According to the Centers for Disease Control, swimming ranks as the fourth most popular recreational activity in the United States. If you’ve ever been swimming, you know why: it’s hard not to have a good time when you’re splashing around on a warm summer day. It also happens to be a very healthy exercise option for all ages.
Why it’s Important
One study found that women over the age of sixty “who regularly participated in a water-based exercise program improved their on-land walking speed by 16 percent, their agility by 20 percent and their ability to climb stairs by more than 22 percent, compared with others who did the same routines on land.”
There are many great advantages to exercising in the water. Swimming strengthens muscles in both the upper and lower body, and allows people to exercise for longer periods without putting too much stress on their joints and bones. Because of that lowered stress on the body, working out in the water is a great option for people with arthritis, or similar chronic illnesses. Water-based exercise has even been found to improve mental health in men and women.
The Ground Rules
With the great variety of classes offered around the country, we can’t list them all. There are, however, some basic rules to consider before you go jumping in just any pool. As with all physical activities, check with your physician to ensure you’re fit for swimming. In addition, be aware of a few rules to keep you safe in the water:
- Never swim alone.
- Warm up your muscles before getting started.
- If outdoors, be sure to use sunscreen.
- Don’t drink the pool water!
- Drink drinkable water!
- Don’t try to keep up with others – focus on you.
Some of the most fun to be had in the water is in a group. Check your local community center(s), gym(s), and online resources for local classes that may be a good fit for you. Once you find a class, before signing up. Make sure the instructor is qualified to work with you and has first aid training. Are the facilities clean and well maintained? Feel free to visit the pool where the classes are held to look around and feel the water. You should be comfortable there.
You’re almost ready! Make sure you have all the gear you need to get the most fun out of your new class. Swimwear is obvious, but you should feel free to splurge a little. Most classes allow you to use things like kickboards, Styrofoam noodles, and other pool toys.
Remember: Working out in a pool is good for your health, but it’s also a popular activity because of how much fun it is. Enjoy yourself!