By now we all know that swimming is one of the healthiest activities (sports) one can do to improve their physical strength and mental well-being (overall health). Swimming builds muscles while stretching the body, working the cardiorespiratory system, and having a positive effect on one’s mental health (mental state). And, it does all of this while being low-impact and, essentially, non-weight-bearing.
With all the benefits of swimming and warmer months (summer) just around the corner, one may be wondering if it’s possible to swim too much. Or, perhaps, more specifically, how much is too much swimming?
Yes, it is possible to swim too much. It is, in fact, possible to have too much of a good thing (i.e., too much of a good thing can be a bad thing).
As a general guide, beginner swimmers should not be swimming more than 3 or 4 laps per session (roughly 20-30 minutes max) whereas advanced swimmers can swim for up to 2 hours. However, this figure is subjective as it will depend on the individual swimming experience and age group.
Swimming too much too soon can have negative impacts on one’s mental and physical well-being such as energy loss (i.e., fatigue), [overuse] injury, and/or lack of motivation. Also at one point, swimming extra miles will have reduced benefits to the individual from a fitness perspective.
To determine how much is too much for oneself, it is important to know (or determine) the individual swim level. Swimming level takes into consideration one’s experience, skill level, and energy level. Once this has been determined, the swimmer will want to build slowly from this base (i.e., you do not want to end up doing too much, too soon).
The 10 Percent Rule states that one should increase their weekly distance (volume) by [no more than] 10%. In other words, if one swims only 1,000 yards per swim this week, then next week they would increase it by 100 yards (10%) and swim 1,100 yards per swim.
Rest and recovery are extremely important and one should not compromise them for any reason. Doing the same activity day in and day out is not the best training plan for the body- it can lead to [overuse] injury and/or stagnation in one’s swimming gains/progress.
While one does want to avoid stagnation in their swim workouts (i.e., doing the same thing every day) and [overuse] injuries, swimming in shorter bouts (30-45 minutes) several days of the week is better than a long swim only a couple of days of the week.
If swimming five-plus days out of the week isn’t for you, you’ll want to aim to swim at least three days per week so that you don’t lose your progress from one swim session/workout to the next and you get a needed break (recovery) between swims.
Again, ultimately, it will depend on the individual level of swimming as to what exactly constitutes too much swimming. Thus, being aware of (and real about) your swim level is a crucial first step in knowing how much swimming is too much for you. But, in general, one can, indeed, swim too much.
- How Much Is Too Much Swimming By Swim Experience Level?
- Much Is Too Much Swimming By Age Group?
- Is It Ok To Swim Every Day? What Happens if You Swim Every Day for A Month?
- How Much Swimming per Day Is Good?
- What Are the Disadvantages of Swimming?
How Much Is Too Much Swimming By Swim Experience Level?
Exactly how much swimming constitutes too much swimming is dependent on one’s swimming level. It’s also worth noting that there are some age-based guidelines as well.
When it comes to levels of swimming there are generally three levels. Those three levels are
One will fall into this level if they have never swam before. Or, if they have only learned a stroke or two thus far. This is a very critical swimming level, and, as such, one will want to keep swim distances (laps) low and spend only a limited amount of time in the water.
One will want to start out swimming only 3-4 laps and then utilize the 10 Percent Rule to increase their training each session (vs week).
The big key here is to avoid doing too much, too soon… go at it and build gradually. Also, focus on form/technique/mechanics.
At the intermediate level, one should be able to safely and comfortably swim for thirty minutes (roughly 1,000 yards of swimming). One’s technique and mechanics are also a lot smoother at this level.
Also, one can typically go for longer bouts without becoming fatigued and/or winded at this level. At this level the 10 Percent Rule is still utilized to increase one’s training, however, it is done every week versus a daily basis. This gradual pacing will help a swimmer to avoid doing too much, too soon (i.e., avoid adverse effects of swimming too much)
At the advanced level, one is able to swim 3,000+ yards with ease [in one session]. Additionally, the time spent swimming per session at this level increases from thirty minutes to one (one plus) hour(s).
One is typically more confident in their swimming technique and mechanics as well. As with beginner and intermediate levels, one will follow the 10 Percent Rule for increasing their training (this should be done weekly as at the intermediate level).
In addition to one’s swim level, age will also be a factor in determining how much swimming is too much. Here are some recommended guidelines by age group
Much Is Too Much Swimming By Age Group?
Ages 5 to 9
One should not swim more than 1 hour (60 minutes) per [training] session and they should have up to (no more than) three training sessions (swims) per week.
