Swimming is a great all-round exercise as it works so many muscles at once. The buoyancy of the water provides your body with support, allowing even those suffering from physical ailments to enjoy and benefit from being in the water.
If you want to lose weight but don't enjoy going to fitness classes or the gym, try swimming. Gentle, non-competitive swimming won't burn off quite as many calories a high-intensity aerobics session, but it is a less strenuous and more relaxing way to lose weight. Doing exercise that you enjoy is the key to keeping it up long-term.
Swimming is a suitable exercise for almost anyone, as there are very few restrictions. People of all ages and fitness levels can try swimming, there are public facilities for those on a low budget, and if you don't have a spa on your doorstep, you'll probably have a public pool nearby.
Swimming has many physical, social and mental benefits. These include:
relaxation and stress relief
improved strength and flexibility
increased stamina and balance
group meetings can be fun!
What to expect from a swimming session
Don't forget your swimming costume, and a pair of goggles is a wise investment, too. Shower before you enter the pool.
A swimming session at a municipal pool or spa is structured or unstructured. Structured swimming divides the pool into lanes, usually with an enforced clockwise pattern for all swimmers. You can expect there to be different lanes for different abilities. Free or unstructured swimming sessions are less formal. You can bob about, swim lengths, swim widths or just paddle about at your own pace. Unstructured swimming sessions are fun, but you must remain aware of the people around you to avoid crashing into someone doing backstroke!
Afterwards, make sure you leave enough time to shower off all that chlorine. Swimming will often make you hungry and thirsty, so bring a snack or make time for a light spa lunch. Using the sauna, steam rooms or Jacuzzi can be a lovely way to end your session, and the heat can help relax your muscles after all that hard work.
Although swimming is a fantastic way to keep fit, healthy and energised, it isn't without its risks. Play it safe and make sure that you:
don't swim directly after eating a big meal
pace yourself and swim within your ability
swim only when a lifeguard is present
do not swim if you have open wounds or have recently had surgery
never swim when under the influence of alcohol.
Contact your doctor for advice before swimming if you have epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, a heart condition, or any other medical conditions.
Check the timetable before you go – if you're looking for an adult-only session you'll be sorely disappointed to find a pool full of raucous kids. Similarly, taking your children along only to find that they aren't allowed in can be disappointing.