EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 28, 2008

Health benefits of swimming available to nearly all

There are those who extol the virtues of a runner's high, the intensity of weight lifting and the teamwork basketball inspires, but not everyone can participate in such high-impact exercise. The health benefits of swimming, however, can be experienced by nearly anyone no matter what their age or health condition.

Swimming works the mind, body and spirit. It improves muscle strength, cardiovascular conditioning and endurance while allowing for a quiet, rhythmic and almost meditative workout.

"Swimming conditions your whole body and offers benefits for everyone — people with arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and those recovering from an injury or surgery can work out with virtually no impact," says James Murdock, president of Endless Pools — makers of counter-current swimming pools small enough to fit inside homes and businesses.

Murdock shares some of the health benefits swimming has to offer:

Tone your whole body

Have you ever watched Olympic swimmers in action? Their bodies are lean and muscular because swimming uses all the major muscle groups in the body. Many athletes in all sports swim to supplement their training. Water's resistance - 600 to 700 times that of air - makes it a superior medium for raising metabolism and endurance, making swimming a great way to lose weight.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines uses an Endless Pool for training and coaching swim clinics. For fitness he suggests using a kickboard while kicking against the current. "Many swimmers, including me, lose power in their kick when their legs are out of the water," says Gaines. "The Endless Pool is better than open water for correcting this deficiency because the current tends to keep the swimmer's legs submerged. You can't be lazy."

Great exercise for every condition

Humans are buoyant and weigh 1/10th less in water. Many people who've stopped exercising because of injuries or strain on bones or joints, like knees, can safely swim. Swimming is low-impact because it is not weight-bearing and warm water helps to relax muscles stiffened by arthritis and other conditions. In addition to swimming, aquatic exercise programs can offer no-impact options for weight lifting, walking and even running.

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