Swimming is a skill that many of us are taught as children – though, as adults, it can often fall by the wayside.

However, there are endless benefits to regular swimming for people of all ages and abilities. For example, not only is it a low-impact, full body workout, but being in the water and practising rhythmic movements and breathing, can also be incredibly relaxing.

Plus there’s a huge amount of variety available when it comes to choosing a swimming activity. From sea swimming to aqua aerobics, there’s usually something for everyone.

So, if you’d like to make regular swimming one of your goals for this year, keep reading to find out how it can become a staple in your routine…

What are the health benefits of swimming?

What are the health benefits of swimming

Swimming is an adaptable exercise that you can take at your own pace.

Although it’s low-impact – which means it puts little strain on joints and reduces the risk of injury – it still provides an effective full body workout.

Many people use swimming as a form of recovery after the gym, or to alternate with more high impact exercises like running.

Aside from being gentle on joints, the main health benefits of swimming include…

  • Weight loss and maintenance – a gentle swim can burn over 200 calories in half an hour, or over 300 calories when swimming at a more moderate pace.

  • A healthier heart and lungs – because swimming is an aerobic exercise, it trains the body to use oxygen more efficiently, which can result in a lower resting heart and breathing rate.

  • Improved flexibility – the broad range of motion in swimming can help to lengthen your muscles.

  • Increased mobility – because staying active increases fluidity in your joints, which makes movements easier.

  • Increased strength and more toned muscles – particularly in the core and arms, though swimming engages all muscles.

  • Reduced stress and anxiety – swimming releases endorphins (happy hormones), and as already mentioned, the strokes and rhythmic breathing involved can promote relaxation. There are also few distractions when swimming, as it’s typically just you and the water, making it a great form of mindfulness.

  • Improvement in general wellbeing – swimming for just 30 minutes three times a week, alongside a balanced, nutritious diet can help with staying fit and healthy, and feeling more positive.

You can also adapt your swimming style to suit your health goals, which could mean using equipment to focus on working specific body parts.

For example, using a pull buoy – a foam float placed in between your legs – can allow you to concentrate on pulling your body with your arms and shoulders, to build up greater strength in these areas.

Alternatively, by holding onto a kickboard – another foam float that supports your arms and upper body – you can practise your kicking and build up leg strength.

What are the different swimming strokes?

What are the different swimming strokes?

As you’ll likely be aware, there are many different styles and variations of swimming – and which one works best for you might depend on a variety of factors. For example – how relaxing or challenging you’d like your swim to be, if you’d rather keep your head above water, and whether you have any existing injuries.

We’ll cover some of the most popular swimming strokes below…


Sidestroke is a sort of sideways doggy paddle, where you move your arms in circular motions and kick outwards with your feet.

While it isn’t used in competitive swimming, it’s a great stroke for leisurely swimming sessions because you don’t have to put your face in the water and it’s less tiring than the others. Plus, it’s also a lifesaving technique.

Often, sidestroke is used for long-distance swimming, because the arms and legs are used equally, meaning that they’re likely to tire less quickly. When one side does get tired, you can also swap to the other.

To see sidestroke in action, check out the video below…



Breastroke is one of the most popular strokes due to the fact that you can choose to keep your head above the water, and swim at a pace that suits you.

Your chest faces down into the water and your body is kept in line with the surface, while you scoop the water with your arms in a circular motion, and kick out with your legs like a frog.

Breaststroke is used competitively, as well as for casual and lane swimming.

Take a look at the video below to see what the correct form looks like…


Front crawl/freestyle

Front crawl is arguably the most famous stroke and is known as freestyle in competitive swimming. It’s also the fastest and most efficient swimming technique, so is often used for long-distance swims.

One of the essential parts of mastering this stroke is establishing your breathing technique, which is usually done by breathing after every three strokes of the arms. Swimmers turn their head slightly to the side to breathe so that they remain streamlined in the water.

To learn more about front crawl, have a watch of the video below…


Backstroke uses similar rotational arm movements as front crawl, but in a backwards direction. It can help to exercise the whole back, correct rounded shoulders, improve overall posture – and is a helpful stroke for those with back or shoulder pain.

Because it’s performed on your back, it has the advantage of easy breathing too – though the downside is that it’s more difficult to see where you’re going.

