Swimming can be as beneficial to your heart as other forms of exercise and many people find it more fun.
Thanks to the buoyancy provided by the water, people with arthritis or joint problems can get an aerobic workout by swimming.
As with other forms of exercise programme, you must check with your doctor first. Being horizontal in water shifts blood to the central part of the circulation (heart and lungs). So if your heart is badly damaged or you have lung problems, your doctor may suggest another form of exercise.
Be careful you do not over exert yourself while swimming. When you are doing exercises out of water, it is easier to gauge what your level of exertion is. However, your perceptions may not be as accurate as in the water. You may be swimming at what you think is a comfortable rate but you may actually be working at a much higher intensity.
Indoor pools are preferable to swimming in an ocean or lake, which can turn out to be more taxing, due to cooler temperatures, currents, waves or wind. The water should be warm (82-90°) which, unfortunately is warmer than the temperature of most pools in health clubs and community centers. So you may have to look around to find a pool which is warm enough. Some health clubs, have physical therapy programmes which offer a warmer pool.
Make sure there is a lifeguard or instructor on hand at all times.
If you are not accustomed to exercising, consider joining a cardiac rehabilitation programme, where you can learn how to determine your target heart rate and how to properly pace yourself. Tell the instructor you intend to swim so you can know of your ideal heart rate while swimming.
As you begin, go easy on yourself. Begin with half a lap or as many laps you can, even if it is only one or two. Increase the number of laps gradually.
Begin each swimming session with ten to fifteen minutes of stretching exercises outside the pool. Start with a few slow laps to accustom yourself to the water. End each session the same way with two slow laps to reduce your heart rate, and some stretching exercises after you emerge from the pool. This will not only relax your muscles but also keep them from tightening later on.
Some pools offer water exercise classes. These can range from classes offering easy stretches to intensive cardiovascular workouts. Be sure you choose the right level for you. What you can do is to get your doctor's okay before you begin a swimming programme. If your swimming skills are rusty, consider a few lessons. This can help you get more enjoyment out of the sport.