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No matter what you’re looking for in an exercise, swimming can probably provide it. Want to strengthen your core? Check. Want to burn calories? Check. Want to manage arthritis pain? Check.
Swimming provides so many benefits. One reason is your body isn’t fighting gravity. In other words, your bones and muscles are not taking the pounding they would normally get during other workouts. The buoyancy of your body in water negates the effects of gravity.
That’s good news for people with arthritis or bad joints because they don’t have to worry about the risk of weight-bearing activities. In addition to being able to exercise without pain, swimming can help reduce high blood pressure as much as walking or cycling. Here’s another cool benefit: Water is a coolant. You don’t have to worry about hot temperatures, too much sweating or passing out while you’re doing laps. For people with diabetes, swimming can help them manage their disease by burning calories and maintaining a healthy weight.Still not convinced? No matter what shape you’re in, when you start swimming laps you work almost every part of your body. Your core, arms, legs, glutes and back will reap the benefits. And you get all these benefits with very little impact on your joints.
Where to startAs always, if you haven’t been exercising be sure to talk with your doctor. Depending on where you live, you can join a local YMCA, YWCA, fitness club or use a community pool. You can also head to a nearby ocean or lake, but be sure you know how to be safe in those locations.
What to doIf you think the only activity you can do is laps, think again. Even if you can’t swim just getting in the water offers plenty of benefits. Try water walking. Simply stand chest-deep in the pool and walk forward and backward just as you would on land. If you’d like, you can wear a flotation belt in the deep end of the pool and tread water with your legs while moving your arms through the water.
Water aerobics is another popular activity. It’s basically a form of resistance training in shallow water.
What are you waiting for? Jump in!
Originally published 5/30/2017; Revised 2021
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