Swimming and Your Health

Key points

  • Water-based exercise offers physical and mental health benefits, including improved health for people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.
  • However, recreational water can also spread illness or cause injury, so it is important to know what to do to protect yourself and others.
An empty, outdoor swimming pool.


Health benefits

Swimming can improve mood and people report enjoying water-based exercise more than exercising on land.

People are able to exercise longer in water without increased joint or muscle pain, which has been shown to be especially helpful for people with arthritis and osteoarthritis. Water-based exercise can help people with arthritis improve the use of their arthritic joints, decrease pain, and not worsen symptoms. People with rheumatoid arthritis have shown more health improvements after participating in hydrotherapy (exercising in warm water) than with other activities.

For people with fibromyalgia, swimming can decrease anxiety, and exercise therapy in warm water can decrease depression and improve mood. Parents of children with developmental disabilities find that recreational activities, such as swimming, improve family connections.

Water-based exercise can benefit older adults by improving their quality of life and decreasing disability. It can also improve or help maintain the bone health of post-menopausal women.

Staying healthy and safe while you swim

To stay healthy and safe while you swim, it is important to understand how to prevent illness and injury when you are in or around the water.

You can get swimming-related illnesses if you swallow, have contact with, or breathe in mists of water contaminated with germs. The most common swimming-related illnesses are diarrhea, skin rashes, swimmer's ear, pneumonia or flu-like illness, and irritation of the eyes or respiratory tract.

Learn more about what you can do to prevent these illnesses when you swim and how to protect yourself depending on where you go (pool, hot tub, splash pad, ocean, etc.)

Keeping your pool and hot tub clean

Having pool or hot tub can be a fun way to be active or just relax. It is important to know what to do to reduce the risk of pool-related injury and illness, as well as how to clean your pool if it has been contaminated by poop, vomit, blood, or a dead animal.