Swimming is an excellent form of aerobic exercise and it’s easy on the joints. If you are suffering from osteoarthritis or recovering from an injury, swimming can provide a low-impact way to stay in shape.
Benefits of Swimming
Swimming is considered a whole-body form of exercise because it recruits all of the major muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, abdominal muscles, legs, hips, and gluteal muscles. It is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise, but many consider it a form of strength exercise too because the water provides 12 times more resistance than air. In other words, each time you pull your arm through the water, you’re working 12 times harder than you would be out of the pool.
Swimming is easy on the joints because the water provides buoyancy—in fact, when a swimmer is completely immersed in the water up to the neck, the body only bears 10 percent of its weight. This makes it a wonderful form of low-impact exercise for people with injuries, arthritis, or extra weight.
Swimming can help increase range of motion and relieve joint pain and swelling. (Of course, it’s important to note that swimming is not considered weight-bearing exercise, which means it won’t help strengthen bones.)
Swimming for Rehabilitation
The pool is an excellent tool for physical therapy and is sometimes referred to as water therapy, pool therapy, hydrotherapy, or aquatic therapy. At OSMI, we have a HydroWorx® therapy pool with state-of-the-art tools for rehabilitation of injuries.
Pool therapy may include a number of different activities, including swimming, “running” in a floatation device, running on an underwater treadmill, stretching, and more. The water provides mild resistance and support through buoyancy, and it provides a safe, comfortable environment for improving range of motion and strength. Many people find post-injury exercise in the pool to be painless.
The pool is a great starting point after an injury. It is often easier to start an exercise program in the water before trying it on land. The pool is a great low-impact environment for improving range of motion and strength.
Swimming for Fitness
The pool is also a great place for building and maintaining fitness. Many people find that they are hooked on swimming even after they are finished with physical therapy and have been cleared for other exercise. Swimming is an excellent choice for anyone who wants to stay fit without the added wear and tear on their joints.
Swimming at a moderate pace for 30 minutes will burn about 250-350 calories, the equivalent of a one-hour brisk walk. Swimming is also great for toning because the water provides multi-directional resistance.
If you want to add swimming to your fitness regimen, it’s easy to get started. All you need is a comfortable swimsuit, a pair of goggles, and a swim cap—and a good attitude. Most pools will have any other accessories you may want to use during your workout. You can add variety to your routine by changing strokes; using kickboards, pull-buoys, fins, or hand paddles; or varying your workout plan.
Just as with running, it’s important to start slowly and build over time. Most experts recommend that you avoid increasing your weekly distance by more than 10 percent over the previous week.