Ages 10 to 16
One should not swim more than 2 hours (120 minutes) per [training] session. They should have no more than 6 training (swim) sessions per week.
For the most part, this age group follows the guidelines of those ages 10 to 16. However, at this age [group], it will be more dependent on one’s specific training goals (as well as athleticism and swim level).(Source A)(Source B)
Is It Ok To Swim Every Day? What Happens if You Swim Every Day for A Month?
We all know that swimming is a great workout and has many benefits. We also [now] know that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing… even swimming. There are also guidelines in place for safe and healthy swimming/swim training. Typically, as one age (gets older) their swim time(s )as well as the distance they can swim decrease (i.e., trend downward).
It is worth noting that age is independent of one’s swimming level, though it does have some correlation (i.e., someone in their 80s may only be a beginner because they never learned to swim as a kid whereas a 10-year-old may be an advanced swimmer because they have been swimming since they were in diapers, basically).
With all the different variables out there, one may be pondering whether or not it is ok to swim every day. In short, Yes! Because swimming is low-impact and pretty much 100% non-weight-bearing (while being a whole-body workout) it is OK to swim every day.
In fact, to truly see any kind of results (progress) in your swimming, one will need to swim several days per week- at least 4. And, because swimming is low-impact (gentle on the body) while providing a whole-body workout as well as stretching of the entire body, it can even be utilized on recovery days. The key with this is to balance the duration and intensity of swim/workout sessions respectively between a training workout [swim] session and a recovery [swim] session (i.e., go hard on training days, but be sure to go easy on your recovery days).
Though swimming every day is good for physical and mental health (while being low-impact/non-weight-bearing), one does not have to swim every day to see results.
Here’s how swimming anywhere from one to seven days per week can affect one’s swimming/swim performance (i.e., here’s, roughly, what one will see regarding their progress],
- One day per week: One will not see much progress. They will, essentially, be starting over each swim/workout.
- Two days per week: One may see some improvements, but not enough to make any significant progress in their [swim] training/performance.
- Three days per week: One will maintain a decent level of fitness. However, the progress may plateau (i.e., one may not see much progress or be able to level up their swimming).
- Four days per week: One has a greater potential for improved swim performance.
- Five to seven days per week: For those that are in good health and extremely fit, they can certainly train every day. However, if one is feeling low on energy they should utilize at least one of those swims as a recovery swim (i.e., a low-intensity swim focusing on form/mechanics/technique)
While, generally, it is safe to swim every day, we also know that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Swimming is no exception. Not to mention, no two swimmers are exactly the same.
As such, when determining whether or not you should swim every day (i.e., determining how many days you should swim) here are some factors to consider,
- Potential [overuse] injuries
- Intake (food, drink, and other substances such as nicotine and/or alcohol as well as the air you breathe in/absorb)
- Lifestyle (activity level, sleep schedule, stress level, etc.)
So, as we can see swimming every day of the week is perfectly OK. In fact, to truly see any progress in training, one will want to aim to swim at least 3 days per week. When swimming multiple days of the week, one will want to be mindful of the importance of recovery and listen to their body.
- A resting HR (heart rate) that remains elevated not just in the hours after your training, but into the next day too
- You have sore muscles (especially if they are more sore than usual)
- You’re not able to train (or perform) at your regular intensity
Knowing that it’s OK to swim every day is great. But this may leave some with, at least, a few questions. One of those questions may be in regards to how often one can swim every day. In other words, we know it’s OK (and even good) to swim every day, but how long can one sustain that type of training schedule. Or, more simply put- what happens if one swims every day for a month?
Overall, swimming every day for a month has positive health benefits. The key is, as we have said before, balance. One must balance their training and recovery to not do too much, too soon. Here are three positive effects swimming every day for a month can have on one’s body
- Improved (increased) Lung Capacity
- Reduced average resting heart rate
- Improved [swim] speed (i.e., faster swimming)
Though, by and large, swimming every day is beneficial and does wonders for one’s body and mind, there can be adverse effects if one is not careful.
Here are a few of the negative impacts of swimming daily to be mindful of
- Swimming in a pool daily exposes one’s hair (and skin) to harsh chemicals
- When swimming outdoors daily, one has an increased risk of sun damage to their skin and hair
- A skin rash can develop when one swims daily (generally from chemicals in the pool or microscopic parasites found in open water)
- Dry skin
- Nails may become dry and brittle
- Red eyes when swimming in a pool daily
- If swimming while wearing contacts every day, one is at a greater risk of eye infection
How Much Swimming per Day Is Good?
