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Fitness benefits of swimming

Siski Green / 01 September 2015 ( 28 June 2019 )

Want to feel good, burn excess calories, work every muscle group and even stay younger for longer? Enjoy a wide range of health benefits through regular swimming.

Woman swimming for fitness
Researchers don’t know why exactly but being in water improves mood in a way that other forms of exercise don’t

Want to feel good, burn excess calories, work every muscle group and even stay younger for longer? Taking the plunge with regular swimming can boost your health and energy, and offers a refreshing way to get fit, make friends and get regular exercise the easy way. 

The health benefits of wild swimming

With local access to swimming pools, it’s time to jump in and reap the health benefits of being a born-again water babe. Read our guide to making a splash with swimming for health and fitness.

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An unbeatable full-body workout and effortless abs

Swimming is like a gym workout all at once – working every major muscle group in your body. Both breaststroke and front crawl truly target all your major muscle groups, and it’s a lot more fun than pumping iron in your local gym. Even better, problematic areas such as your tummy and abdomen - which you’d usually try to firm up with sit-ups – are toned with swimming, just without as much effort.

Learn more about getting rid of belly fat

Burn calories with a swimming workout

Swimming burns burn through calories by working all those muscles throughout your swim – and it’s easy to chalk up a great calorie count. Even an easy, relaxed swim will burn  – around 500 calories in an hour and more if you push yourself.

Swimming's secret slimming trick is that you burn even more fat thanks to the cool water, which encourages your body to burn calories to keep warm as you swim. 

Discover more ways to trick yourself slimmer

Resistance training without the injury risk

If the thought of pulled muscles, sprains and aching joints put you off heading to the gym, swimming is a great – and safer – alternative. 

Thanks to the muscle workout swimming provides, exercising both large and small muscle groups, it’s a great alternative to resistance training. It works because water is hundreds of times denser than air, forcing your muscles to work hard to plough through the pool. 

But unlike lifting weights it’s hard to accidentally injure yourself by overdoing it – you can’t drop a weight or lift too much when you’re’ swimming. 

Your home muscle-strengthening programme

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Working your muscles without wearing out your joints 

Outdoor sports - such as jogging and cycling - can put immense pressure on your joints. But when you’re swimming, your bodyweight is supported by the water - great news for taking the pressure off your joints. Swimming also sidesteps joint trauma as you’re not pounding the pavement or stressing joints with impact sports, but with all the benefits. 

Discover the best ways to keep fit

A swim a day keeps the doctor away

Unlike other forms of exercise there are virtually no health risks if you decide you want to swim every day. It’s difficult to injure yourself even if you swim every single day for 30 minutes or more. Most pools offer public swimming slots on a daily basis, and even better, on-site pools at residential complexes offer relaxing swims throughout the day, and at no extra charge.

Swim more, stay younger longer

Research from the American College of Sports Medicine, USA, has found that people who swim regularly can be physically as much as 20 years younger than their non-swimming peers. Blood pressure, cholesterol levels and heart health, as well as cognitive function, were all found to be far healthier in swimmers. 

Read Jamie Oliver's tip for staying young

Lift your mood and feel good with a swim

Researchers don’t know why exactly but being in water improves mood in a way that other forms of exercise don’t – in fact, simply being in a warm pool (around 28 degrees C) makes you feel healthier and so improves your mood, casting a glow on the rest of your day.

10 natural ways to lift your mood

Where to swim for fitness

Public pools

The good news is that if you have a public pool near you and you’re no longer working you can enjoy swimming at times when the pool will be virtually empty. Find out from staff when schools come to swim and avoid those times. Ask about water-based classes, too, to boost health levels and make swimming part of your weekly routine. 

Your own pool

Unless you’ve got tens of thousands of cash to spare, an indoor heated pool that you can enjoy year-round is probably beyond your means – but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an indoor pool near your home. Some retirement villages and residential developments in cities such as London and Manchester include a gym and indoor pool for residents, so you can enjoy living in your home with the luxury of a pool on your doorstep.

Lovely lidos

While in decline, lidos are an oasis of swimming and socialising. While there are fewer lidos, the good news is that lovers of open-air swimming can still find them. Read our guide to lidos to find out where they are.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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