Whether you’re dipping your toes in the sea or diving into the caldera of an extinct volcano, swimming is one of the world’s most amazing water activities. Known as a low-impact exercise, it targets major muscle groups and is a killer cardio workout. Plus, you can enjoy it wherever you have access to water—even if it’s just a backyard pool.
Taking part in an aerobic activity like swimming can decrease your risk of dying from heart disease or diabetes by 50 percent. It can also strengthen your immune system and improve your mental health. And if you’re unable to do high-impact exercises, such as running or tennis, swimming can be a perfect alternative.
You can get started by getting lessons at your local community pool, gym or YMCA or YWCA. And don’t forget to wear appropriate safety gear, such as a life vest. You should also check with your doctor before you begin a new exercise program, especially if you have any health concerns.
The Cool Benefits of Swimming
If you have back, hip or knee problems, swimming is an excellent choice for cardiovascular exercise because it’s low-impact. But it can also be a fun and social way to stay active, particularly for children and older adults. Swimming is one of the most popular sports in many countries and is even a marquee event at the Olympics.
Aside from the physical benefits, swimming can boost your mood and help you sleep better. The cool water of a pool or ocean can relieve stress, which in turn reduces the production of hormones that cause depression and anxiety. Plus, the soothing sound of your breath and the water rushing by can be meditative, helping you relax.
Swimming can also help you improve your math skills, because swimmers frequently count their laps and total meters swum. This may be why so many swimmers are good at multiplication and addition.
Learning to swim is a process, so it’s best to take it slow and start with the basics. Start by floating on your back with your face in the water, and then try flutter kicks with your legs while keeping them straight. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can move on to freestyle, breaststroke and backstroke, or even butterfly.
Whatever stroke you choose, it’s a great idea to vary your routine so you work different muscle groups each time. To do this, try doing a few laps of freestyle on one day, breaststroke the next and backstroke another day. Varying your strokes will also keep the exercise fun and help prevent muscle fatigue. If you’re ready to learn more, you can find a certified swimming instructor at your local pool, or look for hydrotherapy classes with an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist. They can tailor the lessons to meet your specific needs and goals. Hydrotherapy can be beneficial to people with chronic pain and other health conditions, including arthritis, osteoporosis and back problems. It can even help speed recovery from injuries.