We’ve all seen competitive swimmers set records in the water. While it’s exciting to watch, most of us won’t achieve competitive swimming levels. That’s OK.
Non-competitive swimming is still an ideal fitness activity throughout the year. It’s an especially good option during the warm months, and indoor pools at local schools, fitness and recreation centers and municipal facilities make swimming a year round activity.
So why include swimming in your fitness routine? We have 10 reasons:
- Nearly anyone can swim, regardless of age, weight or past fitness habits. Even non-swimmers can benefit from activities such as “jogging” or even walking in the water. The water supports the body and adds helpful resistance to every submerged body movement.
- It’s a low-impact activity that’s easy on the joints. If you have joint problems or are recovering from an injury, swimming can help you keep moving. Research published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found swimming is a more effective way to recover than resting.
- Swimming helps reduce stress. Swimming can induce the flow of endorphins — hormones that allow the body to more comfortably respond to strenuous activity or pain. Swimming can create the same mood boost as what's known as runners high. In addition, research has found being submerged reduces the amount of sensory information your body is constantly subjected to. This can result in a feeling of calm, which offers relief to patients suffering from conditions related to chronic stress.
- Swimming can help turn back the biological clock. Indiana University researchers found regular swimmers had several key health measurement results similar to younger people, including blood pressure, blood chemistry, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular and central nervous system performance, cognitive functions and muscle mass. The difference can be up to 20 years of aging, and this swimming benefit can continue up to age 70.
- You can get both cardio and strength training benefits from swimming. Unlike other activities where you can stop, when you’re in the water, if you stop, you sink. So you have motivation to keep moving, which results in a good cardio work. While swimming, your muscles are under constant resistance, which results in effective strength training.
- Swimming uses muscles that don’t routinely get a workout. How often during your routine day do you rotate your arms over your head or kick your legs back and forth? Swimming will work those muscle groups along with the core muscles in your trunk.
- You can build lung capacity by swimming. A study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology showed swimmers had better tidal volume than runners. Tidal volume is the amount of air that goes into and out of the lungs during normal breathing. Tests on swimmers also showed lower resting heart rates and blood pressure.
- Swimming increases endurance for other activities. If you’re a runner, cyclist or water paddler, the higher lung capacity developed while swimming will allow you to go farther without becoming as winded.
- Swimmers have better brain function! A Journal of Physiology study found blood flow to the brain increased up to 14 percent when test subjects were submerged up to their hearts. This may be the result of water pressure on the chest. The research continues to see if water-based activities boost blood flow to the brain more efficiently than land-based workouts.
- It’s fun! Go to a recreational pool and note how many smiles you see. With swimming, you can build fitness while having fun.
Before engaging in a fitness program, it’s a good idea to check in with your health care provider. If you’re planning on competitive swimming, a sports physical may be advisable.
If you’d like personalized training guidance, many fitness centers can connect you with a qualified trainer.
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.