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Making a splash - swimming as an aid to fitness for the over 60s

Making a splash - swimming as an aid to fitness for the over 60s

Swimming is an easy way to improve your overall fitness and you don’t have to be a young or lean Michael Phelps or Rebbeca Adlington to take part. You can enjoy swimming at any age, whatever your shape, and it’s an ideal way of making a fitness gain without too much pain. These are just some of the benefits: -

· Swimming offers a complete workout, using all the body’s major muscle groups to build strength.

· It’s low impact – the water supports you, minimising the risk of injury (unless you stub your toe on the side of the pool)!

· Swimming is recommended by doctors to help with rehabilitation if you have sustained an injury, because water provides buoyancy and provides a cushion for movement.

· It doesn’t put painful pressure on the joints, so helps you keep mobile, even if you suffer from moderate arthritis.

· Because swimming involves stretching, it maintains and improves your flexibility and reduces back pain.

· Swimming is an aerobic exercise, so it strengthens your heart muscles, reducing the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries and the risk of coronary disease.

· Like all exercise, swimming helps maintain your bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, without harsh impact on your joints.

· It tones your muscles and helps you with weight control, fighting the flab and sag, and helping you look and feel better.

· It can relieve stress and improve your mood, especially if you swim with a friend or get chatting to people at the pool.

· It can improve your balance and minimize the risk of falls.

· You won’t break into a sweat when swimming; the cool water will help you feel comfortable, although you should put in enough effort to moderately increase your breathing rate.

Senior man swimming

So, a 20-30 minute swim three times a week is very beneficial, but how to get started if you haven’t swum for years and feel a bit aprehensive about it?

· Buy yourself a comfortable swimsuit that fits well and will stand up to immersion in chlorinated water and last for more than a few weeks. If you are an average size, chain stores offer a good selection of moderately priced garments.

· Don’t worry if you don’t possess the body beautiful. Most of your fellow swimmers won’t either, you’ll be hidden under the water most of the time and wet hair and minimal clothing are great levellers.

· Get yourself some goggles if water makes your eyes sting – most pools stock a selection. A swimming hat may be helpful to protect your hair, although the “boiled egg” is not necessarily a great look. Just make sure you wash the chlorine out of your hair and use a good conditioner.

· Persuade a friend to join you and offer each other lifts, so you feel obliged to swim regularly. Mark “swimming days” in your diary, so you are committed and have no excuse to do something less active.

· Swim early in the day, when most pools offer lane swimming. That way, you can get the swim out of the way, shower and dress and you’ll hardly notice you’ve incorporated some beneficial exercise into your day before enjoying your healthy breakfast. This is easier in summer but if turning out on frosty mornings doesn’t suit you, maybe a lunchtime or afternoon swim, when the pool is quieter, may be preferable.

· Consider swimming lessons if you feel your technique needs improving or try an Aqua Aerobics class, great for resistance training to lively music and a good way of making new friends.

Aqua Aerobics

And if you see a fellow swimmer when out shopping and they greet you with the remark, “Oh, I didn’t recognise you with your clothes on!” ignore the raised eyebrows of passers-by and just be happy you’ve made another swimming buddy!

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