Swimming is an efficient and effective full-body workout that’s also great for the heart. It’s no surprise it’s also a popular exercise among those with arthritis, as the buoyancy of water reduces stress on joints and muscles. Swimming provides a natural endorphin rush too, and its constant movement stretches your body out.
While some adults may have developed a fear of the water from a traumatic experience as kids or an irrational fear of drowning, it’s never too late to learn. Adults can find a way past their fears by taking a series of lessons from a trained swim instructor in a safe, supervised environment.
For adults who are completely new to swimming, start slow and build your confidence. Many community pools, gyms, and YMCAs and YWCAs offer swimming classes. Many of these courses introduce you to the basics, including basic strokes and breathing techniques. If you’re ready to get serious, consider joining a club or swimming team where you can train and compete against others.
If you’re a new swimmer, it’s best to warm up and stretch in the shallows before entering the water. Aim to cover short distances — such as laps around the pool — and increase your duration over time. This will help you develop a fitness base without overdoing it, and it’s also a great way to meet fellow swimmers.
In order to become a proficient swimmer, you’ll need to master the fundamental movements of kicking and floating. Begin by standing a few feet from the edge of the pool in the shallow end and holding onto the side. Extend your legs and float on your stomach, focusing on the rotary breathing that sustains your flotation. You can add a pool noodle to your waist or hips for extra support.
Once you’ve mastered these fundamentals, you can begin incorporating the other components of swimming. Aim to swim a certain number of laps per session, and work on speeding up your strokes as you progress. “Start by recording your baseline time and slowly shave off seconds each week,” Buckingham says. “Be sure to rest in between and don’t overdo it.”
When you’re swimming for fitness, it’s important to focus on form and having fun. If the workout is too difficult or you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re more likely to quit.
Athletes can use swimming to improve specific body parts such as their arms, shoulders, and back. They can also incorporate the sport into their strength training regimen to build muscle mass. Strength exercises like assisted or unassisted pull-ups, squats, and deadlifts of half your bodyweight can all be used to complement a healthy swimming routine.