Check out this video below for tips on how to master backstroke…

Butterfly stroke

Butterfly stroke is often considered the most advanced and challenging stroke, but is an effective full body workout once you’ve got the hang of it.

We’d advise learning the dolphin stroke first, which involves keeping your arms pinned down to your sides or straight in front of you, depending on which is more comfortable, and kicking your legs in a powerful, undulating movement.

With dolphin kick, it’s important to keep your body streamlined and core tight.

To go from dolphin to butterfly, you add in the arms by rotating them symmetrically. They start out by your side and end up behind you.

Introducing the arms is tiring, but allows you to move faster and breathe more naturally.

Take a look at the video below for a break down of the butterfly stroke…

Where can I swim?

There are many different ways that you can start your journey as a swimmer – although if you’re looking for a range of classes and activities, we’d recommend going to your local pool or leisure centre.

Indoor pools also have the benefits of adjoining changing rooms, heated water, less turbulence, and helpful tools like floats and marked lanes.

Most local pools and leisure centres have monthly membership options, which are usually cheaper than paying for individual sessions (which would usually cost around £3-£6 per visit).

Alternatively, if you want to save money or even try something a bit different and get closer to nature, why not try open water swimming?

Open water swimming is sometimes called wild swimming and refers to swimming that takes place outside in oceans, lakes, rivers, or other bodies of water.

During winter, wetsuits are usually recommended for this type of swimming to help you stay warm.

Why not take a look at An introduction to open water swimming for tips and advice on getting started?

What are the different ways to get involved with swimming?

What are the different ways to get involved with swimming

Swimming is a hobby that can last a lifetime – and there are lots of different ways to get involved and look forward to it as part of your weekly routine.

We’ve outlined some of the key options below…

Aqua aerobics

If you’re looking for a fun, social, and upbeat activity to do in the pool, why not try an aqua aerobics class?

Aqua aerobics is performed to music in relatively shallow water — and the exercises are designed to help you keep fit without putting pressure on your joints, making it a great low-impact form of exercise.

Many pools offer aqua aerobics for both beginners and advanced swimmers, and the general classes are open to all ages and abilities.

Lane swimming sessions

If you’d prefer to practise different swimming strokes, while working on your strength and endurance, then lane swimming could be the activity for you.

At gyms and leisure centres, lane swimming sessions are usually scheduled at the beginning and end of each day, and for an hour or two around lunchtime.

The lanes are often marked as slow, middle, and fast, which means there’s no need to worry about being overtaken by professional swimmers if you’re a beginner.

Lane swimming can seem daunting, but if you try out a few sessions at different times, you can gauge when it’s least busy and what lane you feel most comfortable in.

Individual or group swimming lessons

If you’re new to swimming or just want to brush up on the basic strokes and techniques, you might want to consider taking some adult swimming lessons.

You can choose to have individual lessons or lessons in smaller or larger groups, depending on your budget and what you feel most comfortable with.

General/family swimming sessions

General swimming sessions are a great option for those wanting to enjoy the pool more casually or go with friends or family.

Often there’s more equipment available, such as woggles (the foam pool noodles) and large floats, which can be useful if you want to practise different swimming techniques, such as your kicking.

General swimming sessions are also a good time to swim freely if you enjoy swimming in a more open space, rather than in lanes.

Swimming sessions for people with disabilities

Swimming is very inclusive, and many pools have adaptations for those with disabilities.

Though, if you’re feeling a bit self-conscious, you might want to try attending swimming sessions specifically for people with disabilities.

These are safe and welcoming spaces that cater to the needs of people with a range of health conditions; including those who may be recovering from health issues like heart attacks or strokes.

Swimming sessions for people aged 50 and over

Some pools and leisure centres offer swimming sessions for people aged 50+, 60+, or 65+ to swim, catch up with friends, or make new ones – often, at discounted prices.

These sessions tend to be less busy than some of the others so are particularly beneficial if you’d rather have a quiet, relaxed swim.

Women only swimming sessions

Wearing swimwear can leave some of us feeling exposed and vulnerable — and sometimes this can be enough to put us off swimming altogether.

If you’re a female and this sounds familiar, you may thrive in a women’s only environment.

Some leisure centres offer women only lanes or swimming sessions for those who’d like that extra level of comfort.

Diving sessions

Diving is a fun and unique activity that can help to take your swimming to the next level.

