Swimming is a popular exercise activity which can be learned and performed at any age. It improves cardiovascular function, increases lean muscle mass, and enables weight loss. There are many different swimming techniques, including freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and the backstroke.
This is not an exhaustive list of the types of swimming techniques one can do; however, these are some of the basic strokes. These strokes each require different motions and emphasize different muscles of the body. Granted, each of the swimming techniques can be a useful form of exercise.
Freestyle is the stroke that will most likely be learned when one is first learning to swim. This stroke involves swimming with the body facing down into the water and breathing to one's side between strokes while simultaneously using the arms in a windmill-type motion to move the body through the water.
Breastroke swimming involves pulling the hands upward toward the chest and then pulling one's body through the water. Timing is a critical aspect of this particular stroke. The pulling is done in a manner where the arms pull, the head comes up and one breathes, the legs kick, and one glides through the water in that manner. If one does the breastroke correctly, it will appear that the body is bobbing up and down while moving through the water.
The butterfly stroke involves keeping the legs side by side in the kicking phase while also moving the arms outward in a circular motion with palms pressed downward to propel the body through the water. This is a difficult stroke to learn. Not only does it require excellent timing but also it requires very strong arms and legs to do this stroke correctly.
Backstroke swimming involves using the arms in a windmill-type motion while simultaneously kicking the legs to propel the body through the water. While doing this stroke, keeping aligned could be difficult because of being on the back. Also, there may be a tendency to swim to one side due to discrepancy in arm strength. Thus, this stroke may be difficult to perform well for some individuals.
One's ability to do these swimming techniques will likely improve with practice. Always exercise caution when swimming and always get a physician's approval before beginning a swimming exercise program. Also, if one is just starting to learn, it can be helpful to use common sense: never swim alone, swim in shallow water, and always swim where there is a lifeguard. If one does that, swimming can be a useful lifelong exercise.