Everybody should swim. Local swimming pools should always be busy. Sadly they are not and even sadder is learning that many have closed as a result. Yet there are so many benefits to be gained from swimming, the most obvious being that water can be a real risk to life. Here though we look specifically at the health benefits of swimming, and why anyone who claims to be health and fitness orientated should include an element of swimming in their weekly regime. After reading the article, you’ll probably start looking for your local swimming pools. So if you do consider yourself open to new ideas, or you simply haven’t thought of swimming previously, then read on and see why incorporating it into your life could prove to be the best decision that you have ever made.
So what’s so good about swimming and why should everybody swim?
Before we even consider how you can benefit from swimming, we should consider some real hard evidence in support of the statement that swimming is good for you. Let’s start with the most obvious. If you’ve ever watched the Olympics you’ll no doubt have seen the swimming events and moreover the participants. If this is the case then you’ll know that the bodies presented by the athletes are both lean and strong, fit and healthy looking and something to truly aspire to. That of course doesn’t mean that 10 lengths down the local pool every other week will be greatly transformational, they are after all professional athletes, but if that is what the effect of swimming has on the body you’ll be more than happy with the potential outcomes. They themselves are clear examples demonstrating how swimming can be hugely impactful on your weight, muscle mass, flexibility, strength and body tone. So what are the potential benefits for you? Well let’s take a closer look:-
Cardio and Strength
Swimming is unquestionably a great source of cardiovascular exercise, in that it raises the heart rate and pushes the body hard, and at times to its limit. At the same time however it can also count towards your strength training. You are propelling yourself through the water using the strength of your body against the resistance of the water that is provided by its density. The muscles across your body are therefore in a state of constant resistance and thus get a thorough an efficient workout at the same time as your most important muscle is fully exercised i.e. your heart.
Running can sometimes hurt your knees and ankles as your body weight is constantly pounded through your joints onto the hard surface below. If you do not believe this, then go for a short run, or better yet speak with someone you know who runs regularly. Swimming however is low impact. Your body is evenly supported by the water in which you swim and therefore there is nowhere near the level of impact to your joints compared to running or other forms of exercise. Less impact means you can usually last longer in each workout or over time and it also reduces the risk to you of sustaining an injury. Nothing stops your training quicker than an injury, and injury prevention is always preferable to cure!
We all believe ourselves to be experts at breathing, after all we have been doing it for as long as we have been alive. But far too many people breathe too shallowly and their lung capacity is restricted or is not fully utilised. Swimming teaches you the importance of breathing – try breathing under water! It also maximises and increases your lung capacity as you draw fuller and deeper breaths, in order to take fewer of them. This increased capacity will benefit you away from the pool when it comes to other exercises such as cycling or running, or simply in your daily general life. It can also be beneficial to those with breathing conditions such as asthma, and improve their quality of life. So by using the pool more often, you are not only benefitting your other forms of exercise, perhaps even making you more competitive, but you are also improving your everyday existence – what isn’t there to like about that!
Swimming doesn’t discriminate, and anyone can do it. After learning a few basics, regardless of your abilities and whether you are doing constant fast lengths, or occasional widths, any time in the pool will benefit your general health and fitness. Swimming is all inclusive and can also offer the opportunity to enjoy time together as a family, whilst also training, or permit you to the chance to train alone.
For centuries there has been the obsession with physical health and fitness. Previously few spoke of mental wellbeing and it has only recently been identified as being as equally important to a long and happy life as physical fitness. You should not neglect your mental health when it comes to your exercise choices, and swimming offers a great way of combining both.
Any exercise fires the endorphins around the body making you feel better. But swimming can also help the mind to. It is fully immersive and a great source of stress relief. Being supported in water and floating, perhaps even being deprived of your phone for your time in the water are all positives when it comes to mental health. If you can boost both your mind and body at the same time, that’s great. Swimming can and this is a major benefit of participation.
Swimming is said to be anti-aging. People who swim regularly have been assessed as having bodies up to 20 years younger than their driving licences would testify. In a time when everyone is conscious of the aging process, being able to slow it somewhat is a great thing to achieve through swimming.
Not only is swimming mentally relaxing, but it can also prove to be stimulating at the same time. When swimming, blood flow to the brain increases by up to 14%. So whilst swimming might not be proven to make you smarter, it seems to be a smart choice to choose swimming!
Muscles You Never Knew…
There is a phrase relating to pain in the muscles where you didn’t even realise you had muscles. It is possible that this phrase originates from swimming as it truly is a full body workout, engaging all of the muscles in your body, from your core, to your back, neck arms and legs etc. Imagine being in a gym and trying to workout using weights to hit every muscle group in the body – it would take forever! The resistance provided by the water means also that you actually have to spend less time exercising for the same results as other traditional forms of training. Anything that offers a full body workout in less time has to be a winner right?!
Away from the pool you might think that swimming has nothing to offer. You’d be wrong. Have you been on a holiday, only to refuse a boat trip or diving experience because you didn’t like the idea of being in the water. Through swimming you can open up a number of adventures both at sea and inland. Obviously there will be risks to be managed, but also remember that not being able to swim at all is perhaps the biggest risk!
Swimming has so much to offer, and you’ll probably be surprised to learn just what this includes. It is physically demanding whilst being mentally relaxing; it is less impactful than running, yet offers a whole body workout in comparison; it can be life-saving as well as life-changing. The benefits are numerous and the risks small. So whilst you should return to the gym to undertake your traditional training, and whilst there is nothing wrong in hitting the road for a run at any time, it is probably wise to no longer overlook swimming. To do so is to the detriment of your own mental and physical health, and as a final reminder think once more of the professional swimmers and how the pool has benefitted them. With that in mind, it is clearly time that you took the plunge and started swimming.