The evidence in favour of swimming is stacked up, it provides a great cardiovascular workout, it is gentle on the joints and it improves muscle functionality. What’s not to like?

Most people know how good swimming is for them, but so many of us avoid the pool like the plague. ‘Too cold’, ‘too much chlorine’, ‘too crowded’, ‘can’t find my swimming costume’, ‘feel too bloated at the moment’. The excuses we use  just keep coming.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that to stay healthy or to manage chronic illnesses, we should do at least 75 minutes of intensive activity or 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. This recommendation is based on studies carried out by the US Department of Health and Human Sciences, which have shown that such exercise will improve functionality, mood and quality of life. Top among the activities it suggests is swimming, because it provides a strenuous, physical workout with limited stress upon the joints.


And a quick visit to the NHS Choices website confirms the health-enhancing qualities of swimming. It says a good exercise programme for people should achieve three aims: improved mobility; conditioned muscles; and improved aerobic capability. Swimming, or other water-based activities such as water aerobics, ticks all the boxes. It allows you to move your joints easily without the impact of walking or running and whether you are swimming lengths or participating in a water aerobics class you will be working a wide range of muscle groups and improving your cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness.

Currently, 12 million people in the UK regularly swim, according to figures from the Amateur Swimming Association. This figure includes 22 per cent of the adult population and 50 per cent of children. But it begs the question, ‘if swimming is so good for us, why are 78 per cent of the population not regularly participating?’

One woman summed up the general attitude among people who do not swim: ‘I hate the way I look, and I hate the way that people look at me. It is all such an ordeal, from the minute you step into the changing room, until the minute you leave, you feel that people are looking at you and making judgements. Or worse still, feeling sorry for you.’

No-one is pretending that taking up a new activity is easy, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. The tingling in your muscles as they enjoy the freedom of movement in the water, the satisfaction of pushing yourself, the tired but euphoric feeling of well-being that follows physical activity – what’s not to like?

Headline: Rebeca’s story

Rebecca Ehmling, a 50-year-old, mother-of-two was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis with fibromyalgia, a degenerative auto-immune disease that can deform joints and cause severe pain.

Following diagnosis Rebecca was warned that she should expect to be wheelchair-bound, but she refused to accept this and took to the internet to research the disease, and to find ways to beat it.

The same thing kept coming up; swimming, swimming, swimming,’ says Rebecca.

So she enrolled for lessons at her local pool.

‘My first lesson was hysterical,’ Rebecca recalls. ‘I had never swum with a cap and goggles before. The instructor showed me the strokes and I swam with my eyes closed and crashed into the wall.’

Eight months later, the doctor who diagnosed her was amazed. The progression of the disease had stopped and was starting to reverse itself.

Not only has Rebecca’s health improved, she has also been promoted at work. ‘Swimming has given me confidence in every aspect of my life,’ she says.

Now, three years later, Rebecca competes in age-group swimming competitions and has completed a triathlon. She swims three times a week.

‘As adults, we forget how to challenge ourselves and find the excitement of achieving a goal,’ she says, ‘I live a fuller life now I have discovered swimming.’

Some benefits of water exercise

  • Exercising in water will help keep joints moving and preserve flexibility and strength
  • The resistance presented by moving through water will help tone and strengthen muscles and improve bone density
  • Exercise will release ‘feel good’ endorphins, which will help lift the mood and increase feelings of well-being









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