Dive In to Stay Fit

Swimming is a full-body workout that's easy on the joints

woman swimming

“It’s too darn hot” can be a perfectly good reason to take a break from working out. But the weather doesn’t have to stop you from staying in shape. Instead, find an activity that matches the season. Head to the pool. Swimming is a great way to exercise because it strengthens your whole body. “Water is resistance, so moving in the pool is like lifting weights: When you move, you’re engaging and building muscle,” says personal trainer Ellen Barrett, founder of Fusion Fitness. Whereas running builds muscle in the legs, swimming improves legs, arms, back, and core.

And there's something else about water: “It’s anti-gravity,” Barrett says. You’re basically weightless in the water, so swimming doesn’t put the load and strain on joints and bones that running and weightlifting can. “Swimming workouts are great for people who have joint pain or are suffering back pain and tension,” she says. Don’t worry about starting slow. Swimming is a full-body operation. Your arms and legs and muscles have to cooperate in ways they usually don’t. Your heart and lungs are working harder than usual. In fact, swimming is such a good workout you won't want to limit it to summertime.

To get started: Swim the length of the pool once at an easy pace. (In most public or town pools, that’s probably 25 meters; an Olympic pool is 50.) Then swim as many laps as you can in 20 minutes. Rest between laps. Use a kickboard if it helps you stay afloat. Start with the style you’re most comfortable with. Add different strokes to benefit different parts of the body (butterfly for the shoulders and chest, for example). When you’re ready for a more formal workout, try the one below. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting a new fitness activity.

Quick Swim Routine

  • 25 meter freestyle, rest: 15 seconds

  • 25 meter freestyle, rest: 15 seconds

  • 25 meter freestyle, rest: 15 seconds

  • 25 meter breaststroke, rest: 15 seconds

  • 25 meter breaststroke or butterfly, rest: 15 seconds

  • 25 meter freestyle

  • Add laps as desired or cool down with remember 25 meters of any stroke.