Did you know that an hour spent swimming can burn nearly the same number of calories as an hour-long run? It also has the added bonus of low joint stress. And because swimming is low-impact, it’s suitable for a variety of ages and fitness levels.

Enjoying a swim at your local gym or recreation centre is a great solo or group activity. Swimming can bring people of all ages together, and if you really get moving in the water, it makes for an excellent full-body workout.

Before starting, you may want to consider the five main swimming styles and strokes, and the fitness benefits that each offers.


Breaststroke strengthens the heart and lungs, making it the best cardio workout of all the stroke options. It also helps tone chest muscles, shoulders, upper back, triceps, hamstrings and lower legs.


As you stretch to straighten your body for backstroke, you can actually lengthen your spine, which is excellent for posture. Backstroke helps tone the stomach, legs, arms, shoulders and glutes. It also helps to improve hip flexibility and spine mobility, which is helpful if you have a job that keeps you sitting for long periods of time.


Sidestroke helps increase endurance while it works your upper arms, legs and core muscles. Sidestroke reduces pressure on your shoulders, knees or lower back.


Freestyle is also known as front crawl. This stroke tones your stomach, glutes and shoulders. Freestyle is believed to be the best back workout of the strokes.


This one can be a challenge to learn, but if you can, you’ll reap the benefits of the highest calorie burner of the swimming styles. It’s a great overall upper body muscle builder. It also increases flexibility and improves posture.

But that’s not all. There are plenty of reasons to make swimming a part of your regular routine. Here are five more reasons to start working on your strokes.

Improves mental health

  • Some people feel that the simple act of being in water brings feelings of peace, reduces stress, and helps them feel more relaxed. Swimming has been compared to yoga in terms of reducing anxiety and stress if done regularly.

Promotes fitness and strength

  • With all of the information on how the different strokes work your heart, lungs and muscles, there’s no denying that swimming is an excellent workout for the entire body, especially if you push yourself a bit over time.

Lower impact

  • HIIT training is a great workout, but for those who suffer from joint pain, that kind of intensity can aggravate soreness. Because water naturally holds you up, your moving body weight is significantly reduced, relieving the stress on your joints, muscles and bones, so people of all fitness levels and ages can use water as a form of workout. It can also act as therapy for those with some injuries and medical conditions such as osteoarthritis, advanced osteoporosis and muscle strain or tears.

Promotes better sleep

  • Regular exercise can improve sleep patterns, but exercise can be difficult for older adults or people with bodily ailments. The low-impact nature of swimming makes it a suitable workout for almost anyone. It can help treat insomnia which is common among older or injured persons.

Offers variety

  • Keep it interesting by changing up the different styles and strokes you perform in the water. You’ll hit different muscle groups, and can choose your intensity level by going as fast or slow as you like. You can also change your scenery. If you have a pool – great! If not, visit a friend’s pool, try out different gyms, recreation centres or get into nature by swimming in the lake or ocean.

Being in water can present some hazards, so be sure to take safety precautions. Depending on the conditions and your swimming abilities, consider wearing a lifejacket, goggles, a proper swimsuit, swim cap, earplugs and nose clip. Stretch before you start. Wear waterproof sunscreen if you’re outside. Always check the depth before jumping or diving in, and hydrate as you go! Swimming lessons are a good idea to help you become a strong swimmer and use proper technique.

Adding swimming to your regular workout routine can be a fun yet relaxing way to change things up while working your muscles and building cardiovascular endurance. If you’re just starting out, take it slow. You’ll still reap all the benefits that the water has to offer.

Happy swimming!