Is swimming the best exercise?

We are always trying to find the ‘best’ exercise to do. Identifying what is the best is hard to determine. Some types of exercise are best for things that are specific, weight training for muscle development, balance training for core stabilisers, but to find the best all-round exercise means that it has to meet many criteria. Most aerobic sports/activities are specific to their development. If you are a good runner it is not going to make you a good swimmer, an excellent cyclist does not make an excellent swimmer, however, I believe being a good swimmer will help you in becoming a better runner or cyclist. Ask any tri-athlete and most will say that swimming is the most demanding to keep on top of and the one that assists the other disciplines.

In my opinion swimming is perhaps the best all-round exercise and the reasons are listed below:-

  1. Easily accessible. It should not be too hard to find your nearest pool and most have good convenient opening times.
  2. Inexpensive. Relatively low cost per session and very low cost in equipment.
  3. Not age dependent. From 6 months to 106+ years old!
  4. Low-impact. Fantastic for non-weight bearing smooth muscle action Therapeutic for the elite athlete, post hard training, or pain relieving for the arthritic octogenarian. High impact exercise does bring about great calorific expenditure but carries with it an increased risk of injury.
  5. Great aerobic conditioning. The more body parts you employ in exercise generally the greater oxygen deficit you will have. Swimming is renowned for using more muscles at any one single time than many other exercises.
  6. Excellent for anaerobic conditioning. When we sprint in running there is a much greater risk of injury than swimming 100m fast in the pool.
  7. Great for general mobility. The body is supported by the water consequently range of movement in most joints are easier – particularly for pregnant mums and the older exerciser.
  8. Technical aspect. To me it makes swimming an interesting sport/activity. Some may argue it makes it less good; however, to be able to improve your technique and get better at something is very rewarding.
  9. Fun. Listen to a pool full of children there is no doubt there is a great deal of fun occurring. I am sure more of us have pleasant memories of playing in water than the one or two who may have been unfortunate to have a bad experience.
  10. Versatility – 25m sprint to swimming the Channel! All can be done in different strokes. Water polo, synchronised swimming, water aerobics, swimmathon for charity, snorkelling, free diving, bob up and down for pregnant mums to hydrotherapy for injured athletes.

There is little doubt in my mind that swimming is the best all-round exercise and, so long as you enjoy it, it’s a great idea to put some swimming into your training programme. If you require help designing a swimming programme or wish to improve your technique in the pool don’t hesitate to contact Steve Young through the web at or call 07711 246651.

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