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As well as being an essential life-saving skill, swimming is an excellent all round form of aerobic exercise accessible to anyone of any age and level of fitness. It is a non-weight bearing form of exercise which works the cardiovascular system quite hard but without damaging joints and over-stressing muscles.

Being non-weight bearing, swimming is often used in rehabilitation programs for people with sports-related injuries. As the water supports your body weight it is also ideal for people who are overweight and for women during pregnancy.

Regular swimming will increase you body's flexibility and improve your overall level of fitness and stamina, as well as providing a good cardiovascular workout. Swimming will help build and strengthen muscles and improve lung capacity. Although swimming uses all your muscle groups the risks of injury are low.

Swimming will not however help you achieve dramatic weight loss, to burn off 350-400 calories you would need to swim intensely for one hour. The same number of calories would be burnt much more quickly with another form of aerobic exercise such as running or cycling. So if weight loss is your aim you would be advised to undertake another form of aerobic exercise instead of or in addition to swimming.

Where should I start?

If swimming is the exercise for you should start off by swimming once or twice a week for 20-30 minutes and then gradually increase the speed, intensity and distance. Remember to warm up gently and cool down after your swim and don't overdo things to start with.

What do I need to get started?

After you have found a suitable pool equipped with lifeguards, a swimsuit for the ladies and swimming trunks for the men are the basic requirements, although if you don't like water on your face you might like to invest in a pair of goggles. This is all that you require other than a towel for when you have finished! For children or complete beginners you may need a swimming partner or some-one to supervise. Other swimming equipment available for swimming include arm bands and floats which most pools provide and swim fins which help work out lower body and increase speed. Established, proficient swimmers might find benefit from kickboards, hand paddles, and leg floats.

What strokes should I be doing?

This really depends on which stroke you feel most comfortable with and are proficient in. Popular strokes include front crawl which is the fastest and most efficient stroke, breast stroke which is a slower stroke good for shoulders and back stroke which is popular with those who want to keep water off their faces. T he most difficult stroke used by more adventurous is butterfly.


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