Swimming: A Great Exercise for Every Age and Fitness Level

Swimming is a great activity for people of all ages and fitness levels, offering up all kinds of health benefits.
October 6, 2020 | 5 min read

Swimming is a great activity for many people of all ages and fitness levels, offering up all kinds of health benefits. It may surprise you, but swimming has also been reported to reduce joint pain and manage symptoms of some conditions like fibromyalgia1, multiple sclerosis2, and arthritis3 in many people.

If you're struggling to find the right exercise that you can tolerate, you may want to consider strapping on a swim cap and hopping in the pool. Before beginning any exercise routines, ask your doctor if swimming may be beneficial for you.

5 Benefits of swimming

1. It's completely low impact

Even though swimming can be a full body workout, the amount of force passing through your joints is far less compared to high impact sports like running and aerobics. This allows you to improve the strength and flexibility of your joints while minimising impact that can cause joint damage.

2. It may help you manage your weight

A 160-pound person burns over 400 calories per hour swimming laps at a low or moderate pace, and this jumps to more than 700 calories per hour at a vigorous pace.4 Calorie burning exercises like this may help a person lose excess body fat (and keep it off) over time.

3. It may improve cardiovascular function8-11

To stay heart healthy and lean, the typical adult should accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week. 5

 Swimming has been shown to be an effective exercise for improving aerobic capacity and cardiovascular function.8-11

In addition to helping you stay lean, regular participation in an activity like swimming can improve your heart health and reduce your risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in Australia according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.7

4. It's safe for people of most ages

Swimming may not be appropriate for everyone, but many people - from infants to seniors - can participate in swimming or water activities with the appropriate training and supervision. Learning how to swim is a helpful life skill, and it's never too late to learn. Swimming requires nothing other than a person's own body, although additional tools such as flippers, kick boards, and water weights can add an extra dynamic to your workout.

If lap swimming isn't your forte, you can try a water aerobics class.

5. It's fun!

For most people, swimming is a relatively novel activity that they don't do often. This is good because it can add variety to your fitness program, preventing boredom and monotony that often lead to plateaus or quitting.

The "fun" factor of swimming is especially helpful when it comes to helping children increase their physical activity. Kids can practice basic gross motor skills, learn water safety techniques, and have a great time while splashing around in the water.

It's perfect for the whole family!

  1. Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (2011, Aug 19). Swimming is an effective part of the treatment for fibromyalgia, study suggests. Science Dailyhttps://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080222082433.htm
  2. Castro-Sanche, A., et al. (2011, Jul 14). Hydrotherapy for the Treatment of Pain in People with Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial. NCBI. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138085/
  3. Splash around: Why water therapy can help with pain, mood and mobility (2019). Arthritis Hub. https://www.arthritis.ca/living-well/optimized-self/exercise-motion/water-therapy-and-arthritis
  4. Marcin, A. (2017, Sep 1). What Are the Top 12 Benefits of Swimming? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-swimming
  5. Australia's Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines and the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines (2019, Apr 12) Department of Health https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#:~:text=Be%20active%20on%20most%2C%20preferably,and%20vigorous%20activities%2C%20each%20week
  6. Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2011). Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/exercise/art-20050999
  7. Deaths in Australia (2019, Jul 17). AIHW. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/leading-causes-of-death
  8. Chase, Nancy L., et al. (2008). Comparison of the Health Aspects of Swimming With Other Types of Physical Activity and Sedentary Lifestyle Habits. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education. Vol. 2, No. 2, Article 7.
  9. Harvard Heart Letter (2009). Take the plunge for your heart. Harvard Health Publishing/Harvard Medical School. www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/take-the-plunge-for-your-heart
  10. Sieverdes, John C., et al. (2011). Associations between physical activity and submaximal cardiorespiratory and pulmonary responses in men. J Sports Med Doping Stud. 1(1). www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3359015/pdf/nihms363713.pdf
  11. Chase, Nancy L., et al. (2008). Swimming and all-cause mortality risk compared with running, walking, and sedentary habits in men. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education. Vol. 2, No. 3, Article 3.
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