Simplify your workout with lap swimming

Everyone likes a bargain, and lap swimming is a good deal when it comes to exercise. Swimming is a remarkably effective workout because it combines three important types of exercise in one: aerobics, stretching, and strengthening. “Simply keeping yourself afloat activates the core muscles in your back and abdomen. And you have to move all of your muscles to swim,” says Leigh de Chaves, a physical therapist and clinical supervisor of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (She also swam competitively in college.)

Are you a good candidate for lap swimming?

Consider lap swimming if you’re generally healthy, you’re a good swimmer, and your doctor says it’s okay. It’s no problem if you’re not a fan of the crawl: “Any stroke is fine. The breast, side, and back strokes are often favored because a lot of people don’t like putting their face in the water, like you have to do with the crawl,” de Chaves says.

However, lap swimming might be not be doable if you have an underlying condition, such as heart disease or a seizure disorder, that puts you at risk for a life-threatening event in the water. You may also need to skip lap swimming if you’re not strong enough to climb in and out of the pool easily. And you should be careful if you have injuries to your shoulders or neck. Lap swimming may increase your pain.

Start your lap swimming routine slowly

A green light for a lap swimming routine doesn’t mean you should start with 20 laps. Ease into it. “Focus on the amount of time you spend swimming, at first. For example, swim for five or 10 minutes, a few times per week. Gradually increase the amount of time each week, and note how many laps you can do within that time. Eventually, set goals to increase your speed by doing more laps in your set time, so that you can measure your progress,” de Chaves explains.

A big payoff

Once you’re in the swim of things, you’ll notice lots of benefits to lap swimming. It’s easy on the joints, thanks to buoyancy in water, and it has a meditative quality that forces you to focus on your movement and breathing.

Lap swimming also

  • improves endurance and cardiovascular health
  • helps lower blood pressure
  • increases flexibility
  • helps you control your weight
  • boosts your balance
  • reduces fall risk
  • helps sharpen thinking
  • helps reduce stress.

Some dos and don’ts for lap swimming

De Chaves points out that it’s important to warm up your muscles before diving into a lap swimming workout. All it takes is a few minutes of gentle paddling, and then static stretches of your shoulder and leg muscles.

Some other dos and don’ts:

  • Do wear nonslip shoes or sandals when walking on the pool deck.
  • Don’t forget to apply sunscreen if you’re swimming outdoors.
  • Don’t forget to stay hydrated before and after a workout.
  • Don’t skip stretching your muscles after lap swimming. You’ll want to stay flexible so you can get back in the pool.

For the nonswimmers in the pool

If you’re not a lap swimmer, you can still benefit from aquatic exercises — exercising in the shallow end of a pool. You might take a class with a trainer who leads a group through a set of exercises with special water weights or flotation devices (like a pool noodle). Or you can simply try water walking; working against the resistance of the water is good for your muscles and bones.

“If you have balance problems, it’s a good idea to exercise with a friend who can assist you. I also recommend wearing a buoyancy belt around your waist to keep you upright,” de Chaves advises.

Look for aquatic exercise classes — such as strengthening or aerobics — at the local YMCA, a fitness center, or a community center.

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23 NIV

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19 NIV

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20:4 NIV

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9-10 NIV

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4 NIV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 | NIV

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 NIV

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37 NIV

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 NIV

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 NIV

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Proverbs 3:1-2 NIV

The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. Proverbs 10:8 NIV

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. Psalm 119:10 NIV

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24 NIV

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12 NIV

I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. Psalm 119:7 NIV

Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. Psalm 119:2 NIV

Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Mark 11:23 NIV

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