• By Cynthia Weiss

Swimming for better health and to avoid injuries

August 13, 2021
a person with a bathing camp on, swimming in a lake with green trees in the background

Swimming is often touted as a great workout for all ages, offering benefits not only for the body, but also for the mind. As a form of exercise, swimming keeps your heart rate up and builds muscle strength. It also can be a great form of stress relief.

"Swimming is a wonderful sport. I definitely recommend swimming for people of all ages," says Dr. Matthew Crowe, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine expert who spent many hours in the pool as a competitive swimmer in his youth.

"Swimming is easy on the joints, and it's very good for both cardiac health and your core strength. And it also can give you really excellent strength around the shoulders, and hips and knees," says Dr. Crowe.

While the benefits of swimming and aquatic exercise far outweigh the risks, injuries can occur, especially with competitive swimmers who often train upward of 20 hours a week.

Watch: Dr. Crowe shares more about the benefits of swimming and related injuries

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video with Dr. Crowe is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network."

"Kicking and lower extremity injuries are pretty rare. Most of the issues we see are overuse injuries, especially shoulder injuries in teenagers and young adults," says Dr. Crowe.

"These injuries usually come as a result of improper form, overtraining and from not using the core muscles correctly," he explains.

"Swimmers need strong legs and need strong arms. But what really protects people from injuries are core muscles ― the abs, the lower back muscles and all the muscles around the shoulder blades that are stabilizing the shoulder blade to prevent injury."

For most competitive swimmers, Dr. Crowe says activities outside the pool are just as important.

"Swimming is about 60% in the pool, about 20% strength work and 20% endurance."

But no matter the sport, he adds: "The primary way we can prevent injuries is to have athletes be well-rounded and involved in multiple activities that target different parts of the body."

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