I was part of a competitive swim team for six years. Not only did I make some of my best friends on the team, but, in a few months, I was in the best shape of my life. Swimming offers something no other aerobic exercise does: the ability to work your body without harsh impact to your skeletal system. Your body is lighter in the water—the deeper you are submerged, the less weight your body needs to support. When submerged up to your neck, 90% of your weight is supported by the pool. The pool is also the perfect place to work stiff muscles and sore joints, especially if you’re overweight or suffer from arthritis.
Unlike exercise machines in a gym—like a bicep curl or a bench press—that tend to isolate one body part at a time, swimming puts the body through a broad range of motions that helps joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible. The arms move in wide motions, the hips are engaged as the legs scissor through the water, and the head and spine twist from side to side. Plus, as you reach forward with every stroke, you’re lengthening your body, which is more efficient to move in the water and also helps give you a good stretch from head to toe.
To improve your flexibility beyond swimming, you might also want to finish your pool workout with a series of gentle stretches. The support of the water should help you maintain positions involving tricky balance such as a quadriceps stretch. Swimming truly is helpful for everyone and every body type.