Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States. In addition, swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get the aerobic physical activity needed for a healthy life; just two and half hours a week can help prevent the onset of chronic disease and illness.

So why is swimming so great? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, can lead to improved health for everyone, but especially those with diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems. Swimmers have about half the risk of death compared with inactive people.

Swimming is a very low impact activity, great for people of all ages. There's no ground impact when you swim, and so you protect the joints from stress and strain. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation strongly recommends swimming and water activities for this reason.

People report enjoying water-based exercise more than exercising on land. People also tend to be able to exercise longer in water than on land without increased effort or joint or muscle pain.

It is also great for building cardiorespiratory fitness. It can really help improve your endurance because the resistance of the water makes the muscles work hard without the strain or impact that is experienced on land.

Swimming can burn a lot of calories, depending on how efficiently you swim and how buoyant you are. Swimming uses all of your major muscle groups at the same time. Even a leisurely swim can burn about 400 calories per hour.

Water-based activities can also improve mental health and mood in both men and women. Swimming leaves you with a positive feeling after exercise and swimming with others in a public pool fosters community spirit.

To sum it up, water-based exercise can help people with chronic diseases, improve mental health, improve quality of life, improve bone health, and decrease disability.

Who doesn’t love taking a break from the summer heat to cool down in the water? Plus, it can easily be a family affair. Swimming and other water activities are something the entire family can share.

If you are looking for a place to get active in the water this summer check out Adventure Oasis Water Park, 2100 S. Hub Drive in Independence. Adventure Oasis offers swimming programs, exercise classes and much more at a great price! For more information on classes, times and prices please visit www.ci.independence.mo.us/ParksAndRec/AdvenOasis.aspx.

Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.