Swimming is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise, as well as resistance training to build strength and endurance. There are plenty of health benefits from swimming, and because it’s a low-impact workout, it’s a great options for seniors, people with joint or bone problems, and others who need to minimize impact during their physical activity. Pretty much everybody can benefit from swimming for exercise!
Of course, as with any type of exercise, swimming does come with some risks for injury, overexertion, dehydration, and other complications. Plus, there are basic water safety concerns that don’t come with most other workouts.
So, it’s fantastic that you’ve decided to take up swimming for exercise, but get acquainted with common-sense safety and health measures that help ensure your workouts are positive experiences.
New Swimmer Health and Safety Advice
- Before you start swimming for exercise, talk to your doctor about how to get started; how to build up the pace, length, and intensity of your workouts gradually; and how to stay safe and healthy in light of any individual health concerns
- Always get acquainted with the layout and design of the pool—including where all the ladders are—before you start a swim
- Swim with a workout buddy or get your exercise when there’s a lifeguard on duty
- If you’re swimming for exercise in a public pool or body of water, pick a place that’s designated for that purpose; use lanes identified for your speed when applicable
- Remember to do some light warm-up exercises (for example, moderate-paced walking or jumping jacks work well) and stretches before swimming to minimize the chances of muscle pulls and other injuries
- Get some instruction on proper swimming techniques if necessary, as good form reduces the risk of repetitive motion, overuse, and other types of injuries, and it also makes your workouts more effective
- Breathe! Lots of new swimmers hold their breath in the water, but you want to practice good breathing technique to stay well oxygenated and prevent undue fatigue
- You’re unlikely to realize how much of a sweat you work up while swimming, so don’t forget to stay hydrated and replenish lost electrolytes to prevent dehydration
- Pay attention to how you feel; if you get a cramp or start feeling nauseous, dizzy, overly fatigued, weak, or otherwise unwell, play it safe and bring your water workout to an end
- Read about swimmer’s shoulder and be aware of when it may be time to take a break from swimming for exercise and take other steps to manage the condition
- Once you’re spending all that time on pool decks, in locker rooms, or in public showers, take proper foot care precautions to prevent athlete’s foot and to prevent plantar warts
- Brush up on caring for swimmer’s skin and caring for swimmer’s hair to avoid dryness and looking and feeling less healthy
- Learn about open water swimming safety—including how to stay safe in currents—if that’s where you get your exercise
- If you’re swimming for exercise outdoors, remember your sun protection for swimmers