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March 05, 2019

The calorie-torching workout for those who HATE running (or biking)

Don your bathing suit and get ready for a killer workout in the pool

Fitness Workouts
swimming workout pexels Guduru Ajay bhargav/Pexels

Swimming is probably one of the most overlooked exercises when people are brainstorming new and improved ways to get their bodies moving — probably because pools are more associated with lounging than working out.

"Swimming is an amazing full-body workout with minimal impact on joints,” says Helen Lin, a Master swim team coach based in Boston, told Women’s Health. “It also builds muscular endurance and is a great cardiovascular workout.”

Plus, swimming is a prime option if you tend to get injured from high-impact exercises, like running.

Swimming fires up more of your body’s major muscle groups than other forms of cardio exercise, too. Typical cardio exercises like running or biking typically involves the activation of the lower body, whereas swimming not only engages your legs, but also recruits your upper body and core — including your lats, the muscles of your middle back, and the triceps, or backs of your upper arms, TIME reports.

RELATED READ: This is the hard truth about ab crunches

Not to mention, water is denser than air, so swimming through water puts more external pressure on your limbs than running through the air,  studies have shown. Even better, that pressure is uniformly distributed. It doesn’t collect in your knees, hips or the other places that bear most of the burden when you exercise with gravity sitting on your shoulders.

Some research suggests a link between swimmers and a better lung capacity. With healthy lungs, the body can process oxygen more proficiently - this means you won't feel winded or out of breath as easily. Stronger lungs might also help you ward off illness, Huffington Post reports.

Of course, there are a lot of factors that go into how many calories you burn doing anything, including swimming — things like how much you weigh, your personal metabolism, and level of exertion. But in general, Women’s Health reports that you can expect to burn about 300 calories for a half hour of swimming freestyle laps at a moderate pace. Adding that swimming newbies are more likely to burn more calories than veteran swimmers, which may help with goals like weight loss or strength building.

Most people who yearn to stay in shape make an effort to do some form of cardiovascular training three to five times a week for 20 minutes or more per session. Anyone looking to swim for fitness should be able to swim at least 20 minutes at a time, several times a week, suggests. suggests hitting the water three times a week, 30 minutes per workout. 

Here's a sample 30-minute workout to guide you during your first couple jaunts in the pool via HEALTH. It's worth noting that interval targets are set by a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale of 1 to 10; 10 is the hardest. 

The warm up: Go for a 100-yard swim at RPE of 4 to 5, then a 50-yard swim with kickboard at RPE of 5 to 6.

The workout:

• 25-yard swim at RPE of 4; 25-yard swim at RPE of 6 

• 25-yard swim at RPE of 6; 25-yard swim at RPE of 4 

• 50-yard swim at RPE of 4 

• 50-yard swim at RPE of 6

• Repeat these four intervals 

• 100-yard swim at RPE of 4 (cool down)

Of course, not everyone has access to a pool for a kick-butt swimming workout. Fortunately, Philadelphians have some local indoor public pool options. And, of course, the public pools will be opening soon enough for the summer. 

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