Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size
A
A
A

Fitness Basics: Swimming Is for Everyone

No pain, plenty of gain from water workouts

Fitness Benefits continued...

"It's cardiovascular and strengthening at the same time, and not many workouts have that," says Stratton.

But can swimming help you lose weight?

There are some questions about how efficiently swimming burns calories, says Robergs.

"Research done on swimming showed that weight loss seemed more difficult," he says. "The theory is that the water submersion initiates a complex [nerve pathway] to lower metabolic rate." And with a lower metabolic rate, the body uses fewer calories to maintain normal function.

While Robergs says these explanations need further research, Stratton says swimming can be a boon for weight loss -- if you follow the same principles as with any other exercise, and challenge yourself.

For weight loss, Stratton recommends interval training, in which you push yourself hard for short spurts, and then drop back to a less-intense level of exercise.

"If you don't do interval training, it's just as if you're doing a slow walk," Stratton says.

Sue Nelson, aquatic program specialist for USA Swimming in Colorado Springs, Colo., has many success stories of obese clients who lost weight after they began working out in the water.

One man was 500 pounds, had rheumatoid arthritis, and had to quit work because he couldn't get around.

"He went from a wheelchair to a walker to crutches to a cane to nothing by working out in the water," says Nelson. "He became one of my employees and lost over 250 pounds."

How to Get Started

If you're ready to get started, experts recommend getting a swim coach or joining a masters swimming group in your area. Don't be intimidated by the name; 'masters' just means over age 20.

Masters swimming accommodates all levels, from beginners to advanced, and you don't have to want to compete to join. This type of group supports recreational swimming for fitness, and is a great way to learn technique -- which is everything in swimming.

Getting the rhythm of the strokes and the breath can be overwhelming at first. Coaches break it down and take you there slowly, practicing one part at a time.

If you're a beginner, start slowly. Try to swim for 10 minutes. Build up to a 30-minute workout, three to five times a week. Include a warm-up and a cool-down, and, in the middle, challenge yourself by working on endurance, stroke efficiency, or speed.

"I really encourage [new swimmers] not to get frustrated," says Stratton. "Swimming takes a long time. We're land-based; the water feels so foreign to us."

There's more than one way to tackle swimming. Before you feel comfortable putting your face in the water, you can practice drills with a kickboard, or even walk the length of the pool.

In fact, Nelson recommends that beginners start with vertical strength-training exercises in the pool. That means things like walking or jogging a length of the pool in waist-deep water, or doing some strengthening by sinking in up to the neck.

"Instead of swimming with improper technique," says Nelson, "we want to get them vertical to strengthen their core before they put their face in the water."

A comfortable swimsuit and a pair of goggles are all you need to start, say experts. You can even wait on the goggles if you're not ready to put your face in the water yet.

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
Teen girl jogging
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article