By Iulia Soerensen, BSC KIN., PTS, FIS, OAS, WaterART
All individuals, regardless of age, benefit from swimming, and may continue engaging in the activity for a lifetime. Furthermore, swimming is a sport for all age groups, regardless of skill and fitness level. As an added bonus, swimming is a very pleasant way to cool down on a hot summer day!
This article will outline the extensive physical and mental benefits of swimming.
Improved Heart Health
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise that allows you to maintain an elevated heart rate throughout the entire workout. This is because moderately paced swimming is a highly aerobic physical activity that strengthens and conditions the heart muscle, allowing it to be more efficient in pumping blood throughout the rest of your body.
An added bonus: Swimming is an activity that provides a significant calorie burn, hence it is great for weight loss and/or maintaining a healthy weight.
Build Muscle Tone and Strength
Swimming provides a total body workout. Water is about twelve times denser than air. It creates resistance that you have to work against in order to propel yourself through the water and travel forward. Every kick and arm stroke is a resistance exercise, similar to lifting weights while exercising on land, providing muscle tone and strength.
Depending on an individual’s body type, it may be easier for some to gain muscle quicker and ‘bulk up’ more than others. If you are looking to tone your muscles without the added bulk, swimming will allow you to do that!
Another benefit to swimming is that it gives you a great stretch from head to toe as you reach forward, lengthening your body.
Swimming is a fun way to remain active yearlong without having to step foot into a gym. In fact, swimming may not even feel like a workout. Take your swim to an outdoor pool this summer and you will likely enjoy your swim that much more! The great thing about swimming is that it allows you to release feel good chemicals known as endorphins. These natural chemicals make you feel great, both physically and mentally, while helping alleviate stress.
Tip: To prevent boredom while swimming, try to vary your swimming strokes. The most common swimming strokes include breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle/front crawl. Try swimming 50 meters freestyle, 50 meters breaststroke, 50 meters legs only flutter kick (holding a flutter board), 50 meters arms only freestyle (pull buoy between knees). Depending on your fitness level, repeat this stroke combination two to four times.
Pain Free Exercise
Swimming is a low impact physical activity, meaning that stresses placed on the various joints of the body while exercising, including the knees and hips, are minimized. This means that you can challenge yourself in the pool without the added harsh impact on joints (this is very common with land exercise). Additionally, your body feels lighter when submerged in water. This makes the pool an ideal place to exercise, especially if you have osteoarthritis in the knees and/or hips. In fact, water-based exercise improves the use of affected joints and helps to decrease and manage pain from osteoarthritis.
Meditative and Relaxing
Swimming will evoke a relaxation response similar in the way yoga does. This is in large part due to the constant stretching and relaxing of muscles while swimming, combined with the deep rhythmic breathing.
GENERAL TIPS FOR SWIMMING
- Start with low to moderate intensity swimming in order to warm up all of the muscles and joints of the body.
- Bring a water bottle to the pool. Many individuals are unaware that they will perspire while swimming. Similar to exercising on land, any form of physical activity, including swimming, will cause perspiration. Remember to stop for small sips of water throughout your swimming session in order to keep you cool and well hydrated.
- If you haven’t exercised in a long time, it is highly recommended that you see a physician prior to swimming and let them know that you are planning on becoming more physically active.
- Try and finish your pool workout with a series of gentle stretches. You may perform the stretches in the pool’s shallow end or on deck.
Not a swimmer? It’s not too late to learn to swim! Many recreation and community centres offer swimming lessons for individuals of all ages.