Swimming for good health

Active mature woman swimming in the pool.Pic: Getty Images

As an all-round workout, swimming is hard to beat, and because it's a low-impact sport, it is ideal for older people whose joints may not withstand high impact alternatives like racquet sports or jogging. So why not consider starting a swimming regime, or adding it to your existing fitness programme for a bit of extra aerobic variety?

Health benefits
With the water supporting body weight, swimming is the ideal low-impact sport, ensuring joints and bones are put under the minimum of stress, but that doesn't mean it's not doing you good. An excellent cardio vascular workout, swimming is thought to improve posture and breathing, burns as much as 500 calories per hour, and works more than two-thirds of the body's muscles, so your heart, upper and lower body and mid-section, arms and legs get a good workout.

As with all exercise, swimming is not only good for the body but for the mind too. According to Swimming.org, female swimmers have been shown to experience less tension, depression and anger after a dip in the pool. What's more, you don't need any fancy, expensive equipment - a swimsuit and a towel is all you really need, though a pair of goggles may come in handy if you're going beyond breaststroke.

Getting started
The chances are your nearest sports centre boasts a swimming pool, but if there isn't one in the vicinity, Swimming.org has a handy 'Poolfinder' tool to help locate your local facility. And if you have missed the chance to learn how to swim, don't worry. Many sports centres offer adult swimming lessons, either to start you from scratch or help build your confidence and ability, and the truth is it's never too late to learn.

A workout to suit you
The other big benefit is that you can tailor your regime to suit your ability and fitness levels. Breaststroke is a gentle way to gradually increase your fitness, while for the more experienced swimmer, front crawl, backstroke and butterfly provide more of a challenge, and a will push your fitness level up a notch.

Bored of lengths?
If lane swimming doesn't appeal, there are plenty of other ways to get fit in the water. Water aerobics classes are popular at most sports centres, and bring a welcome social aspect to your workout, while if you're lucky, you'll have an outdoor pool or a lido nearby, which means you can relax and catch some rays between lengths.

If you're feeling adventurous, and are confident in your swimming ability, why not take it to the next level with a spot of wild swimming? While jumping into the nearest lake is generally not recommended, the Wild Swimming website will show you the best lakes, rivers and seaside spots where you can don the swimsuit and enjoy the great outdoors.

Have you recently added swimming to your exercise regime? What advice would you give to others considering taking the plunge?...
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