Benefits of Swimming
Swimming is a form of exercise that's appropriate for nearly every age and fitness level. It is particularly beneficial for those with joint problems, those recovering from an injury or those who are obese. The buoyancy of the water takes some of the pressure off your joints, making you almost weightless. On the other hand, water also makes movement more difficult -- the water has an added resistance that your body must overcome in order to move. This resistance will strengthen your muscles and joints and give you a challenging cardiovascular workout.
Swimming laps works nearly every muscle in your body, particularly your shoulders, arms, abdomen, back, hips and legs. Different swimming strokes will put more emphasis on different muscle groups. For example, the freestyle and butterfly are heavily dependent upon your shoulder, arm and chest muscles, while the breaststroke uses a lot of core strength and the backstroke emphasizes the muscles of the shoulders, back and spine. Nearly every swimming stroke relies heavily on the work of the thighs and gluteal muscles to kick and propel your body forward.
Avoid sticking to one type of stroke during each swim session. Instead, mix it up and try a different stroke every couple of workouts to ensure all of your muscles are being worked and to prevent muscle imbalances. Incorporate interval training into your lap swims to really blast calories. Interval training involves alternating between intense work and a recovery period. For example, swim hard for two laps, do a nice easy lap, then repeat throughout your workout. Hit the pool for at least 30 minutes a day five days a week to reap the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise.
Consult with your health care provider before beginning a new exercise program to ensure you're healthy enough for exercise. Caution should always be taken when water is involved -- for your safety, never swim without a lifeguard present. Begin each workout with a light-intensity five- to 10-minute warm-up, which can consist of simply swimming a few laps at a slow, easy pace. End each workout the same way you began -- with a few easy laps to allow your heart rate to gradually return to resting. Finish your cool-down with stretches that target the major muscle groups worked. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.