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What are the benefits of swimming? In this article we going to consider some of the possibilities. It’s true that not everyone likes to get into the water, in fact some people are a little scared. Most of us learnt to swim when we’re really young, very quickly developing a liking for water and enjoying being in it.
For those that have a fear of being in water, it’s possible something happened earlier on in their life that made them frightened, perhaps that happened to you? For example, you may have fallen into a swimming pool or river, perhaps you may have swallowed some water while learning to swim or just suffered from panic. Anything like this can cause a lasting fear, but the good news is that it can be overcome.
There is no denying that getting into a swimming pool makes you feel clean, fresh and full of energy. Fact is, water is 12 times more-dense than air, which means that swimming is a better way to tone your muscles than any other cardiovascular exercise. You feel lighter in the water but of course you have to work hard as you swim.
The Main Benefits of Swimming
Swimming is a great way to work out because of the water resistance that occurs, it’s like being in the gym with weights attached. The difference though, is that being in the water helps to spread the resistance evenly across the body so you get a better all-round toning of the muscles.
Because swimming is one of the best ways to get your body into shape, it helps to lessen the risk of you developing an illness, your weight will stay balanced and you’ll notice that your mood gets a positive boost. There can be a temptation just to get started, which might lead to overdoing it. Start slowly and if you have any health concerns, make sure you speak to your doctor before embarking on a routine.
Your breathing should improve as you swim because you have to regulate it properly. As your head might not be above the water all of the time, you have to get into a rhythm which is good for you. It may also help to increase your lung capacity as you’ll tend to breathe more deeply with the regulated pattern.
The atmosphere in a swimming pool tends to be damp as opposed to the gym where it is normally fairly dry. Having more moisture in the air can be better for you as it’s easier to breath and this can be of particular benefit to anyone with breathing problems such as asthma. The dry air in a gym can be quite hard on the lungs.
Exercising More Muscles
We’ve already mentioned how your muscles get evenly toned when you swim, but the benefits can be much better than in the gym. If you work out in the gym you tend to concentrate on one area of the body at a time. You may lift weights in order to tone your arm muscles or use the running machine for your legs, but with swimming you tend to use a lot of your muscles at the same time.
Not only do you use a lot of muscles at the same time but you use them differently to the way you do so in the gym. Swimming movements tend to be much wider and longer, using muscles that might not get as much exercise in the gym. You’ll also be stretching more as you reach out with your strokes and this is obviously beneficial too.
Easier to Exercise if You’re Overweight
Because water supports the weight of the body, swimming is good for those who are overweight, obese or even have had an accident. This is due to the fact that it’s difficult to overdo things and damage yourself while in water.
When your body’s in water it’s protected, to some degree, in a way it isn’t with other sports. For example, runners can often suffer with bad knees due to the pounding they get as the foot makes contact with the ground, this kind of damage doesn’t happen to swimmers.
Good for the Mind
Strange as it may seem, it’s also thought that swimming can help with relaxation in a similar way to how responses to yoga does. It helps to boost endorphins in the body which are responsible for feelings of wellbeing. This, together with the stretching you do, has the kind of effects that meditation can have.
Other Possible Benefits
According to a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, swimming may have some beneficial effects on building bone mass. The research referred to could only be carried out on rats, but it did seem to show that those which swam in a controlled environment saw increases in bone mass. It hasn’t been proven to necessarily be the case in humans, but it is an interesting possibility.
Another of the benefits of swimming is for burning calories. It’s normally thought of as just good for exercising but it can help to burn off fat too. Although it depends on which stroke you do, with the butterfly probably the most strenuous, it is possible to burn more calories off by swimming for the same amount of time as running.
This is where a fitness tracker with a built-in program for swimming can come in useful. Not all of them can track your swimming, but this feature is becoming more popular. Some sports watches are also able to help with recording your swimming.
We’ve already mentioned that when you swim the body’s endorphins are boosted, making you feel good, but it’s also possible it may help combat depression and reduce stress. This is because the sound of the water and your breathing blocks out other distractions as you focus inwardly. The result of this can be a reversal of stress to the brain.
Could it be that another of the benefits of swimming is living longer? Obviously the exercise you get has to be beneficial, but a study reported by the Arnold School of Public Health from the University of South Carolina published in 2009 stated that, “Swimming cuts men’s risk of dying by 50 per cent compared to runners, walkers and sedentary peers”. Now there’s a good reason to jump into the pool!
Using a rowing machine is said to be one of the best exercises in the gym because it gives a full body workout, but it seems that swimming might top it. It’s an activity that can be enjoyed socially as well as to get fit, it’s not only good for the body but for the mind too and it may even help to build up your bones as well.
Once you start to go to the pool, you’ll probably find you get addicted (in a good way) and if you have a fear of water, just take it steady. Remember to start off slowly, don’t overdo it and if you have any health concerns, speak to your doctor.