Written by SMH Physical Therapist & Aquatics Instructor Rebecca Aten
Want a way to stay healthy, increase strength, reduce stress and have FUN? Head to the pool!
Swimming is not just a great way to beat the heat—it’s also among the best low-impact ways to get a full-body workout.
Swimming for exercise has many health benefits, including:
- Improving cardiovascular endurance and fitness, without impacting your joints.
- Toning muscles and increasing muscle strength. Nearly all of your muscles are used for swimming, including your core.
- Helping maintain a healthy weight. Swimming is a great way to burn calories, and with increased muscle tone, you’ll burn more calories out of the pool!
- Improving lung function. Swimming with your face is in the water enables increases your lungs’ ability to take in and efficiently use oxygen; this can lower resting heart rate and decrease blood pressure.
- Reducing stress. In the right environment, lap-swimming can be a very relaxing and a peaceful form of exercise.
- Increasing range of motion with less stress on joints. Movements that are impossible or extremely difficult to do on land can be done in the water, with reduced risk of injury or falls.
The real beauty of swimming and water-based exercise is that it’s something nearly everyone can do. It’s low-impact nature makes it an ideal option for people with arthritis or related issues, for those recovering from an injury or preparing for surgery, for women who are pregnant and for people with balance or mobility challenges.
Have a lower extremity injury? Try swimming with a pull-buoy between your legs and focus on strengthening your upper body. Have an upper body injury, such as shoulder pain? Grab a kick board or pool noodle and do a kick set with your legs. With the right prop and guidance, the possibilities are endless.
Whether you’re young or old, a cross-training athlete or just looking for something new, swimming can be an ideal exercise.
Swimming for Fitness
Like any exercise program, a one and done is not going to cut it when lap-swimming for fitness. Start gradually, if you’re new the sport.
Starting with a 20- to 30-minute workout, two to three times each week is a good way to get your feet wet (pun intended). Work up to 45- to 60-minute workouts, three to four times per week or supplement with your current exercise program as you build your cardiovascular strength. You control the pace and intensity, so step it up when you feel ready for more challenge. Then “just keep swimming”!
Ready to Dive In?
A pool is a safer venue for those just starting lap-swimming for exercise than natural bodies of water. Indoor pool swimming is the best choice, if you don’t want your workouts limited by weather and seasons.
Sarasota Memorial medically integrated fitness center, HealthFit, features two indoor pools ideally suited for both beginners and advanced swimmers. The spacious, uncrowded, 25-yard lap pool has four dedicated, marked lanes for lap-swimming. The handicap-accessible therapy pool is shallow and warm, perfect for stretching or exercise. Those who prefer guidance and group exercise classes may enjoy pool-based aerobics or tai chi. HealthFit offers a full slate of aqua classes to suit all fitness levels and wellness goals. The aqua classes provide a low impact way to get a full-body workout with cardiovascular and resistance exercises. (The best part: After class or laps, you can relax in the hot tub or steam room!)
Want to learn more about lap-swimming or aqua exercise? Reach out to one of certified swim trainers, who can answer any questions you have, or schedule a tour. Call 941-917-7000.
Rebecca Aten, MPT, is a physical therapist at SMH Outpatient Rehab and group exercise instructor at HealthFit who specializes in aqua aerobics. A competitive swimmer since age 7, she was a U.S. Naval Academy swimmer and served our nation as a diving and salvage officer in Special Operations. Now, she coaches the Sarasota YMCA Sharks swim team and competes with the Sharks Masters team.