Swimming and older adults: Your questions answered

Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Carly Ryan, answers your questions about swimming for older adults.

 

What are some of the benefits of swimming for older Australians?

 

Swimming is a great activity for cardiovascular health, and comes with all the benefits of exercise including improved heart health, flexibility, muscle tone, weight management along with mental health benefits such as improved mood. What is less well known is that water provides natural resistance, so swimming provides muscle strength and balance benefits as well.

 

How important is the low impact element of swimming for older people?

 

Swimming is often a great choice for those with injuries, pain or conditions such as arthritis as the buoyancy properties of water reduces impact on joints. For this reason, many people find they can complete more exercise in the water than they could on land.

 

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Can it help you recover from/prevent injury?

 

Completing regular activity such as swimming is very important in keeping your body strong and healthy, and therefore preventing injury. As mentioned above, the reduced impact of water exercise provides the great benefits of regular exercise while reducing the load on injured areas.

Hydrotherapy pools also keep the water temperature warm, which is often used for rehabilitation purposes as it can reduce muscle and joint stiffness/pain.

It is always important to consider safety around the pool, with wet surfaces around the pool posing an injury or falls risk.

 

Do many mature swimmers tend to swim socially or is it more of a solitary sport?

 

How people exercise is an individual choice, and so many mature swimmers swim laps as a solitary activity. The popularity and therefore availability of aqua exercise classes has increased significantly over the last 10-15 years and so more people are choosing to complete classes for the social benefits. Aqua aerobics is one of the first to come to mind, however there are now plenty of other options available that are more outside the box including resistance, yoga and even dance classes. It’s a great idea to contact your local pool/leisure centre to find out about their class timetable.

 

How does swimming compare to other work outs like running?

 

It is important to consider your physical capacity and goals when it comes to selecting appropriate exercise. It’s also important to find an enjoyable activity. Running or swimming may be an appropriate depending on your individual situation.

 

If you don’t enjoy swimming laps – what do you recommend to help encourage older Australians to get involved in water based exercise?

 

Swimming doesn’t have to involve only laps- the resistance provided by the water means that any movement completed will be great for your body. This might be an exercise class such as aqua aerobics, performing basic resistance exercises such as leg swings, calf raises and arm circles, or even something as simple as walking in the water.

 

As with any exercise program, if you starting a new routine and/or have any concerns, it is always a good idea to consult your doctor or exercise professional such an Accredited Exercise Physiologist for advice.

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