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Get in the Swim

As exercise goes, swimming offers its own unique set of benefits. Besides providing a good workout for your heart and lungs, water offers constant, gentle pressure on every part of the body, which, in turn, helps improve circulation from the outside in, eases joint and back pain, and increases flexibility and range of motion.

Learn to breathe

If you're new to swimming, breathing is the most important skill to master.

Practice inhaling, then exhaling under water as you're swimming, so breathing becomes more fluid. Once you master that, then you can concentrate on swimming.

Beginner's 30-minute workout

Like exercising on land, it's important to organize your water workout into three parts: a warm-up, the main set, and a cool-down.

For the warm-up, plan to spend five minutes getting your body acclimated and ready by treading water, water jogging in the shallow end or stretching by the side of the pool. Then, swim a few easy laps.

For your main set, spend 20 minutes doing laps. You can either mix your strokes or concentrate on one. A good stroke to master is the hand-over-hand crawl or freestyle stroke, in which you gently flutter kick and coordinate your hand-over-arm motion so you rhythmically breathe from one side when your head is turned and your opposite arm is forward. Your fastest lap should be toward the end of the main set.

To increase your speed and efficiency, focus on your arm strokes. In terms of perceived energy exertion, put 75 percent of your effort into your arms and 25 percent into kicking.

Go with a glide

Also, make sure you glide at the start of every lap, instead of swimming right from the get-go.

For the cool-down, spend five minutes at the end of your workout doing water exercises or a few easy laps.