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Sharp Health News

Swimming: low impact, high reward

Aug. 4, 2016

Swimming: low impact, high reward

Dr. Green feeling the sense of accomplishment after swimming around Manhattan Island in 2013.

You’ve heard by now that you should get 30 minutes of physical activity a day. Doing so helps keep chronic conditions at bay or under control, and regulates weight and blood pressure, among many other benefits.

Have you ever considered adding swimming to your regular regimen? Dr. Steven Green, chief medical officer for Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, enthusiastically says, yes, you should.

Dr. Green is an avid swimmer with many accomplishments, including swimming the English Channel, Catalina Channel and around Manhattan Island — regarded as the “triple crown” of open water swimming. He swims two or three days a week, in addition to rowing three days a week for exercise.

Dr. Green recently answered these five questions about how swimming can be a rewarding part of a regular exercise program.

1. Do you encourage your patients to take up swimming as a healthy activity?  
For people who like being in the water, it’s wonderful. It’s relatively low-impact and can be as challenging a workout as someone wants it to be.

2. What are some health benefits of swimming? 
Swimming is a good cardiovascular workout, provided you push yourself. It’s also good for strengthening. In addition, I’ve found it’s good for one’s mental health. I find being in the water very meditative.

3. What is best for exercise: laps in a pool or ocean swimming? 
Laps in a swimming pool are good for technique and speed training. It’s also the best option for those fearful of ocean swimming. If choosing ocean swimming, for safety’s sake, I would advise to start with a friend who is familiar with swimming in the ocean and swim together.

My personal preference is for ocean swimming. We have beautiful beaches and water in San Diego. Many people don’t realize that La Jolla Cove is an underwater state park. Sometimes in the summer you can see thousands of fish, as well as dolphins and even friendly sharks. I think ocean swimming is better for overall training because it shakes things up a bit and forces a swimmer to use more muscles to remain steady in the water.

4. What are some common swimming-related injuries? 
Probably the most common injury for swimmers is rotator cuff impingement or tendinitis. Typically this is caused by improper technique. Proper swimming is not intuitive. I strongly recommend beginners take a Masters swimming class and work with a coach on the proper way to swim.

5. What preventive measures can be taken to avoid these injuries?  
Learn the proper technique when you take up swimming. I also recommend rotator cuff strengthening exercises, which can be done with an elastic band, and are great preventive exercises to do prior to swimming. Discuss which types of exercises to do with a swimming instructor or coach, or your doctor.

For the media: To talk with Dr. Green about the health benefits of swimming, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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