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Take the Plunge—Try Swimming!

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Swimming: An Old Sport Gaining New Popularity | Benefits | Where to Go

Swimming: An Old Sport Gaining New Popularity

An ever-growing number of participants of high- impact forms of exercise, such as runners, basketball, football, and baseball players, are turning to swimming to avoid the injuries that generally accompany these sports.

Why? Three reasons. First, in the water, your body's weight is completely supported, thus preventing most of the common injuries related to land-based exercise. Second, because the possibility of injury is so greatly reduced, swimming makes it much easier to pursue a more rigorous workout. And finally, because swimming uses (and thus conditions) more of your body's muscles simultaneously than almost any other form of exercise, swimming results in a great overall workout.


The benefits of swimming are not limited just to those wishing to avoid the injuries common to other forms of exercise. Those recovering from exercise-related—and non-exercise-related—injuries can also benefit. Why? Because swimming's non-impact, low-stress nature is often the best (and sometimes the only) exercise method that can strengthen injured joints or limbs without exacerbating the original injury.

And swimming's benefits do not end there. Again, due to its non-impact nature, swimming is often an excellent form of exercise for those who suffer from chronic pain due to arthritis or back-related injuries. And because it is generally done in a warm, humid setting, swimming is often a good choice for people with asthma.

A couple of cautionary notes, however. Before you start an exercise program, talk to your doctor. If you have an injury or a condition, your doctor will need to approve your exercise routine. Your doctor will want to monitor your progress and decide whether any changes need to be made to your activities. While swimming is usually a good option for people, if you have certain conditions, you may need to take extra precautions. For example, for some asthma sufferers, high chlorine levels in the pool can worsen their condition and may even trigger an asthma attack.

Where to Go

Of course, swimming for exercise does require a couple of things—the ability to swim and a relatively large body of water (usually a pool) in which to swim. Fortunately, neither requirement is extremely difficult to meet. Most people learn to swim as children. But even if you did not, most local YMCAs, YWCAs, and/or Red Cross divisions offer adult swimming lessons.

Indeed, even if you learned to swim as a child, taking a few refresher swimming lessons is a good idea. Improved swimming mechanics and a knowledge and mastery of a variety of swimming strokes will generally improve both your enjoyment and the benefits of any swimming-based exercise program.

As for finding a place to swim, that is easy to do, as well. Many health clubs have (or are affiliated with a club that has) a pool. But, if such is not the case where you live (or this option is too expensive), the pool at most community YMCAs and/or YWCAs is usually available at a reasonable fee.

Your health insurance plan may cover part of the cost of joining a swim club. If you are active or retired military, you probably have privileges at the base pool. And many communities offer their residents the use of the local high school, junior high school, and/or municipal pool at no cost or a nominal fee. For more specific listings of places where you can swim for exercise near where you live, you can check the Swimmers Guide and the United States Masters Swimming Association websites.

As noted, if you are a beginner (or suffer from a chronic injury or condition), first check with your doctor. Then dive right into your swimming-based exercise program!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


United States Masters Swimming



Bar-Or O, Inbar O. Swimming and asthma. Benefits and deleterious effects. Sports Med. 1992;14(6):397-405.

Swimming. Georgia State University website. Available at: http://www2.gsu.edu/~wwwfit/swimming.html. Updated March 1999. Accessed May 12, 2012.

Last reviewed May 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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