Swimming for Overall Health
Last updated: Aug 01, 2011
By Dina Bystryak for Summit Medical Group
Reviewed by Michael R. Dunne, DPT, ACT
If you’d like to try a low-impact exercise that can burn as many as 500 calories or more an hour, try swimming! A total-body workout, swimming can strengthen your heart and lungs while toning your shoulders, biceps, triceps, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors. If you’re elderly, pregnant, injured, or have arthritis, swimming is a great way to work out without putting excess stress on your joints.
Why It Works
Water provides at least 12 times the resistance of air. In addition, your muscles must contract repetitively to move your body through the water. If you use a variety of strokes, swimming can work almost every muscle in your body. The combination of repetitive contractions and resistance helps increase muscle strength and endurance — similar to strength training with weights. In contrast to weight training, though, swimming allows you to simultaneously work more muscles with less risk for injury. For this reason, it’s a great workout for people who want to tone their muscles overall, increase their total fitness, and guard against injuries.
Because it’s a low-impact exercise, swimming is ideal for exercisers who want to protect their joints. In particular, seniors, pregnant women, overweight and obese people, people with arthritis, and those recovering from certain injuries can enjoy all the benefits of exercise through swimming without putting excessive stress on their joints. People who are fit but need or would like to give their joints a break from weight-bearing exercise also can benefit from adding swimming to their weekly workout routine.
Mixing Up Your Exercise Routine for Best Results
Remember that although swimming is ideal for your muscles and overall fitness, it will not increase bone density. For this reason, it should be part of a varied exercise routine that includes weight-bearing activities such as walking, running, and weight training.
Swimming is a great exercise for people who would like to:
- Lose weight and manage their weight
- Tone their muscles
- Increase their endurance
- Increase their cardiovascular fitness and overall fitness
- Lower their risk for chronic disease
- Alleviate symptoms of arthritis
If you’d like to add swimming to workout routine but aren’t sure where to start, ask your local Y or swim club about classes to help you get started. Then be sure to check with your doctor to be sure it’s safe for you to begin. If you are recovering from an injury, be sure to ask your physical therapist if swimming is right for you.
As with all exercise programs, start slowly and gradually increase the speed and intensity of your workouts. A gentle approach will increase the odds that you’ll enjoy and stick with your program!
If you’d like more information about adding swimming to your exercise routine, our experts can help!
Call Summit Medical Group Physical Therapy today