5 Reasons to Add Swimming to Your Workout Routine

woman doing a swimming workout in the pool

Getty Images / Patrik Giardino

Along with walking, strength training, and using cardiovascular equipment, swimming and water activities are among the four most popular sports and exercises, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Swimming is a popular form of exercise because it is an enjoyable activity and a challenging workout with many health benefits. Incorporating swimming into your exercise routine may help reduce body fat, lower blood pressure, improve mental health, and more.

If you’ve ever wondered whether swimming is an effective workout, here’s how this popular but often overlooked form of exercise can build strength, challenge muscles, and benefit breathing. It may be time to grab your goggles or swim cap and dive right in.

Benefits of a Swimming Workout

Anyone who swims often knows that it can be a tough workout, though some may view swimming as a recreational activity. Beginners or people who don’t know how to swim may not realize the effectiveness of swimming as a cross-training activity or main form of exercise.

Treading water, swimming long distances, and attending water aerobics classes are all great workouts. Here’s why getting in the water is a great form of exercise for improved physical fitness and how those benefits translate to better overall health both in and outside the pool.

Builds Endurance

There are many reasons to want to improve your endurance — exercising for longer is one of them. If you’ve ever tried to tread water, you’ve probably realized how important endurance is in swimming.

There are many ways that swimming helps build endurance. Swimming can be a repetitive exercise. Once you learn proper swimming form, you can gradually increase your swimming distance and intensity to build endurance. One of the many ways that swimming can improve physical fitness is by increasing cardiovascular endurance, allowing you to perform for longer periods of time.

Elevates Your Heart Rate

Swimming is an aerobic exercise that provides cardiovascular conditioning. Though a lower heart rate is ideal when resting, getting your heart rate up during exercise is beneficial. An increased heart rate from exercise trains your body to deliver oxygen to your muscles, helping your body to burn more calories and even lower cholesterol.

It’s important to increase your heart rate during exercise, and swimming is an effective way to do so. Your heart rate will go up as you swim, pumping more blood each time it beats. Over time, this can lower your resting heart rate, which is associated with a decreased risk of disease.

Improves Muscle Strength

Lifting weights isn’t the only way to increase your strength. Swimming is a total body workout that targets muscles in the upper body, core, and lower body. With each stroke, all of your major muscle groups are engaged and getting stronger over time. 

When you swim laps, you’re mainly using your upper body. Some strokes, such as the freestyle stroke and butterfly stroke, are associated with working the arms, chest, shoulders, and back. If you’ve ever swam laps, you know that your arms will burn as though you just hit the weights.

When you perform swimming techniques that involve a lot of kicking, this will yield a better lower body workout. This targets the large muscles in the legs and glutes. Certain strokes, such as the backstroke, also engage the muscles in the lower body.

Increases Lung Capacity

Swimming requires proper breathing techniques and practice, and it’s not because you have to hold your breath to swim underwater. The aerobic elements of swimming can help build lung capacity and efficiency.

A healthy respiratory system is vital for exercise and daily life. Different swim strokes are associated with varying lung volumes in swimmers. Increased lung capacity enhances the body’s ability to absorb oxygen and can contribute to better overall health.

Provides Low-Impact Activity

Some exercises like running and strength training can place stress on the body, especially the joints. Aquatic exercise, or hydrotherapy, is recommended for people looking for a low-stress form of exercise. 

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) often experience pain as a symptom of the neurological disease. While regular aerobic exercise can improve strength and balance, common symptoms of MS can make it difficult to comfortably and safely exercise without increasing the risk of injury or pain. Aquatic exercise has been shown to significantly improve pain, fatigue, and depression in MS patients.

A Word From Verywell

Swimming is a great workout for people of all ages. It can be used in a cross-training program or as your main source of aerobic exercise. Though swimming is a tough workout, it is gentle enough for people looking for low-impact exercise.

If you are looking to incorporate a challenging but rewarding form of exercise into your routine, consider swimming. It helps get your heart rate up, build endurance and strength, and more. While it can sound easy, swimming for exercise is a lot more challenging than playing in the pool.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Lazovic-Popovic B, Zlatkovic-Svenda M, Durmic T, Djelic M, Djordjevic Saranovic S, Zugic V. Superior lung capacity in swimmers: Some questions, more answersRevista Portuguesa de Pneumologia (English Edition). 2016;22(3):151-156. doi:10.1016/j.rppnen.2015.11.003

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  6. Castro-Sánchez AM, Matarán-Peñarrocha GA, Lara-Palomo I, Saavedra-Hernández M, Arroyo-Morales M, Moreno-Lorenzo C. Hydrotherapy for the treatment of pain in people with multiple sclerosis: a randomized controlled trialEvid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:473963. doi:10.1155/2012/473963

By Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos is a professional writer who specializes in fitness, nutrition, and health.