There are many classes for different abilities, starting off by learning to dive from the poolside, and gradually moving up to 1m, 5m, and 10m boards.

Open water swimming sessions

There are many different open water activities available, including introductory courses for those transitioning from indoor swimming.

There’s the option of one-on-one or group coaching sessions, which usually take place at a lake or the beach.

What swimming careers are available?

What swimming careers are available

There are also many career opportunities associated with swimming, and taking on a part-time job can be a great way to establish swimming as part of your routine.

If you’re a more experienced swimmer, why not consider one of the options below?

Lifeguard/recreational assistant

If you’d like to help people and potentially save lives, you could think about becoming a lifeguard.

To become a lifeguard, you’ll learn all about lifesaving techniques and first aid – and can brush up on your swimming strokes too.

You’ll need to complete your National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) before you start applying for jobs (which involves a sea swim), and will usually need regular training sessions once you’re in the job to keep your skills up to date.

Lifeguards also need to be strong swimmers with a good level of fitness. This means being able to complete a 400m pool swim in less than eight minutes and make a surface dive to a depth of 1.5 metres as part of your assessment for the role.

If you’re interested in becoming a lifeguard, the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) UK has a handy course finder to help you get started.

Swimming teacher

Swimming teachers tend to work with weak or non-swimmers, teaching them the basics. This is a challenging yet fulfilling job that helps people learn a valuable life skill.

Becoming a swimming teacher could be a suitable option for someone who’s just starting their career in swimming, as you can start by teaching the more basic strokes and techniques. Plus, whether you work for a pool or leisure centre, or decide to go self-employed and teach private lessons, hours are usually flexible.

To get started, you’ll need to complete your level one and two swim teaching courses. You can search for courses on the Swimming.org website below.

Swimming coach

There’s a difference between coaching and teaching in swimming — as coaches provide more one-on-one advice and training, and usually train stronger swimmers at a competitive level. So if you already have some experience as a swimming teacher or used to swim competitively, this could be the role for you.

Coaches create specific lesson plans and drills to train athletes, and there can be up to around 30 swimmers per session.

As with the other career options above, there’s usually some training involved. But the qualification you take will depend on what type of swimming you want to teach. For example, regular or artistic swimming, or even diving.

Courses are designed to take you from assistant swim coach right through to senior swim coach. You can search courses on Swimming.org below.

How to turn swimming into a habit

Much like any form of exercise, swimming may seem like a bit of a chore to start with – but if you want to make it a staple in your routine, there are a few things you can do to make this easier…

  • Keep your swimming routine varied so you don’t get bored of it after a couple of weeks. For example, if you want to go swimming three times a week, why not focus on a different swimming stroke during each session? Or why not break up your lane swimming sessions with some aqua aerobics?

  • Consider joining a swim team or group – or inviting a friend along to join you. This is a great way to stay motivated while connecting with like-minded people.

  • Start at a comfortable pace, and try to make the most of your time in the water. Swimming can be a brilliant form of mindfulness and relaxation because it’s often free from distractions, like work, smart devices, and demands from others.

  • Try to set yourself small, manageable goals and avoid pushing yourself too hard in your first few sessions. If you burn yourself out in week one, chances are, you’ll feel less like going for a swim in week two. It can also be helpful to plan ahead to make recovery swims part of your routine – and if you choose to set a distance or race-based goal, it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to train and prepare for it.

  • Aim to go swimming at least twice a week. This should help you make more marked progress in your fitness, which can boost motivation and make swimming more likely to become a habit (which research suggests takes a minimum of 18 days).

  • Consider booking some lessons or having somebody coach you every few months. This way you can brush up on your technique, get advice on how to become a more effective swimmer, and perfect your strokes. Even having a one-off session at the beginning can refresh your knowledge of the different strokes, improve breathing technique, and help you to come up with a more solid training plan.

For more tips on making an activity a staple in your routine, check out our article; 8 tips on how to break negative habits and develop positive ones.

Final thoughts…

Swimming can be a great hobby for all people of ages. Though it’s low-impact, it offers huge benefits for both mind and body – from providing relaxation to working all the major muscle groups.

While it can sometimes feel overwhelming to incorporate something new into your weekly routine, the variety of different techniques and classes available mean that you can take things at a pace that suits you.

Whether you have a passion for open water swimming, are an aspiring swimming coach, or simply want to try a new activity with a friend, why not get started today?