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When summer finally arrives, the beaches fill and people want to swim in the lakes, the rivers and the sea. But whether the sun's out or not, swimming is an excellent form of exercise. It's also enjoyable, and if you're a strong swimmer you'll enjoy your holidays more.
Many of us are pushed for time, and we need an exercise system that isn't complicated, doesn't take forever to learn, and isn't overly specialized. We'd quite like to get our cardio and strength and endurance training done all together at the same time.
There are several systems that offer this, and they share 'high crossover' - being good at them makes you better at other things, but other things don't necessarily prepare you for these activities. Swimming is one of those activities: while swimming prepares you fairly well for a range of other general activities, other things don't cross over so well to the pool. That's normally a sign that it's an activity we should be considering.
The key benefits of swimming are:
Improved muscular strength and joint health
Swimming involves a mixture of strength, mobility, endurance and cardio challenges. Swim regularly and your joints will become more mobile and relaxed, and you'll lose fat and build muscle.
Your flexibility will improve as your muscles get stronger from swimming, because of the large ranges of motion involved.
Better heart health
The heart is a muscle. As such, it can be trained to have better strength and endurance, much as any other muscle can be. The mix of endurance, strength and aerobic demands that swimming imposes means that your heart will be pushed to become stronger, reducing the risk or heart attack or other heart problems.
Especially if you're overweight already, swimming is ideal. Overweight people often struggle with the impact involved in land-based exercise, and damaged joints will hold back your fat loss efforts. Swimming means the water supports you and there's much less strain on your joints, so it's a great choice if you're trying to lose weight. Once you're at health weight swimming is a good way to keep on top of body composition, encouraging muscle growth and helping to reduce fat.
This doesn't hold true for everyone: some asthmatics will find the chlorine in swimming-pool water actually triggers their asthma.
You can usually find adult swimming classes in your area by internet search or contacting pools, but it's not a bad idea to start with a simple guide to how to swim. If you can already make headway in the water, but your stroke could do with some cleaning up, read on!