Swimming is an adaptable and low-impact exercise that ranks No. 2 on the list of most popular sports activities in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although you can reduce your risk of chronic diseases and premature death if you make swimming a part of your weekly routine, water-based exercise still has some pitfalls.
Reduce your risk of experiencing body strain and poor recovery time by monitoring yourself before, during and after every swim. Do a self-check before you swim to ensure you’re not too tired, chilled or overheated, recommends the Hospital for Special Surgery. Also, do a 5- to 10-minute warm-up -- such as a walk on the treadmill or some gentle laps -- before you engage in more intense swimming. If you’re just getting started on a swimming regimen, don’t jump straight into the fast lane.
Start with shorter and slower swims and gradually build up as your endurance increases. Swim at least 20 to 30 minutes per day, set small and frequent goals and focus on your form and breathing if you plan to improve your endurance. Don’t neglect to improve your balance, increase your flexibility and build your major muscle groups. Do workouts such as yoga or a combination of stretching and weight training to stay strong and healthy for water workouts. Ask a trainer for help with technique if you aren’t sure where to begin.
Open Bodies of Water
Conditions in open bodies of water aren’t as predictable as are conditions of home swimming pools. Regardless of your swimming ability, you will be safer if you check the swimming conditions flag or scan swimming advisories before you get in the water. Look for swimming areas that are lifeguard-protected and call for help if you think you are in trouble. Don’t dive headfirst into unknown water, depend on any flotation devices to keep you safe or swim near buoys or rock jetties, warns the Sarasota County Government website. Also, don’t swim with your back against the ocean. Even if conditions seem calm, a large wave could come without warning. If you find yourself trapped in a current, stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until you get out of it. Don't swim against the current.
Swimming with Children
Don’t ever leave children alone in or near water, even for a minute and even if they are experienced swimmers. Don’t leave small children out of arm’s reach. If you have a home pool or spa, surround it with a fence that is climb-resistant, has narrow slats, is at least 4 feet tall and has a self-closing and self-latching gate that is a minimum of 54 inches off the ground, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics. Do keep toys out of the water and keep large objects away from the protective fence. Also, keep lifesaving devices such as a pole and hook or flotation ring near the pool.
Protect yourself from the sun’s rays when you’re swimming. Neglecting your skin in the sun can be just as dangerous as ignoring swimming safety rules. The sun’s burning rays can become more intense when they reflect off water, according to TeensHealth from Nemours. Check the UV Index to ensure your exposure level is low, put on broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher at least 30 minutes before you hit the water and do everything you can to avoid the strongest sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., recommends the Environmental Protection Agency. Also, reapply sunscreen every two to three hours.
- Sarasota County Government Online: Swimming Safety Tips
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Dos and Don’ts for Protecting Your Health and Your Beach’s Health
- TeensHealth from Nemours: Water Safety
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Swim Safely: Quick Tips
- Hospital for Special Surgery: Make a Splash This Summer
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Benefits of Water-Based Exercise
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Swimming Pool Safety