Five reasons to swim for health

After watching Michael Phelps and Dara Torres in the Olympic Water Cube, I’ve decided to take a harder look at

After watching Michael Phelps and Dara Torres in the Olympic Water Cube, I’ve decided to take a harder look at swimming; I’m even considering enrolling in a Masters Swimming program this fall. So what are the pros and cons of swimming, and what’s the best way to get back into the pool?

Let’s start with the benefits: Swimming works most muscle groups at once; it also gets your heart pumping hard, providing an excellent cardiovascular workout; it’s great for building lung capacity; and, lastly, it’s easy on your joints so it’s an activity that you can do at any age. (Anecdotally, at least, it also seems to be a great stress-reliever.)

However, swimming does have some detractions: it’s not a weight-bearing activity so it should be combined with one, such as running or a weight-lifting program; it’s also a solo sport, which comes with its own set of mental challenges. I thrive off of team sports, so I’m concerned that I’ll find swimming lengths lonely, and that I’ll have trouble motivating myself to swim farther and faster.

One solution to this is to join a swim club. Masters Swimming is a program designed to increase adult participation in aquatic sports and to improve overall health and fitness. Members of a club participate in organized workouts, clinics and competitions (if desired). To learn more and to find a swim club near you, visit the Canadian Masters Swimming Club at: http://mymsc.ca/index.jsp?locale=en

I have an aunt who swims with a club in Montreal and swears by it-both for the fitness and social opportunities it provides. She’s about 50, slender and fit. She finds tremendous motivation from the older swimmers in her group. For example, one of her friends, a woman in her 70s, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy and was soon back in the pool. She was weak at first, barely managing to swim one length. But she slowly worked her way back into shape with the support of the other members of the club.

Need more inspiration? Check out this New York Times article on why older swimmers are faster than ever, or this essay-an literary ode to swimming-in the American Scholar.

For tips on how to get started in the pool, read this article, “Starting a Swimming Routine,” posted on the United States Masters Swimming website.

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