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Swimming and Water Exercise

What is water exercise?

Swimming is a good exercise for people of all ages. Water exercise is any type of exercise that can be done in the water such as water aerobics, water jogging, or water polo. It can be done in a pool, lake, or in the ocean.

What are the benefits of water exercise?

Water exercise puts less stress on your joints than other forms of exercise like biking, jogging, and lifting weights. You are lighter in the water than on land, so there is less weight bearing on your back, hips, knees, and ankles. Swimming and water exercise are especially good for people with arthritis.

Water exercise also:

  • improves your heart health
  • lowers your blood pressure
  • lowers your cholesterol
  • raises your energy levels
  • helps you lose body fat

It can also decrease your anxiety, help with depression, and improve your self-esteem.

What equipment do I need?

For swimming all you need is a bathing suit and a place to swim, like a pool, ocean, or lake. Some people like to use a swimming cap or goggles. For water jogging special shoes and a special belt with floats are used. Some swimmers will use a kickboard, hand paddles, or flippers as well. Often there are water aerobics classes you can take at your local recreation center. Any equipment needed is usually provided at class.

How often should I exercise?

Before starting any exercise program you should first check with your healthcare provider. Whenever you start a new exercise program it is important to start slowly and build up gradually. Go to the pool 3 times a week. Start by swimming 1 or 2 laps and then resting. Gradually increase the number of laps you are able to swim. Work your way up to swimming nonstop for 20 to 30 minutes.

For other water exercises it is also important to start slow and build up over time.

How can I prevent injuries?

Swimming and water exercise put less stress on your joints and have lower rates of overuse injuries and arthritic pain than running or jogging. Here are easy tips for injury prevention:

  • Always warm-up before any vigorous swimming or water exercise session.
  • Always cool-down after any vigorous swimming or water exercise session by swimming 1 or 2 laps at an easy, relaxed pace.
  • Stretch your entire body and make sure you stretch your shoulders and back.

Any time you start up a new exercise or activity you can expect to be sore for 2 to 3 days afterwards. Learn the difference between muscle soreness and muscle pain. Muscle soreness is normal and should go away after you get used to your new routine. Muscle pain is more severe and intense. If you are concerned about an injury or if your muscle pain lasts more than 1 week, see your healthcare provider.

Written by Lee Mancini, MD., CSCS.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-05-31
Last reviewed: 2011-05-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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