by WLR Staff, Adam Vaughan
Swimming helps lose weight, burn calories and puts little stress on your body. Swimming works all the major muscles, and will tone you up and slim you down!
You can train to swim at a competitive level or you can enjoy a few healthy lengths at your local pool; you decide how much you want to achieve in swimming and set your own pace.
Whatever level you choose, swimming is good for you and it's never too late to learn or improve your swimming skills. A relaxing form of exercise means weight lost by swimming is fun too!
Many public pools now offer swimming combined with aerobics , (aqua-aerobics), to help lose weight. This is high impact aerobics without the high impact. Aqua-aerobics (or swim-nastics) will help to shed those pounds, and tone you!
Swimming burns calories, so helps you lose weight and swimming for weight loss has been regularly praised for its cardiovascular health benefits, especially for older people.
As swimming uses so many muscles in your body, your heart and lungs must work hard to supply them all with oxygen. This means that swimming will give your cardiovascular system an excellent workout.
Any exercise that makes you breathe a little heavier is good because it means your body is working hard! As your heart and lungs get stronger you will be able to go for longer before you get tired, your resting heart rate will decrease and blood pressure will lower.
Regular swimming when losing weight will improve your health and may reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. The NHS choices website offers more information.
Swimming is known to be one of the best all round aerobic exercises because it works all the major muscle groups so targets every area of your body.
There are 4 main strokes to choose from:
and you can tailor your swimming sessions to exercise specific areas of your body.
Swimming provides constant resistance exercise as you are battling against the water to propel your body forward. This makes it excellent for increasing strength especially in the upper body.
As your swimming progresses you will build muscle which in turn burns fat. So calories will be burned as you swim, plus you will burn more calories as your swimming improves.
You will also burn an increased amount of calories even after the exercise is finished as your body uses energy to recover and rebuild muscle tissue.
Due to the nature of the movement when performing swimming strokes it can aid in improving the flexibility of the muscles and joints.
- Top athletes use swimming to aid recovery from injury as it is low impact but still builds excellent muscular and cardiovascular endurance. So if you have had an accident and want to get back into exercising, taking up swimming is an ideal way to do that.
- It’s fun. You don’t have to just do length after length in the pool. Things like treading water burns calories too. So if you have kids take them down to the pool and enjoy it. It will be excellent for their health too.
- Swimming can be relaxing and give you a little ‘me’ time away from it all. Burning calories might be the last thing on your mind but what an excellent bonus.
- You could also join a water aerobics class if lane swimming isn’t your thing. These are held in most pools so check in and ask at your local centre to find out more. Or alternatively maybe you fancy giving water polo a try.
Depending on your weight and exertion level you'll burn between 90-550 extra calories in a half-hour session.
If you are unsure of how to start, then our handy tips will get you on your way…
- Check out your local pool; most public pools have separate times for different groups - adults only / men only / women only / mother and toddlers
- Try to set aside time at least once a week when you will go swimming.
- Remember to warm up and stretch before you swim off as the large range of rotation around the joints from swimming means you need your muscles to be long and flexible.
- Don’t forget your legs, which are often overlooked when swimming. Stretching them will reduce drag in the water by improving your form and also help prevent cramp.
- Get a friend to join you if this will help motivate you.
- Start off by swimming a few lengths of the pool and build up the distance each week.
- Change your strokes to add interest and exert yourself in different ways.
- To begin with have breaks every few lengths to get your breath back. Each session decrease the duration of this break until you can cut them out entirely and swim nonstop.
- Look out at your local pool for news of swimming clubs which normally cater for all age groups.
- Costume/Trunks – There are hundreds available, you decide which you feel most comfortable in.
- Goggles – Improve vision and prevent chlorine irritating the eyes.
- Ear plugs – useful if you don’t like to get water in your ears, or if you're susceptible to ear infections.
- Water Bottle – Remember you are exercising so need to keep your body hydrated. Keep this at the end of your lane so that you can drink in your breaks.
Even in a pool with lifeguards, there are dangers and more so if you a learner or not a strong swimmer:
- Do not get out of your depth.
- Have respect for other swimmers and give them enough space to go by if they are faster.
- Take extra care when swimming in the sea or lakes / open water.
And Finally, if you can’t swim…
Do not worry as many pools offer adult-only beginner lessons so have a look at your local leisure centre to see what is available; pensioner’s and children’s rates will often be heavily discounted.
See how swimming and other exercise can help you to lose weight with Weight Loss Resources' tools. You can keep online exercise and food diaries, see how many calories you burn and how many you consume. Try it free for 24 hours.
British Swimming - Some helpful notes and ideas to inspire you
Swim Fit - Be the swimmer you want to be