Swimming is one of the few fitness activities that is aerobically intense without being high impact. As a result, swimming is terrific for people of all fitness levels, particularly beginning exercisers, the elderly and people with health conditions that preclude other sports. And considering there are an estimated six and a half million pools in the United States alone, you should have no problem finding a place to dive in.
Physical benefits: Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that works your quadriceps, hamstrings, arms, gluteus muscles and abdominals. It’s excellent for building stamina and muscle tone. Best of all, there’s no jarring or shock to the body, which significantly reduces the risk of injury.
Other advantages: People with injuries or chronic pain, pregnant women and the elderly find swimming a sport that goes easy on the body while offering an efficient workout. Water workouts are sometimes used in post-injury physical therapy, because the water takes some of the body’s weight off the joints and tendons. Because the air around pools is so humid, swimming is often the sport of choice for people with asthma.
Preparing in the off-time: Any aerobic exercise will help get you in shape for swimming. Walking and biking are good options for everyone, especially beginners, because they’re relatively inexpensive. Running, hiking or indoor cycling classes are other terrific options.
Warm-up and stretches: Include a warm-up before you begin. Jump on a stationary bike, walk to the pool or start out with slow and easy strokes. It takes five to ten minutes to warm up your muscles and get the heart rate elevated.
Cool-down: When you’re done, swim leisurely for a few minutes or get out of the pool and walk around for four or five minutes to get your heart rate back to normal.
- Swimsuit – Both men and women should get a snug-fitting suit designed for athletic swimming.
- Goggles – They help keep the chlorine out of your eyes and improve your underwater vision.
- Swimming cap – It keeps the chlorine out of your hair. Caps are required by some pool facilities.