“Swimming is a fantastic activity to increase and maintain good health and levels of fitness for people of all ages, “ says Beth Malin, swimming expert at Aspire (www.aspire.org.uk). “It’s perfect if you experience joint pains because it’s non-weight baring. It places no unnecessary strain on bones or joints and gently works every muscle group in your body, even those that other forms of exercise fail to reach. The resistance provided by the water is a great way to get your heart pumping and weightless environment of the water makes swimming feel less of an effort if you have arthritis, joint problems or are just getting into exercise.”
Swimming is one of the only forms of exercise that doctors encourage almost everyone to do. Even if you can’t swim or feel unfit walking in the water can be a great fitness boost.
“Swimming is a really simple skill, even if you’ve never swum before,” says Beth. “Start by just getting in the pool and starting to acclimatise yourself by walking and moving in the water. If you can swim, but haven’t for a while try widths rather than lengths (if the pool is quiet).”
The good thing about swimming is that you can move at your own pace and you can use swimming aids such as floats to help you improve your confidence and fitness.
If you want to get the benefits of swimming start by researching local pools, look for the facilities they offer and additional classes recommends Beth. “Many leisure centres offer adult swimming classes to help you improve your swimming and water confidence. There are also one-on-one sessions available designed to get you back in the pool, or in the water for the first time,” she says.
If you’re already a keen swimmer the best way to improve your stamina so you can swim further is by alternating between strokes. “Instead of stopping when you get tired, switch to a ‘resting stroke’ which is easier such as breast or back stroke, which enables you to keep going whilst regaining your breath. You could also increase your goal distance bu two lengths each session to help you build up your fitness.”
Why not give yourself a real goal. Join in the Aspire Channel Swim (www.aspirechannelswim.co.uk). Spinal injury charity Aspire are asking people to join in and swim the distance of the channel (22 miles) at their local pool. The Channel Swim is a great way to build fitness, tone up all whilst raising money for a good cause. It’s a great way to stay motivated. You can complete the challenge in one go or in manageable chunks for 12 weeks from 8th September 2014. If you can’t swim you can walk widths in the pool to complete your distance. You can join up individually or as a team with friends. Go for it – and let us know how you get on.