In light of yesterday’s accomplishment by Diana Nyad, I felt it is appropriate to talk about the benefits of swimming for exercise.  If you are unaware, Diana became the first person to swim from Cuba to the Keys without the help of a shark cage.  You can read more on her story here.

In the past, I have been asked by clients and friends if swimming is a good form of exercise?  Unfortunately, most people only swim while at the beach and have never considered doing it as part of an exercise routine. When I answer this question, I usually have to tame my emotion, for swimming is one of the best forms of exercise that you can do.  I don’t even know where to begin.

Swimming uses all the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body.  It encourages full range of motion with the shoulder and hip joints.  It places a great demand on the heart and lungs; thus, leading to cardiovascular improvements.

Simply being in the water provides two benefits.  First, your risk of joint pain is greatly diminished because of the low gravity environment.  And the water provides a natural resistance that wind can’t replicate.  This is great for familiarizing yourself with the pool as an exercise arena or during a rehabilitation program.

Swimming is such a variable form of exercise that it can be enjoyed by anyone.  It is a great activity for people of all ages and all proficiency levels.  There are many ways to modify your swimming routine.  A number of different stroke options will selectively train muscle groups.  For example, the butterfly will improve shoulder range of motion and increase strength of your lats.  You can use a kickboard to support your upper body while isolating your legs. Then again, if you don’t feel like swimming, try jogging in the water or performing dynamic movements against the resistance.

Swimming is a great alternative to the basic forms of cardio including the bike and treadmill.  I prefer it because the pool offers a nice cool environment to exercise in.  But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.  You’d be surprised how difficult swimming just 5 laps can be; which makes Diana’s accomplishment all the more impressive.