Swimming for Exercise, Swimming Lessons

I am recovering from a back injury I suffered last year. My physical therapist provided me with a swimming regimen to help strengthen the relevant muscles and increase my mobility. Can I keep up my exercises during the Nine Days, or should I wait until after Tisha B’Av to continue? I should add that I am not incapacitated due to my injury, but do suffer some degree of discomfort.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Technically, swimming is forbidden only when done for pleasure. If done for exercise or in taking swimming lessons it is permitted (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 551:16). However, there is a very strong custom especially among Ashkenazi Jews to avoid swimming altogether in this period – possibly because it’s impossible to swim without enjoying the bathing, or because it is considered a potentially dangerous activity and should be avoided at such an inauspicious time.

Therefore, even if a person swims primarily for exercise, he should preferably find different types of exercise during this period. However, if there is a specific reason swimming is better for him, especially with the lesser amount of pressure it places on the body while in weightless state, then it is definitely okay. This would certainly be applicable in your case as well.

The same rule applies to swimming lessons. Although they are not for pleasure (and many children positively cannot stand them), if the lessons could be postponed till after Tisha B’Av, that would be strongly preferred. In fact, swimming pools which service the Orthodox community and which have separate hours for men and women will typically not be open at all during this time.

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