/ Categories: Better Health (BH)

 Swim Basics for Adults

Author by Ronda Brodsky, MS


People are fascinated by water; the colors soothe, the sounds pacify, and it temporarily liberates us from the tyranny of gravity.  Water is an excellent exercise medium for all individuals.  It translates into compliance for most; and a lifelong habit for the rest of us.

Aquatic exercise – whether vertical or horizontal, shallow or deep – offers many benefits.  Here are the main ones:

  • Increase muscle strength and endurance
  • Increase balance and coordination
  • Increase in ease of joint mobility and range of motion
  • Decrease pain levels in the joints

More ideas on vertical water exercise can be found in my previous article, Power Up Your Pool. 


Swimming is the act of moving through the water via the use of our arms, legs and bodies.  When swimming, immersion in the water is influenced by the condition of the participant and his/her fear in the water.  Immersion with about 80 percent of the body under water is usually accomplished, and even more when the person is fully comfortable and confident with his/her swim skills. 

Many people believe that humans are born with a swimming ability, an innate sense of swimming and staying afloat using one’s arms and legs.  People can swim in any body of water that will allow the individual room to move about.  These bodies may include lakes, rivers, the ocean and pools with a wide range of water temperatures.  Indoor pools maintain water temperature at various levels depending on the primary activities scheduled.  For younger children, opt for water where the temperature is at least 84 degrees F as it will be more comfortable, and they will not chill as quickly.

One of the earliest noted swimming experiences is believed to be Pharaoh Ramses II (1290-1224 BC) of Egypt.  Swimming in Ancient Greece and Rome was highly esteemed, and it was used as a form of training for the warriors.  By around 1896, swimming had become well-established.  It was one of the main sports at the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens Greece. 

Swimming is a sport in which all individuals can excel. The more you swim the better your fitness level will become.  Swimming is very relaxing, and you can clear your mind while enjoying the benefits of the water. 

Common Features of Swimming Strokes

The most well-known swim strokes are the front crawl or freestyle, back crawl or backstroke, breaststroke, side stroke and butterfly.  Below are some key features of the various strokes.

·       Pitch of the Hand:   Use a curved pattern; the hands should be cupped, not flat.

·       Curved Pathway Pull:  If the hand moves in a straight line little propulsion will be seen.  An S pattern will help ensure the hand works against the water to propel the body through the water.

·       Hand Entry and Exit:  Hands should enter and exit the water cleanly.  Enter at an angle to prevent dragging of the water.  Hands should leave the water clearly as to avoid dragging or slowing the swimmer down.

·       Pushing and Pulling:  The arms bend and straighten during these phases.  The elbow is held high when swimming on the front and the elbow is held low when swimming on the back.

·       Streamlining:  Keep your body horizontal to the surface of the water to reduce resistance.  Pull the water from the front and push it back.  This horizontal position must be maintained at all times.  To create as little resistance as possible, try to keep the body movement to a minimum.

Most recreational swimmers will rely on or use some kind of floatation device.  This helps develop confidence in addition to building endurance.  Most pools offer various types of floatation devices, including these popular options:

·       Kickboards

·       Pull Buoys

·       Fins

·       Lifejackets (should only be used when the comfort level is low)

My personal additional recommendation for swimming, is to always use goggles if your face is going under water.  They protect your eyes and help you see underwater, to check where you are going.

Swimming is influenced by your level of comfort and level of self-confidence in the aquatic environment; higher levels usually equal improved abilities.  This does not mean that if you are not comfortable that you cannot swim.  This is just stating that the more comfortable you are, the more apt you to take to swimming quickly.  And if your levels are higher, you are also more likely to stick to the sport.  You are your own best judge on what you can and cannot do, so progress at your pace and comfort level. 


Swimming should always be fun, so jump in and have an Aquatastic time.



Ronda Brodsky is a Physical Education and Health Teacher at a charter school in Detroit, Michigan, with a master’s degree in Physical Education. Ronda is an American Red Cross CPR, first aid, lifeguarding and water safety instructor.  She has over 30 years in the aquatic industry as an AEA certified professional and a past presenter at IAFC.  Ronda is a frequent contributor to Akwa magazine, AEA’s member publication, and the author of Aquatastic: Swimming Made Simple. Ronda can be reached at rbrod99@aol.com

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