Take the Plunge—Try Swimming!
As the old saying goes, only two things in life are certain: death and taxes. However, anyone over 40 would probably agree that there is at least one more certainty—the older you get, the easier it is to suffer exercise-related injuries, and the harder it is to recover from them.
Now, when it comes to death and taxes, the best you can hope for is a postponement. Exercise-related injuries, on the other hand, can be avoided, even if you continue to exercise. How? By switching to lower impact forms of exercise like swimming!
Swimming: An Old Sport Gaining New Popularity
An ever-growing number of participants of high- impact forms of exercise such as runners, basketball, football, and baseball players, are turning to swimming to avoid the injuries that generally accompany these sports.
Why? Three reasons. First, in the water, your body's weight is completely supported, thus preventing most of the common injuries related to land-based exercise. Second, because the possibility of injury is so greatly reduced, swimming makes it much easier to pursue a more rigorous workout. And finally, because swimming uses (and thus conditions) more of your body's muscles simultaneously than almost any other form of exercise, swimming results in a better overall workout.
The benefits of swimming are not limited just to those wishing to avoid the injuries common to other forms of exercise. Those recovering from exercise-related—and non-exercise-related—injuries can also benefit. Why? Because swimming's (and other water-related exercises) non-impact, low-stress nature, are often the best (and sometimes the only) exercise method that can strengthen injured joints or limbs without exacerbating the original injury.
And swimming's benefits don't end there. Again, due to its non-impact nature, swimming is often an excellent form of exercise for those who suffer from chronic pain due to arthritis or back-related injuries. And because it is generally done in a warm, humid setting, swimming is often an excellent form of exercise for those who suffer from asthma.
A couple of cautionary notes, however. Whereas anyone starting any exercise-related program should first consult with and get the go-ahead from their doctor, anyone suffering from a specific or chronic injury or condition should not only talk to their doctor first, they should also be monitored by their doctor throughout any exercise program. And those suffering from asthma should check and monitor the air-based chlorine levels if they swim at indoor pools, since it has been reported that especially high chlorine levels can irritate respiratory conditions.
Where to Go
Of course, swimming for exercise does require a couple of things—the ability to swim, and a relatively large body of water (usually a pool) in which to swim. Fortunately, neither requirement is extremely difficult to meet. Most people learn to swim as children. But even if you didn't, most local YMCAs, YWCAs, and/or Red Cross divisions offer adult swimming lessons at a relatively inexpensive fee.
Indeed, even if you learned to swim as a child, taking a few refresher swimming lessons is not a bad idea. Improved swimming mechanics and a knowledge and mastery of a variety of swimming strokes will generally improve both your enjoyment and the benefits of any swimming-based exercise program.
As for finding a place to swim, that's not terribly difficult either. Many health clubs have (or are affiliated with a club that has) a pool. But, if such is not the case where you live (or this option is too expensive), the pool at most community YMCAs and/or YWCAs is usually available at a nominal or reasonable fee.
Your health insurance plan may cover the deductible for joining a swim club. If you're active or retired military, you probably have privileges at the base pool. And many communities offer their residents the use of the local high school, junior high school, and/or municipal pool at no cost or a nominal fee. For more specific listings of places where you can swim for exercise near where you live, you can check the Swimmers Guide and the United States Masters Swimming Association websites.
As noted, if you're a beginner (or suffer from a chronic injury or condition), first check with your doctor. Then dive right into your swimming-based exercise program!
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC
United States Masters Swimming
Healthy Living Unit
Last reviewed May 2008 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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