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There are four major swimming strokes, including freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly. Swimming increases flexibility, strength and cardiovascular fitness with reduced impact and added support, which makes a kinder workout for individuals with joint pain. Water aerobics also works major muscle groups, but most exercises employ equipment such as water waist-belts, water dumbbells, kickboards, or aerobic steps.
Swimming involves moving horizontally through the water, usually in one of the four major styles; however, individuals may also use sidestroke, double-arm backstroke with a breaststroke kick and other similar drills to improve stamina and technique before moving on to swimming consecutive laps. Each of these strokes requires regular breathing in through your mouth when the face is out of the water and breathing out through the nose when the face is in the water.
Many aerobic exercises do not require you to put your face in the water; you can target specific muscle groups like weight training by using the water as resistance. Water jogging in the shallow end, for example, adds additional resistance against your leg and stomach muscles. Unlike swimming, water aerobic exercisers can work at a slower pace instead of relying on a consistent pace to keep the body afloat.
Swimming laps burns more calories per hour and requires stronger cardiovascular fitness than water aerobics. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, a 130 pound person doing water aerobics burns 236 calories per hour; general, leisurely swimming burns approximately 354 calories an hour. A 130 pound person swimming light- to moderate- freestyle burns 472 calories per hour; swimming vigorous freestyle burns approximately 590 calories hourly. Freestyle is the most common lap-swimming stroke.
Swimmers may incorporate pull buoys, water paddles and kickboards into their routine to increase water resistance and target muscles in the legs or arms. Water aerobic exercises typically use floatation devices secured around the waist to help keep them afloat during exercise. Water dumbbells are also commonly used for various exercises including arm presses and water crunches. Aerobic exercises may also use water aerobic steps for various step-up exercises.