulkier muscles created by activities such as weight training. These long muscles also boost your metabolism to keep burning calories longer.

3. Smooth and supple: Stretching and increasing flexibility is easier in a heated pool, which relaxes muscles, and in the water, which reduces the body weight you feel by 90 percent.

4. Breathe deeply: If you are comfortable with swimming technique and breathing, swimming can be less taxing on lungs than running, because arms, with their smaller muscles, don't require as much oxygen as legs do.

5. Strengthen your core: Swimming builds core body strength by using all of your muscles. While 70 percent of a swimmer's effort comes from the upper body, exercises with kickboards and fins can provide an incredible lower-body workout when done properly.

6. Baby, get back: Swimming strengthens and tones arm, back and shoulder muscles, creating a long, strong, lean upper body.

7. Keep going and going: With proper technique, many swimmers can swim longer than they can sustain other activities, allowing burning of more calories.

8. Do it anywhere: Swimming isn't just about dingy, crowded neighborhood pools. Many recreation centers and health clubs have beautiful pools, and open-water swimming can take you to lakes, reservoirs and even the ocean. For spots to swim around the world, check the online Places to Swim directory at www.usms.org.

9. Make it comfy, mama: For women who are pregnant, swimming can safely work abdominal and shoulder muscles that support your changing body. The water and the exercise also can reduce joint stiffness, improve high blood pressure and decrease the general discomfort pregnancy can cause.

For some women, the hardest thing is simply putting on a swimsuit, said Nancy Ridout, USMS immediate past president. Remember, swimmers come in all shapes and sizes -- the most important thing is to choose a suit that fits well and that's appropriate for real swimming, so you can feel good in the water.

Ridout advises shopping for suits at your community's specialty swim stores or at reputable online sites.

All of these USMS swimmers share one recommendation for women interested in perfecting their swimming technique to achieve the greatest fitness benefit: Seek out a swimming program where the coach can help design a workout best suited to each individuals capabilities.

For more information or to find a USMS club near you, visit www.usms.org or call 800-550-SWIM.

United States Masters Swimming (www.usms.org) is a national organization that provides organized workouts, competitions, clinics and workshops for adults aged 18 and over. Programs are open to all adult swimmers (fitness, triathlete, competitive, non-competitive) who are dedicated to improving their fitness through swimming. Founded in 1970, USMS is organized with 500 clubs in 53 regions throughout the nation.

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