The Effects of Swimming on the Body

A woman swims freestyle in a pool.

Whether swimming leisurely or competitively, the effects on the body are both healthy and beneficial. Not only does swimming improve your cardiovascular system, it also reduces your risk of suffering from debilitating diseases, such as heart disease, as you age. Plus, it is an enjoyable way to get some exercise.

Low Impact

Cardio workouts, such as running, are an effective way to burn calories and stay in shape. One drawback is that running on hard surfaces may be harmful to your ankles, joints and bones. Swimming, another form of cardio exercise that burns calories, is gentle on your body. Even if you paddle or kick as hard as you can, the buoyancy of the water prevents any harsh beating of your ankles, joints and bones. Even when injured, swimming is a recommended form of rehabilitation that poses little risk of further injury.


Swimming is a full-body workout that, for every pound of body weight, burns 3 calories per mile. Swimming strokes, such as the breaststroke and freestyle, utilize all the major muscle groups in your body. Swimming also keeps your neck, shoulders, hip, arms and legs flexible. In addition, swimming improves your coordination, flexibility and endurance.


If you're in a sour mood, jump in a pool. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says swimming improves your mood. It also helps decrease anxiety and depression for women who suffer from fibromyalgia and improves the mental health of pregnant women.


Swimming improves your cardiovascular health, which reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies show that swimming may help you live longer too. Led by Dr. Steven Blair, a University of South Carolina study followed more than 40,000 men for 32 years. The study concluded that, compared to walkers and sedentary people, swimmers experienced the lowest rate of death. Swimming also reduces your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improves lung function and reduces your risk of suffering from bone or joint conditions, such as arthritis, later in life. For those who already suffer from arthritis, water-based exercises and swimming help improve the use of the affected joints without additional pain or discomfort.