Swimming. It’s good for you. In fact, it turns out that swimming is better than good, it’s awesome, and not just because it’s an amazing low-impact, fun way to lose weight and get fit. Swimming has a plethora of benefits, which is why it is one of the most recommended cardio workouts in the world today. So embrace your inner dolphin and get ready to enjoy all the benefits which swimming can bring.
Increased strength and muscle tone
If you compare it with many other cardio workouts, swimming is a fantastic way to increases muscle tone and strength while enhancing your cardiovascular fitness.
Swimming is much better than most other aerobic workouts because of the medium you exert your body through (and unless you’re Cleopatra it’s going to be water). While you’re swimming, because you are moving your body through water which is much more dense than air, every stroke and kick you make has more resistance than, for example, jogging.
The result: your body experiences a tougher muscular workout. It’s kind of like using the resistance machines at your gym, except you’re in the water and wearing fewer clothes (probably).
Reduced stress on your joints
Since 90 percent of your body weight is buoyant in water, while you swim you have to bear only 10 percent of it, which makes it a low-impact workout for your body.
Weight-bearing activities, even if it’s just your body weight, such as running, jogging, jumping and sprinting apply greater stress to your lower joints, which increases your risk of injury (e.g. knee pain).
It also means you have to take more rest and recovery days. Swimming on the other hand allows you to work your body at ease, without causing stress on your joints, bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles.
In fact, people undergoing physiotherapy use swimming as a primary form of exercise to work stiff muscles, loosen joints and restore their overall range of motion and flexibility, which are often lost due to a long period of stagnation from rest.
Many gym exercises function on isolation of body parts; for example, today might be leg day and tomorrow, core day. Swimming, on the other hand, is a full-body workout: it incorporates a variety of motions which are easy on the joints and muscles, while preventing stiffness of your ligaments.
While swimming, your core and hips are engaged, your legs move rapidly and as required and your arms work through the resistance of water with wide arcs. With each stroke you make, you increase the flexibility of your body and stretch yourself entirely.
It is important that you stretch before and after swimming to maintain joint range of motion and flexibility and prevent injury due to stiffness.
Improved cardiovascular fitness
Swimming strengthens every muscle in your body, including the heart. The aerobic nature of swimming strengthens your heart, and improves its function in pumping blood throughout the body. While swimming, the water surrounding you exerts pressure on your body, which enhances blood circulation to the heart.
Further, studies indicate that aerobic workouts can fight your body’s inflammatory response, thereby reducing your risk of heart disease. If you swim for just 30 minutes every day, you reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 30-40%, according the American Heart Association.
Moreover, the Annals of Internal Medicine describes aerobic exercise as an effective means of reducing blood pressure. According to numerous studies, you can substantially lower your blood pressure with just 30 minutes of swimming, three times in a week. Another study discovered that the resting heart rate of a person could be reduced with regular swimming for just a period of 10 weeks.
And finally, research indicates that regular swimming can lower bad cholesterol or LDL levels in the blood and raise good cholesterol or HDL levels. Are you ready to jump into the pool yet?
Reduced risk of diabetes
If you are at risk of diabetes, good news, studies show that swimming can help with diabetes too (as always check with your doctor first).
A study indicated that men who lost 500 calories per week from cardio exercises reduced their risk of type-2 diabetes by 6 percent. Fortunately, you can burn more than 500 calories a week with swimming.
Just half an hour of swimming breaststroke three times a week can help you burn about 900 calories, depending on your body weight. This will reduce your risk of diabetes by more than 10 percent. So a rigorous swimming session just once a week may reduce your risk by 16 percent or more.
According to research conducted by the University of Maryland, individuals with type-1 diabetes can increase insulin sensitivity with swimming. Furthermore, the American Diabetics Association recommends 3 sessions of swimming per week, totaling up to 150 minutes every week, of moderate aerobic activity such as swimming to enhance glycemic control.
When you combine a low-glycemic index diet with regular swimming, you gain much greater control over your blood sugar levels.
High calorie burn
Swimming breaststroke for just 30 minutes can torch around 360 calories depending on your level of intensity and speed and your overall body weight. With walking, you can only burn around 99 calories in 30 minutes and cycling will burn approximately 240 calories within the same time.
A common misunderstanding amongst many people is that swimming cannot burn as many calories as land exercises because the water is cooler than the average body temperature.
Contrary to this belief, modern studies indicate that swimming is actually one of the biggest calorie-burners, which beats many other workouts because of the lack of stress applied to the joints.
So just because you’re not sweating, doesn’t mean you’re not torching calories – have you seen Olympic swimmers?!
Improved symptoms of asthma
Exercise-induced symptoms are common in asthma sufferers working out in the gym or any dry-air environment. However, swimming allows a person to breathe in warm, moist-air, thus reducing the chances of symptoms while exercising, but not if it’s a chlorine pool since the by-products of chlorine can trigger allergies and asthma).
Some studies even indicate that swimming can improve respiratory function, increase lung capacity and improve asthma overall, but stick to a salt-water pool (or the ocean) for this.
A worldwide survey by Speedo which included about 4000 swimmers showed that swimming is one of the best ways to reduce emotional stress. The survey indicated that 74 percent of the people chose swimming as a means of unwinding. 60 percent agreed that just being in water feels good and 70 percent stated that swimming refreshes them.
It doesn’t matter what level of intensity you choose, swimming can boost your mood. Studies indicate that amateur and professional swimmers experience less depression, tension, confusion, anger and irritability after aerobic workouts. However, these studies don’t indicate that swimming is a magic potion for eternal happiness. The mood-lift one may experience after swimming is simply because of the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Endorphins stimulate feelings of pleasure and happiness. It also numbs emotional pain and possesses similar characteristics to morphine. Just like the ‘runners high’ everyone talks about, in fact, we’re 90% sure that this is why dolphins always look so happy.
Moreover, swimming allows the body and mind to relax, just like yoga because there is a lot of stretching and flexibility motions involved which increase circulation to bodily organs and the brain. Perhaps the best feature of swimming is the fact that it is the only workout with minimal distractions. All you will be able to hear underwater is your breathing and the water – and it is thus, a form of meditation as well.
Finally, studies show that swimming can alter the brain via a process called hippocampal neurogenesis which literally means growing new braincells. In other words, you can bask in a pool of endorphins while burning a ton of calories and getting smarter (probably) at the same time. It’s win-win-win all round, so grab your gear and jump in!