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Get Your Swim On: The Total Body Workout

May 11, 2012 11:19AM ● By Erin Frisch


Swimming is one of the safest and most effective workouts you can do. Because water counteracts gravity, swimming is a very low-impact form of exercise. This makes it a good choice for anyone with joint problems, as well as for those who are just beginning an exercise program and might not be ready for higher-impact workouts like running or strength training. Swimming’s low impact allows exercisers to do it nearly every day without risk of injury—something that cannot be said for most types of exercise.

The density of water creates an environment that gives your entire body a little resistance workout each time you swim. This burns major calories (500 an hour for an easy swim and up to 700 an hour for a vigorous swim), helps build lean muscle, and subsequently sculpts that muscle. An increase in lean muscle mass fires up your metabolism, helping you burn more calories, even post-workout. Aside from the obvious physical benefits, research has shown that habitual swimming has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular performance, nervous system function, and cognitive functioning.

For those new to swimming, it is important not to set your expectations too high. Training in water requires both your muscles and your cardiovascular system to work differently than they do on land. Normally, we don’t put much thought into breathing. However, since you cannot inhale air anytime, as you can on land, your lungs have to adjust to a new, more carefully timed and, eventually, consistent way of breathing. In terms of your muscles, all of them will be recruited to keep you afloat and moving.

Splitting workouts into work intervals and rest intervals and switching up your stroke (between freestyle, breaststroke, and backstroke) will help you learn pacing and will balance out the different muscle groups you are working. Freestyle is easy to learn and has the potential to burn a lot of calories. The breaststroke works the hips and inner thighs, while the backstroke can improve posture by working the shoulders and back muscles. Varying your strokes and work-interval intensity can also help to combat workout boredom.

Try this total-body workout, no matter what your level, with one of the following exercises:

 Do you have a favorite swim routine?


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