By Rebecca Taggart
Swimming laps is fantastic exercise because it is both cardiovascular and strengthening. It uses all the body’s muscle groups and therefore gives a whole-body workout. It is also low impact, which benefits those with joint or weight limitations (or advanced pregnancy), yet a vigorous swim burns as many calories as running a 10-minute mile or playing competitive soccer (around 600 cal/hr). By using different strokes you can focus on certain muscle groups, and few other activities give you as good of an upper body workout.
Swimming is an exercise that can be done throughout your life, unlike many other sports, and it is an excellent way to cross-train. It is also often recommended for rehabilitation after injury or surgery.
If you are a competitive lap swimmer, or want a challenge, join a local U.S. Master’s Swimming group. They rank swimmers by age group, topping out at 100 years and older!
If you don’t enjoy swimming, or never learned, there are many aquatic exercise classes that use water’s resistance to give you a workout that is safe for all, including seniors with fragile bones, and you never even have to put your face in the water.
You can also walk in the shallow end of the pool, which is good exercise because of water’s resistance. If you try a water aerobics class, you can do many of the same moves on your own. Kicking using a kick board or holding onto the edge of the pool will get your blood moving yet keep you cool. If you’d like to learn to swim, almost all pools offer lessons for adults, as well as children.
So where will you head for a swim? You don’t have to be a member of a country club to find a good place. Cities and most towns have public pools with set lap-swim times plus a variety of classes at very reasonable prices. Check with your local park and recreation department. You can also try local schools and colleges, which may offer public swimming on weekends and during summer break. Some hospitals have warm therapy pools and offer classes. And don’t forget about open water swimming, my personal favorite. Whether in the fresh water of a lake or off a beach, nothing beats swimming in the warm sunshine. Remember for open water swimming to always swim with a buddy and know the signs of hypothermia.
Remember to always check with your healthcare provider before beginning any new exercise regime.