You've heard this before: For optimal fitness, it’s essential to mix it up. And with swimming being so different from any other workout you put your body through in the gym, on the road, or in a studio, it's ideal for working muscles that have been unintentionally neglected. "It’s a low-impact workout that gives runners, gym folks, and anyone that walks around or sits in a chair a break for the overworked and tired joints of your hips, knees and ankles," says Walton.
2. Awesome Abs
That swimming can strengthen your arms, legs, shoulders, and glutes is obvious. Less so is the benefit it has on your core. "Water is 724 times more dense than air and provides a constant and consistent resistance that forces the entire body to get involved in creating forward momentum," says Walton. The core, which holds everything together, gets amazing toning in the process, without a single crunch or situp.
3. A Stronger Heart
Swimming is a huge boon to your aerobic fitness, too. It forces your body to learn a new breathing pattern—being facedown in water will do that pretty quickly. "By expanding the depth and volume of each breath, you're forcing the lungs and heart to process oxygen more efficiently," says Walton. Your heart muscle will literally grow stronger.
Swimming is a pretty great confidence booster, too. Learning or honing a new skill, overcoming the nerves associated with the potential risks, and finding the zone in which you're totally one with the water is extremely empowering. "Setting the goal to swim 25 metres [standard pool length] or more can be a life-changing experience," says Walton. "It's one that I see over and over again as a coach and, in my opinion, is possibly the greatest benefit of swimming for many people."
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.