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Exercise for Absolute Beginners: Swimming

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Updated February 15, 2014

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for beginners because it is the gentlest of all of the aerobic activities you can do. It does not jar your bones or damage your joints, but it is still effective. It is especially preferable if you are concerned about injury, have a joint condition, are especially overweight, or are recovering from a pre-existing injury. Swimming challenges your body without putting pressure on it that could worsen some conditions, such as arthritis.

Some people think that swimming may be too easy to qualify as a weight loss exercise. Swimming is harder than you might remember if your only experience with it is paddling in a pool as a child with the assistance of inflatable wings. The water actually serves as a form of resistance for your body, helping tone your muscles. Additionally, swimming improves your cardiovascular fitness and flexibility.

Swimming can be done indoors or outdoors, at many fitness clubs, public pools, or YMCAs. If you do not know how to swim, adult lessons are often available at gyms or your local Y. Even if you learned to swim as a child, you may want to consider signing up for a class -- you can learn how to more effectively workout in the pool with just a few lessons.

When you take a swimming lesson, you can learn about different strokes, such as the crawl, backstroke, and the butterfly. Many people who know how to swim are familiar with a few of them, but a lesson can help you identify your best option(s) and perfect them. There are some strokes that are less strenuous than others, which may be more appropriate if you are out of shape.

If you are using a pool at a gym or Y, you will find that you'll need to follow certain rules. It is important that you adhere to the posted guidelines, such as a request to shower before you enter the pool (which helps keep the pool water clean by removing body oils and sweat).

You will find that there are also posted rules about using the lanes of the pool. This simply means that the pool is divided up so multiple people can use it at the same time without colliding.

At times, you may share a lane with one or more other swimmers. When this happens, think of it as driving on the highway -- you need to stay in the appropriate lane. Find a lane in the pool where the other swimmers are similar to you (someone who is an accomplished swimmer will not want to share the same lane as a beginner.) When several swimmers are using the same lane, all swimmers swim in a counterclockwise direction.

If you a recovering from an injury or you have a health condition that keeps you from doing other forms of exercise, you should check with your doctor before beginning swimming. You may still be able to swim with the assistance of paddles, a kick board, or flippers.

To learn more, check out the About.com Swimming Guide Site.

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