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Senior Planet Centers

Lap Swimming

“It’s a wonderful world out there, swimming back and forth in the calming waters. Instead of running on a treadmill, I brace my feet against the side of a pool and glide off into the bright blue buoyant world, swimming back and forth at whatever relaxing or invigorating pace I feel like taking that day..”

I want to break the record for longest living human. I also want to keep feeling as strong and pain-free as possible. So when I turned 50, I started walking everywhere I needed to go instead of taking public transportation, and I joined a gym. Walking was a pleasure, but the gym was not.

At 55, I joined a different gym—one that had a pool. I hadn’t been swimming for 35 years, but doing laps sounded a lot more fun than push-ups and treadmills.

As soon as I joined, I panicked.

– Which lock should I buy?
– How cold is the water going to be?
– Will I have to wear a stupid bathing cap?
– Ugh. Group showers.
– Ohmygod, what do I look like in a bathing suit these days??

I worried that everyone would swim faster than me, that I would jam up my lane and they’d all hate me. Would I swim half a lap and then feel like I was going to die and give up?

But the image of my 70, 80, 90-plus-year-old self thump, thump, thumping along on a treadmill drove me to deal with the fears and give swimming a try. It turns out, science is on my side.

What Science Says About Swimming and Aging

A 32 year study of men ages 20 to 90 found that swimmers had the lowest mortality rate, beating walkers and even runners.

Swimming peels off the pounds. Even a slow crawl burns more calories than walking or cycling, and you’d have to run six miles per hour or more to beat it.

Swimming is the ideal exercise for arthritis pain management and for keeping your joints flexible.

“The most prevalent heart disease risk factor for older people is high blood pressure,” Dr. Hirofumi Tanaka, director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin…

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