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What Are the Benefits of Lap Swimming?

The legs and arms are worked simultaneously in lap swimming.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2014
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The benefits of lap swimming can be numerous. This is an aerobic exercise that tends to work two major muscle groups (arms and legs) simultaneously, while having less strain on the body than many other exercise forms. Such a workout helps to elevate heart rate and burn calories. Many other potential benefits of this activity can be cited, like its ability to sculpt lean muscle, and the relaxing nature of being in the water. Even with these cited benefits, people will need to observe rules and they should realize that this is not the most weight loss-friendly of aerobic exercises.

In comparison to some other aerobic exercises, swimming is not ideal for weight loss and muscle building because it is not a weight bearing exercise. Several medical sources suggest water exercises don’t continue burning calories after completion because one's temperature is slightly lower, minimizing after workout burn rate that usually accompanies aerobic exercise. Those who regularly exercise can still get benefits from swimming, especially if the alternative is no exercise.

One reason lap swimming is so often preferred is because it causes less strain on muscles, joints and the skeletal system. Other aerobic activities like running, aerobic dancing and brisk walking impact the body more, and may be associated with greater likelihood of injury. People recovering from injuries, or who feel particularly prone to injuries, especially to knee or foot problems, may be far better off swimming.

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A prerequisite for lap swimming is knowing how to swim at a certain competency level. Knowing how to do a crawl is the most important, but some people may be able to walk laps in shallow water or use a boogie board and only work the legs. Each swimming pool has different rules about what people can do, and how to be considerate of others in the pool.

There is a general lap swimming etiquette, which people will need to know before getting started. This includes procedures for passing someone or being passed, what lanes (slow, medium, fast) to choose based on swimming strength and skill, and how to share a lane. Some people, to avoid passing, swim half-lengths if there are only two people in the lane, and if three people are there they might swim circles. While etiquette is important, it always depends on the actual pool, and pools usually post rules abut how to swim a lap.

Once the rules are mastered, people can begin getting appropriate exercise. They should swim in shallow water if they are inexperienced, and might need to stand up occasionally. Usually the most benefits of lap swimming are accrued with a swim of an hour’s length, but if swimming laps is new, people should start slow, building up to an hour’s swim while increasing swimming skill. At moderate intensity, people might expect to burn 400-600 calories in an hour.

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