Swimming is for Everyone

February 2010
Low-impact and fun to do, swimming is a popular activity for all ages. Add swimming to your exercise regime and enjoy its numerous benefits. Learn more about the aquatics programs offered at the YWCA.

Health Benefits
Because the human body is 90% water, its density is very similar to the density of water. That’s why you feel weightless when swimming. And why swimming is a great form of low-impact exercise, making it extremely popular with people who are elderly, pregnant, recovering from an injury, disabled or overweight. Swimming is also a great cardiovascular workout that elevates the heart and respiratory rates, improving overall health.

When you swim, you exercise all of the muscles in your body. However, your upper body and arms get more of a workout than your legs. If you want to use your legs more, try doing the breast stroke, which generates greater leg movements than the front crawl. If you are supplementing your swimming with exercise on land, where the legs are used more, do the front crawl to give your arms an additional workout.

Burning Calories
When you swim breaststroke or backstroke, you burn about the same number of calories as you would by walking fast or jogging slowly. More vigorous swimming will burn more calories. Doing the front crawl vigorously for 30 minutes will burn about 350 calories.

Swimming During Pregnancy
Swimming is a completely safe and excellent exercise for expectant mothers. Be sure to check with your doctor before you jump into the pool. If you swam before your pregnancy, you should have no problem. If you didn’t exercise at all before your pregnancy, start slowly with gentle stretching, go easy and listen to your body. Stay out of the hot tub or sauna. Extreme heat can sometimes slow the development of the fetus.

Swimming as Rehabilitation
Swimming is a great way for athletes to quickly bounce back after injuries. After suffering an injury to her Achilles tendon, professional runner Mary Slaney, trained only in the water for 3 weeks. A week later she set a world record in the 1000 meters.

Aqua fitness and Aquaerobics
Aqua fitness and aquaerobics are both excellent aerobic workouts without high impact. Incorporating many movements seen in dry-land aerobics with specialized equipment for deep-water workouts, many people, including expectant mothers and the elderly, use aqua fitness to stay healthy and improve or maintain their cardiovascular fitness.

Mix it Up
Swimming is undoubtedly good exercise, but it doesn’t use the leg muscles as much as exercising on land. Because it is low-impact, swimming is not good for maintaining bone density or preventing osteoporosis. Make sure to include exercise on land, such as lunges, running, walking, or cycling, plus weight training 2-3 times a week to help ensure total fitness.