In many corners of the fitness world, swimming is considered the perfect exercise. It allows a full-body cardio workout without the wear-and-tear that other fitness forms like running bring with them. And a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health found lower mortality rates among swimmers than runners, walkers, and non-exercisers.

Yet nearly half of all American adults can't swim and are afraid in deep water in swimming pools, according to a Gallup poll. Another 40 percent is scared to even put their heads under water. If you're among them, why not give this great form of fitness a second chance? Beginner swim classes are available at gyms and recreation centers around the country for adults as well as kids. Adult swim classes focus on the unique challenges of learning swimming techniques later in life, when skill development can be more difficult. Despite the challenge, you can learn to swim as an adult. Learning to swim isn't just a good safety measure; it will allow you to participate in a refreshing, low-impact form of exercise that's beneficial to seniors as well as kids.

Gaining Confidence
Whether you're just rusty in the pool from lack of practice or you've never set foot in the water, you need to learn to be comfortable in the water. Concentrating on improving in these areas will help you build up to effective workouts. To practice, find a community pool or lake to try a few basic moves:
1. Get in and out of the water.
If you're afraid of the water, even getting in and out of it may present a challenge to you. Spend some time getting used to what it feels like to have your body in the water. See if you can walk out to where the water's deeper. Then go a little further, until it covers your shoulders (and while your head is still out of the water). As you get used to the feeling of being in water, it will seem less intimidating.

2. Practice swimming motions.
Put on a life jacket and practice moving your arms in a swimming motion in the water. Then hang onto the side of the pool and practice kicking your legs. If you've taken some introductory swim classes, you can work on perfecting your technique. If not, get used to how these motions feelin the water.

3. Submerge your head.
You may not be ready to try this without the support of a swim instructor, but if you're up to the challenge, you can practice what it feels like to exhale under water. While standing in the pool, bend down and put your face in the water. Blow air out your nose and mouth before standing upright again. Get used to how it feels to breathe out underwater without losing your breath. You can also try submerging your entire head and exhaling bubbles into the water through your nose and mouth, bringing your head out of the water to inhale. If you don't feel comfortable enough to try these exercises on your own, find a beginner's swim class, and get started! It's never too late to take the first strokes to better fitness.