We have firmly established that swimming has far more benefits to the body and mind than negative effects (disadvantages) and that it’s perfectly okay to swim every day [for some individuals] (both in this article, as well as others on our site). This may lead one to wonder exactly how much swimming per day is good?
Ultimately this will depend on the individual and a few other factors.
As was mentioned earlier in this article, beginner-level swimmers should not be swimming more than 3 or 4 laps per session (roughly 20-30 minutes max) whereas advanced-level swimmers can swim for up to 2 hours.
That said here are some variables that will help you determine a good swim duration for your daily swim:
- Swimming level (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
- Goals (are you swimming for fitness? To lose weight? For a triathlon? etc.)
- Time (how much time do you have each day, and week, to swim/train)
- History (what has your training schedule been like thus far? Are you just starting?)
- Other Training (cross-training, other sports activities)
When swimming every day you will want to assure you change up your swims/workouts so that your progress doesn’t plateau. Swimming continuous laps for 10 to 30 minutes is great for general fitness and well-being, but if you are training for a specific goal you will want to assure some variability.
Variability can come in the form of the duration of the swim (i.e., one day you may swim 30 minutes. The next you may swim an hour. And, the next you may either go back to 30 minutes or increase to 90 minutes.), the distance of the swim (1000 yards, 1500 yards, 1250 yards, etc.), and the intensity of the swim (are you swimming easy continuous laps or mixing it up with drills as well as lower and higher intensity swimming bouts). The exact variations one goes with will depend on their swimming level and goal.
So, depending on your swimming level, your swim/training goal(s), and a few other factors one can safely swim anywhere from 20 or 30 minutes to 2 hours per day. Just be sure to allow for adequate recovery, especially between intense swim/training days.
What Are the Disadvantages of Swimming?
Swimming has a plethora of well-known benefits (as has been sufficiently established) including that it’s a fantastic whole-body workout (builds muscles, works the cardiorespiratory system, and stretches the body), burns tons of calories, and is low-impact. Just to name a few of those benefits.
However, what isn’t discussed very often are the [possible] disadvantages (negative effects/drawbacks/hazards) of swimming.
Though there are few [possible] disadvantages, and most of them are either avoidable or their impact can be lessened (i.e., the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages), it is important to be aware of them.
Being aware of and prepared for these [possible] disadvantages will also be a big help in lessening the impact they may have (and/or possibly eliminating them altogether).
As the famous, animated G.I. Joe once said, “knowing is half the battle”. So, here are 15 [of the most] common, but rarely discussed, disadvantages of swimming:
- [Overuse] Injuries: the most common being Swimmer’s Shoulder and Swimmer’s Knee
- Coldwater temperature: whether it’s a pool or the ocean
- [Harsh] Pool Chemicals: such as chlorine or bromine
- Time-consuming: competitive swimming can be
- Can get expensive: regarding competitive swimming more so than recreational swimming
- [Risk of] Drowning: the proverbial elephant in the room concerning water sports, particularly swimming, but a potential [deadly] disadvantage nonetheless
- Undesired weight gain: whether it is due to increased muscle mass or increased calorie intake
- Dehydration: one can sweat while swimming and thus they can lose fluid and become dehydrated
- Fungal infections: the most common being Athlete’s foot
- Bacterial infections: more common in open water where there is a greater chance of microscopic parasites, but possible in pools as well
- Polluted water (open water swimming more so than pool swimming)
- Winter swimming: due to the colder temps and elements that come with the season
- Cramps: typically in the legs
- Sun exposure (when swimming outdoors)
For more on this topic, we recommend that you check out our post Does Swimming Have Any Negatives?! (Drawbacks Listed)
Though there are some disadvantages that [can] come with swimming, swimming is still one of the greatest physical activities one can participate in. The disadvantages certainly aren’t desirable, but it is important to be aware of them. By being aware of them one will be able to deal with them accordingly. And, in many cases being aware of them allows one to minimize their effects if not avoid them completely.
For more on this, find out Why is Swimming and/or Hydrotherapy Often a Popular Choice for Physical Therapy?
So it is definitely important to be aware of the disadvantages that are possible concerning/when swimming but don’t let those few [potential] disadvantages keep you from getting in a good swim/workout. Let’s be real, any sport or physical activity comes with disadvantages (and benefits).
The key is to be aware of those disadvantages so that you know how to prepare for them and/or deal with them, and maybe even avoid them (not keep you from doing what you enjoy/getting in a good swim/workout).