Why Swimming Is Good Exercise & Fun

Woman swimming underwater in pool

Swimming makes people fitter and feel better. Cold weather limits the months when ocean or lake swimming is possible, but access to public indoor pools makes swimming and aquatic exercise available year round in colder climates. USA Swimming, the national governing body for swimming, says that the sport builds self-awareness and self-confidence in youth. Any adult swimmer knows that swimming is also healthy for mature athletes, and that water helps make them feel younger.

Aerobic Exercise

Swimming is an aerobic form of exercise, meaning that it involves all the major muscle groups in the body and that it improves cardiovascular health. Specifically, swimming helps increase blood circulation and can also increase lung capacity. As any form of aerobic exercise, swimming expends energy and burns calories. Although exercise on its own might not result in weight loss, swimming combined with a healthy reduced-calorie diet works well to lose weight gradually and permanently.

Mental Benefits

Young swimmers benefit from swimming in many ways. Gaining competence in as demanding sport such as swimming builds confidence, according to USA swimming, the national governing board for the sport. Because swimming is an individual sport that takes place in a group or team atmosphere, kids learn about competition and cooperation at the same time. Building a positive self-image and the discipline to control negative thoughts are skills coaches help foster. Once a swimmer has confidence in the water, they enjoy the feeling of freedom and release of moving fast in the weightless environment. Being in the water just feels good.

Adults Benefits

As any adult can attest, getting older means understanding gravity better. Swimming means being able to exercise free from the heaviness that seems to accompany age. On deck, the extra 10 lbs. put on over a few years literally weighs heavily on people. Jumping in the pool relieves aching ankles or overburdened joints. Because swimming is a non-weight bearing exercise, it is ideal for heavier people. The water supports them and helps keep them from overheating while they exercise.

Function of Fun

Swimming is good exercise, in part because it is fun. It provides a potentially excellent workout, yet it does not feel as grueling as sweating away on a stationary bicycle or pounding the pavement on a hot summer day. Swimmers attest to the joyous feeling of being buoyant in deep water, particularly outdoors, with blue skies above and scenery to distract the mind. The aqueous environment also serves to isolate and insulate the swimmer. Lap swimmers find freedom to think about their day, or problems they face. After a few hundred laps though, most forget about issues other than breathing, stroke control and technique. It is an effective mind-clearing workout, as detailed by coach and Masters swimmer Jennifer Parks in a May 2003 article for “Swimmer” magazine.


Swimming is a good exercise for many different types of people, but sedentary adults should check with a doctor for any limitations or advice before starting upon an exercise routine. Some people suffer reactions when they swim in chemically treated pool water, according to Mary Pohlmann, assistant professor of clinical medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and USMS Sports Medicine Committee member. Common complaints include dry or itchy skin, irritated eyes and lung irritation. Cleaner, better-maintained pools usually result in fewer allergic reactions. Outdoor pools tend to have fewer problems from disinfection related side effects than do indoor pools, due in part to the better ventilation of open-air facilities.