Plunge in for a great workout

The treadmill routine is getting a bit boring? Slip into those colourful trunks and go swimming this summer.

Anumeha Chaturvedi        Print Edition: April 20, 2008

It’s a total body workout if there ever was one. A few laps every day in the pool can improve your overall fitness and give you those toned muscles that others will envy at work or at play. Don’t believe it? Read on.

What's great about swimming?

Plan your next workout in the pool. For starters, it’s a great cardio-vascular workout. “Every limb in the body is used. It helps tone your muscles, lose that extra flab and is a great stamina builder, second only to yoga,” says Mickey Mehta, holistic health guru. If you push yourself hard enough, swimming is better than running. Since you use both your upper and lower body to propel yourself through the water, you engage more muscles and burn more calories than while running (during which the upper body doesn’t work that much). A thorough swimming routine, if done under correct supervision, can easily help you burn at least 400 calories in the pool.

The healing touch

“An exercise like swimming is easy on the body and provides a great lymphatic massage to all the tissues and bones. Water is known for its healing properties and soothes the inflamed areas,” says Mehta.

The day after your first serious session in the pool, your upper body is likely to be very sore, but it’ll serve to strengthen your whole shoulder girdle as well as your back muscles.

Physical benefits aside, swimming is known to be a great stressbuster. It allows you to clear your head so you are not just benefitted physically, but psychologically as well.

Get it right

It’s important to learn to regulate your breathing before you get started. If you haven’t mastered your rhythm, you will find it difficult to push yourself to derive benefits, as your muscles need oxygen to perform properly.

It is also critical for you to master the type of stroke you plan on using before doing the laps. If you aren’t performing it correctly, you will tire out quickly. If your body is moving in rhythm with a fluid series of actions, you will be able to focus on pushing yourself to get your heart rate up, thus improving your workout.

A leisurely swim for a good 30-45 minutes at a comfortable pace three-to-four times a week is sufficient if you’re looking to maintain your current fitness level.

If you are looking to improve your fitness, swim one lap or a few lengths of the pool at an easier pace, and then swim half a lap or one or two lengths with greater intensity. This will push your body harder, which will increase your fat-burning efficiency, and help create an anabolic environment similar to strength training.

Different strokes

Freestyle, Breaststroke, Butterfly, and Backstroke are the four basic strokes.

1. Freestyle: Also known as the front crawl, this is the most suitable style for beginners. A man weighing 70 kg who swims freestyle, will burn 500 calories an hour at moderate intensity and 700 calories at high intensity.

2. The breaststroke: This has a more defined pattern of movement. Your shoulders should be kept in line with the water, and your arm and leg movements should be coordinated to push together, performing the same actions. Swimming for an hour using this stroke will burn about 750 calories.


Backstroke: This one’s to be performed with your back facing the water. You will burn around 500 calories an hour. Keep in mind that you must have a fairly good awareness of the position of your body in the pool, as you will not be able to clearly see the wall approaching.

4. Butterfly: This one is recommended for those with strong shoulder muscles, as the stroke particularly calls your shoulder muscles into play. A difficult stroke— you’ll burn approximately 800 calories an hour performing it.

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