I would like to get back into swimming to get back into shape. 25 years ago I swam for fitness (~1 mile a day). I am female, over 50, and relatively healthy overall; however, I am now very out of shape and have some health problems - overweight, and arthritis from a knee injury. What swimming program do you recommend to get back into shape (with physician approval, of course)?
Swimming is the perfect way of getting back into shape and one of the safest for someone with arthritis.
Swimming is a zero-impact form of exercise, in other words, there is little or no impact going through the joints in your body. This makes it comfortable on your knees while giving them the movement and exercise they need.
Competitive swimmers will argue that some swimming strokes place great impacts on the hips, knees, and sometimes lower spine. That could be true for those that have to exert such power with each kick, but we are not training for the Olympics so we do not need to swim such long distances at such speeds.
The best swimming stroke for you to swim will depend on the nature of your knee injury and arthritis that has developed.
Front crawl and backstroke usually place the least pressure on the joints but can also be the most tiring strokes. Breaststroke is usually the easiest from an energy and fitness point of view but can sometimes irritate some conditions. The best thing is to try them all out gently and see for yourself.
As for losing weight, you must swim out of your comfort zone. Swimming is easy to take it easy and like any form of exercise, you will only burn significant calories if you work hard.
As you have not swum for a while and are out of shape, it is best to put the hard work into your swimming in small amounts. In other words, swim at a comfortable pace for a few lengths and then put in a slightly faster length that gets you out of breath and raises your heart rate.
Then go back to your original pace for a couple of lengths and then repeat the fast one again.
As you swim more and more over the coming weeks you will find your stamina will improve as your body burns more calories and your body shape changes. It is important to change your routine by swimming faster lengths or longer distances.
You could even vary the strokes you swim as this will keep challenging your body.
The key to remember is to swim out of your comfort zone and then you will get the results you want.
It goes without saying you must consult your physician first and get their consent before commencing your exercise program.