During my current physical I asked my doctor the reason for my persistent shin pain. Her opinion was that running can take a toll on various parts of the body, particularly the leg joints. She suggested that swimming is a life-long exercise and very safe for the body. The low impact nature of swimming is apparent, but question is, is there a difference whether I swim in cold water vs hot. Our local Y has 2 pools, one substantially warmer than the other.

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    Is your question about swimming? Or the temperature of the water? Your title says one thing, then you ask a difference question in the body.
    – JohnP
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 18:55
  • I guess swimming vigorously in too warm a water may be a very bad idea. Unlike when doing physical exertion in the air, in the water there is no way your body can evacuate the excess heat. Cold temperature (above a reasonable point) should be better. But that is only a guess. In warm water, your body will try to get rid of excess heat by widening your capillaries and pumping blood faster, all in vain since there is no physical way your body can get colder than the surrounding water. Definitely a very bad idea.
    – Mephisto
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 12:55

2 Answers 2


If you are young and you have no past injuries to your knee ligaments, I suggest you don't give up running but rather focus on a better running technique, lowering your mileage for some time, changing your program or even trying different shoes instead. Medical doctors who aren't specially devoted to sport medicine are usually prone to sending you to swim at the very first sign of any discomfort. I do love swimming but I hate that attitude that arises from ignorance.

Do an internet search on "shin splints", it is a common annoyance among runners but it is not reason enough to quit unless you have really tried modifying another variables. By simply inserting extra rest days among runs your problem might be over. Or, as said, change shoes.

Besides that, swimming is not problem-free. Not for your knees. Google for "breaststroke knee" or "swimmer knee".

The last MD who told me to swim was a young but really obese guy with obviously no idea of sports. Many of them say blindly the same swimming-is-safe crap as a universal true for every problem. But no sport is 100% problem-free. The best sport for you is that one with the ability to motivate you and keep you engaged for years.

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    Talking about concerns -- I had to deal with these two: Swimmer's ear (solution: proper ear plugs) + Swimmer's shoulder (solution: compensation exercise).
    – tsykora
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 14:07
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    @tsykora I didn't go to the doctor but I suspect I was getting swimmer knee. I simply stopped swimming breastroke. The pain remained there for months. Swimming is great and I can't wait for the spring to arrive (I swim in an open pool) but I don't understand why so many doctors present it as a safe alternative to every other sport. Shin pain? - quit running and go to swim. Shoulder tendonitis? - quit weightlifting and go to swim. Tennis elbow? - quit playing tennis and go to swim. Heck, what will they say when facing someone with swimmer knee? - quit swimming and go to swim, ahem...
    – Mephisto
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 14:37
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    I don't know man. Swimming is just generally considered as low-impact exercise. Look at it this way: you have a little bit overweight person who wants to get into shape. Starts running, damage his/her knees, ankles because of slight overweight + bad techniques (in most cases). Easy solution: go swim. Those swim problems we mentioned start to appear once you start training and take it more seriously (correct? maybe?). So, IMHO!, it looks like for an average ppl it makes sense to tell them: Go swim because on just average level it will not cause you a harm. Dunno, keep discussing..
    – tsykora
    Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 15:55

Swimming is generally considered a "safe" exercise, because it is low impact, so less wear and tear on the body. It is also a full body sport, which makes it better than other low impact alternatives such as cycling, where you don't get much upper body workout.

However, as have been pointed out in comments, you can still sustain injury if you swim with poor form, or use pool accessories (such as swim hand paddles) that are not correctly sized/used. Both of these can lead to stress and overuse injuries, especially if you are exercising at a higher intensity.

Every single sport has its own particular hazards. Swimming is usually a safer exercise, because it can easily be done at levels from very low exertion to high exertion, and it is very low impact (I count pushing off walls as an impact).

Shin splints are typically either an overuse injury, or an acute stress fracture type of thing. Shin splints are kind of a catch-all term for several things that can affect the lower leg. Lowering your mileage, getting new shoes that are matched to your running style, and lowering the intensity are all things you can do to help alleviate the pain. You may need to take a few weeks/months to let things heal before you restart running.

For your second question about temperature, it's personal preference. You may notice that you get fatigued faster in warmer water, and in any case, drink water. Yes, you will sweat when swimming, even in cold water.

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