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Swimming with the fitness tide

Tags: exercise , fitness

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Although one in five adults can't swim, it's never too late to learn, stresses British Swimming, the national governing body for swimming in the UK. It points out that most pools offer adult classes in a friendly and supportive environment, and advises beginners to start slowly and build up. Personal trainer Lucy Wyndham-Read has some great workouts for you to try once you’ve taken the plunge...

Swimming suits all ages and fitness levels

Lucy recommends swimming as an enjoyable form of regular physical activity for people of all ages and fitness levels. “Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a fitness fanatic, swimming is an excellent way to tone up, improve your cardiovascular health, lower your blood pressure and leave you feeling fighting fit,” she says.

Exercise such as swimming can also help combat stress and beat the blues, adds Lucy, as it releases endorphins (the body’s natural ‘feel good’ chemicals) into your bloodstream.

According to Lucy, swimming has some important advantages over other popular forms of physical activity:

  • unlike exercises such as aerobics and running, which put pressure on the joints with all the jumping up and down, swimming has no impact on your joints. When you’re swimming you are fully supported, so this makes it one of the safest activities you can do;
  • swimming tones your entire body while still providing you with a great workout;
  • being in the water keeps you cool, which means you can often work out for longer.

 
British Swimming says that any swimming that makes you breathe more heavily counts as ‘moderate’ activity. “Even treading water takes effort, so you are working most of the time you're in the pool.” It adds that 30 minutes of steady-paced lane swimming burns off more than 200 calories.

Lucy's pool workouts

  • Workout 1. Add some variety to your swimming by doing one length as fast as you can, then the next two at a moderate pace. Repeat this several times. This is a great way to burn off extra calories.
  • Workout 2. Mix it up by switching strokes after each length. For example, use a combination of breast stroke (great for toning arms and legs), back stroke (great for upper body flexibility) and front crawl (great for working on speed and fitness).
  • Workout 3. Place a float between your knees and swim a length using either front crawl or breast stroke. This is a great way of training and toning your upper body. Then switch, and for the next length extend your arms in front, hold on to the float and power yourself using your legs only. Repeat several times.
  • Workout 4. This is a simple way of toning deep into your abdominal muscles. Using any swimming stroke, pull your belly button up tight to your spine, hold for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat several times.

Useful websites:
British Swimming and the Amateur Swimming Association - www.britishswimming.org
Everyday Swim - www.everydayswim.org
London Swimming - www.londonswimming.org

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