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Swimming laps at Kelly Pool in Fairmount Park

Looking for affordable ways to stay active in the summer heat? You couldn’t be in a better city.

Philadelphia has 70 outdoor public pools, more than any other city in the United States. During pool season – which started last week (check out the opening schedule here) – these pools are open to everyone, entirely free of charge.

Our pools offer ideal opportunities for Philadelphians to get moving without overheating. Water draws heat away from the body much faster than air does. It provides natural resistance. And it cushions the body, so exercise done in the water is much easier on joints and bones than exercises done on land.


  • Water walking:You need not know how to swim to take advantage of the pools! All of Philadelphia’s public pools have shallow ends (two, three and/or four feet), and in fact only five pools have water that goes deeper than five feet. Walking in the water requires more exertion than walking on land, while giving your pavement-pounded joints a rest.

Try: Walking in waist-deep or chest-deep water, standing upright with your shoulders back and your core engaged (to avoid strain on your back). Try to walk as you would out of the water, with your whole foot making contact with the ground (heel first, then ball), rather than just your toes. Walk backwards and sideways to work other muscles. Lift your knees higher or pump your arms to increase intensity.

  • Water aerobics:This summer, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation is increasing amenities and programming at a handful of pools city-wide through a special project called Swim Philly (formerly known as the Pop-Up Pool Project). Starting in July, Swim Philly will bring free Aqua Zumba, water aerobics and/or pool-deck yoga to:

Follow Swim Philly on Instagram to stay up to date on class schedules, pool closings, and other news.

Mander (2140 N. 33rd St. in Strawberry Mansion) and Vogt (4131 Unruh Ave. in the Northeast) have also been known to offer water workout classes for a small fee.

Relaxing after water aerobics at Mander

Try: Suggesting the idea of classes to your own neighborhood pool staff or recreation leader; it might be something your pool would want to try in the future.

  • Swimming: A fantastic full-body workout, swimming builds endurance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness. In 2014, 29% of Philadelphia adults went for a swim – a 38% increase from the year before!

Try: Swimming a mile (60 laps in a 25-meter pool) – whether in a day, a week, or over the course of the summer.

Additional tips:

  • For people with disabilities,Carousel House (4300 Ave. of the Republic in West Fairmount Park) offers year-round programming at their indoor pool.
  • For adults,“Adult Swim,” which takes place at most Philadelphia pools the last hour of the pool-day (6-7pm during the week and 4-5pm on weekends) tends to be less crowded, making it a great time for swimming, water walking and other exercises.
  • For those who want to learn to swim, most pools offer free lessons (usually – though not always exclusively – for kids). Space is limited, so talk to your neighborhood pool staff as soon as your pool opens to learn more.
  • For everyone, just because you’re immersed in water doesn’t mean you’re hydrated. Don’t forget your water bottle, and drink up!

Interested, but worried that the water might be dirty? Check out this overview of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s role in keeping the water clean and what you can do to help. (Also keep in mind that the perception of public pools as unclean may have more to do with historical race and class prejudice than actual risk of getting sick.)

In season (mid-June to mid-August), Philadelphia’s public pools are open Monday-Friday from 11am-7pm and Saturday-Sunday 12-5pm. Note that not all hours are open-admission; 11am-1pm on weekdays is often reserved for camps and other organized children’s groups, 4-5pm for swim lessons or swim team, 5-6pm for families (no unaccompanied minors), and 6-7pm (4-5pm on weekends) for adults. Swim attire is required to enter the water. The exact schedule and rules may vary by pool; check with staff on-site for the most accurate information.