Swim Your Way to Stronger Bones

To strengthen bones, we've always heard that weight-bearing and high-impact exercises (like running and lifting weights) are best. This leaves many people assuming that their low-impact workouts aren't doing much to improve bone strength. Swimming has long been touted as a low-impact exercise, one that’s easier on the body and good for individuals with joint pain, but doesn't help strengthen bones.

However, a recent study from Israel’s Wingate Institute in Netanya indicates that women who frequently swim laps have greater leg bone mass than women who don’t swim at all.

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While weight-bearing exercises are the best way to strengthen your bones, swimming shouldn't be completely discounted, especially for obese exercisers who experience pain and difficulty moving. Try adding a few laps to your regular routine to relieve boredom, and to surprise your muscles…and bones!
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Member Comments

My water workouts are the best😁 Report
Good need-to-know information! Thanks! Report
I have always known that water activities, even water walking are great exercise. I just choose to i9gnore that knowledge. Shame on me! Report
It's a bit more complicated. Here's a summary of many studies that finds swimming to have positive effects, from the National Institute of Health website.

Swimming does not seem to negatively affect bone mass, although it may not be one of the best sports to be practised in order to increase this parameter, due to the hypogravity and lack of impact characteristic of this sport. Most of the studies included in this review showed similar bone mineral density values in swimmers and sedentary controls. However, swimmers present a higher bone turnover than sedentary controls that may result in a stronger structure and consequently in a stronger bone. "
/PMC3737199/ Report
A few friends and I are getting ready to sign up for water aerobics. So excited Report
I aqua jog and find it very useful. Report
Wish that I could swim! Report
Love swimming/water jogging at the gym ( YMCA), I love that I have access to multiple locations, pools, fitness centers, classes, and courts. I ALOS ENJOY HIKING/BIKING/ROL
After a long time away from the pool, I started back again. I can tell you, I'm working muscles I haven't worked in a long time. I've been trying to go every day, but when I started out, I was actually sore the next day, so I've been swimming laps every other day. It's a great workout for arms, back & legs. I bought swim fins, and that really made a difference. The first time I used them, my quads were sore the next day. I go faster with the swim fins, so I can swim more laps in the same amount of time.

I alternate the swimming with other exercises. Fortunately, my community has a fitness center 1/2 mile from my house. So I can walk there and back, and I can use the exercise equipment and the pool. Report
I'm VERY lucky that the gym in my neighborhood has a lap pool, so I take advantage of that twice a week, along with my weekly Zumba and spin classes, my running program, as well as work on the elliptical and stationary bike. Plus, it's such a great upper body workout! Report
I love the water and anyting to do with it but where I live and all the cut backs in services it is very hard to find a pool open within 10 miles of my home Report
I've always loved swimming and water aerobics and now includes in my weekly exercise routine in SP.I've been telling about the benefits of swimming all along. Report
This is an interesting article. I would not have thought of swimming as helpful to my bones! Report
Regarding the comments about swimming being boring or unable to find swim workouts, I highly recommend swimplan.com. It's totally free and will give you personalized swim workouts. I've gotten some great workouts from that site. Each workout also contains drills to help you improve your strokes, and I think drills also add a little fun and variety to your workouts, too. Report
I used to think swimming was boring too, until I actually tried to improve my swimming.
I take swim lessons, both private and group, every other week. That makes it more of a challenge, because someone is actually looking at my progress. An hour of swimming flies by when the coach is teaching you new techniques and drills.
Swim workouts can be hard to find, especially if you can't swim 1600m yet! I like the ones I found on beginnertriathlet
e.com. The routines are 400m, so they take me (a slow swimmer) about 20min to complete. There are programs for beginners as well as more advanced swimmers.
You can also create your own workout using common swimming drills, like the catch, pull or kick drills.
Then there are the different strokes, besides freestyle, that can take a long time to master, and the drills for each of them. Right now I only focus on freestyle and backstroke, but if I ever get bored I could try breastroke or butterfly, as well as any of the non-competitive strokes.
Water aerobics is also an option, a lot of women at my gym take water fitness classes regularly and when there isn't a class they do the same type of routines in the water themselves. Report

About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.