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Swim for fitness: Tips for getting started

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Because it is performed in a low gravity, soothing environment that promotes flexibility and range of motion, water exercise, including deep water running, water aerobics and lap swimming, provides the calorie burning benefits of a cardiovascular workout while being easy on your joints. Water's built-in resistance is another benefit that promotes overall toning and muscle strength.

If swimming from one end of the pool to the other leaves you exhausted, swim lessons -- even a private lesson or two -- may be just the ticket for learning basic stroke technique and help devising a workout plan to build your endurance. For tips on getting started swimming laps for fitness, click here.

When you set out for the deep end of the pool to swim the length for the first time, stick close to the wall in case you need to stop, and give the lifeguard a heads up that you're new to lap swimming. Warm up with widths or half-lengths for the first five minutes, then kick or swim the length of the pool without stopping. When you can do one length without being out of breath, add another, and so on. Swim for at least 30 minutes a day for three or more days each week for best results.

Click here for suggestions on staying motivated and adding variety to your lap swimming routine.

Get the most out of your time in the water with some conditioning at home or in the gym. Lat pull downs, low presses and tricep dips, as well as some skipping rope, seated rowing and squats will work the muscles you'll be using in the pool. Swimmers need a strong core to keep the right position in the water, so try adding some crunches, sit-ups and leg lifts to your workout session at the gym or at home.

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