Fitness Basics: Swimming Is for Everyone
No pain, plenty of gain from water workouts
Not only is swimming easy on the body, it's a great way to get fit,
according to Tay Stratton, head swim coach at the Little Rock Athletic
Swimming recruits all the major muscle groups, including the shoulders,
back, abdominals, legs, hips, and glutes, she says. And because water affords
12 times the resistance as air in every direction, it really helps to build
strength, she says.
"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
"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
"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.