Whether you prefer to splash around in the shallow end with your kids, follow the motions of a water aerobics instructor in a classroom setting, swim laps at your own pace, or race competitively in the water, swimming in all of its forms is a fun way to get effective exercise with fantastic benefits for both the body and mind. According to the Center for Disease Control, swimming is the third most popular sports activity in the United States. This is due, in large part, to the fact that people of all ages and fitness levels can get their exercise in the water with minimal stress on the body.
Exercise for Everyone
By Julianne Hale
Swimming utilizes all major muscle groups, develops muscle strength and endurance while improving posture and flexibility, and it is one of the most injury-free sports there is. Offering 12 times greater resistance than movement in air, swimming provides many of the same benefits as running with the added benefit of resistance training without putting strain on the joints and connective tissue that traditional exercises often do.
For people with chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, or those who are overweight, swimming is an ideal fitness option. With a minimal impact on joints and connective tissue, swimming allows these people to improve their joint function without worsening their symptoms. According to the CDC, “People with rheumatoid arthritis have more health improvements after participating in hydrotherapy than with other activities.”
In addition to the physical benefits, swimming can also help with mental health, improving mood in both men and women. The CDC notes that people suffering with fibromyalgia can experience a decrease in anxiety from exercising in water. In addition, pregnant women report that aquatic exercise has a positive effect on their mental health.
With its minimal risk for injury, swimming is an appropriate exercise for all ages. For the elderly, water fitness is very safe, increases the body’s range of motion, and is low-impact. For post-menopausal women who face osteoporosis, exercising in the water can actually help to improve and maintain bone health.
Unlike running, tennis and other landbased exercises, swimming is something that anyone can start at any age or fitness level. Even if you’ve never stepped foot in the water, you can give this beneficial exercise a try. A budget-friendly activity, swimming requires minimal equipment. All it takes is a comfortable swim suit and a pair of snug goggles. Optional items include flippers, a kickboard, pull-buoy and swim cap, but these are not necessary to enjoy the health benefits of swimming.
Once you’ve got your goggles and swimsuit, you are ready to hit the water. For the novice swimmer, lessons are a great place to start. Many public and private facilities and community pools offer them throughout the summer at outdoor pools and throughout the year at indoor pools. In addition, many fitness clubs and centers also offer a variety of water aerobics classes that are ideal for beginners and those that enjoy a group environment. If a little healthy competition is your thing, try a swim team. Available for children and adults alike, swim teams are a wonderful way to meet people with similar interest, improve your health and motivate you to swim better. United States Masters Swimming (USMS.org) is a great resource for adults interested in swimming competitively.
Regardless of your health situation, swimming is an excellent way to get or stay in shape with minimal impact and a very low risk of injury. Beat the heat this summer and take a swim in your local pool for a refreshing boost of fitness and fun.
Julianne Hale and her family reside in Cleveland. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Illinois State University and then an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Julianne is a member of the Chattanooga Writers Guild, is married, and has three children.