Swimming for Exercise

Swimming Exercises & Water Activities

Its active, it’s therapy – and it’s fun. Whatever you want from a physical activity program, you can use water to help you achieve it.

  • Water takes the load off your body, so you feel lighter when submerged. Because it’s low impact, you also exercise without putting your joints and muscles under too much stress
  • Nearly all your body’s muscle groups are used in full swimming movements
  • Your joints become more flexible through swimming’s primary movements of stretching and reaching
  • Muscles strengthen from movement in water and the resistance it provides


It’s never too late – or too early – to learn swimming. When you start to swim aim for one length of the pool, using any stroke or strokes. You will soon progress to be able to swim many lengths, stopping only to turn. It won’t happen with the first swim but it will happen. Try to swim three times a week, for about 15 minutes each time. Start slowly and speed up as your body warms up. Then build up to at least 30 minutes. You may find it helpful to keep a personal record of your progress.

Some swimming pointers:

– When you get puffed, try ‘sculling’ a length or two – kicking only and using a floatation device (such as a kickboard)
– Decide which stroke you prefer – backstroke avoids any problems with breathing, but freestyle (over arm) and breaststroke give a good workout
– Allow yourself a rest after a number of lengths. As you get fitter, reduce the length and number of your rests
– Stretch your neck, arms and shoulders before and after swimming
– For freestyle, keep breathing. Exhale under water. There isn’t time to both exhale and inhale when your head is out of the water. Use goggles to prevent irritation to your eyes from chlorinated water. A tight fit is essential
– Relax and enjoy your swim!

Aqua fitness

Aqua fit classes are much the same as land fitness classes, except you do it in water. The class should consist of warm-up, aerobic exercises, cool-down and stretching. Some classes include swimming; others just a ‘workout’ to music – try a combination of both. Match the level of the classes to your fitness and confidence levels.

Aqua jogging

Aqua Jogging is like running on land except you are suspended in water. Using a flotation device such as a vest or belt, it offers many of the benefits of land running and gives a solid workout.

Why Take The Plunge?

Water activities will assist:

  • Circulation – water pressure stimulates circulation helping to return blood to the heart more efficiently
  • Muscle strength – what you lose in gravity you make up in water resistance which can be up to 12 times the resistance of air. You are forced to use many muscle groups
  • Flexibility – stretches in the water are slow and controlled allowing for a greater range of motion than on land
  • Staying cool – you can exercise vigorously in water without overheating! This is ideal for people who are overweight or have cardiac, thyroid or other endocrine disorders
  • Energy expenditure – more calories are burned on water than on land without the excess fatigue. Running in water burns slightly more calories than swimming
  • Balance – can be greatly improved. This benefits older adults whose balance sometimes decreases with age
  • Relaxation – water is soothing and therapeutic