Jack Lalanne swam 1.5 miles, carrying 70 rowboats with 70 people on his 70th birthday. Swimming was part of his daily workout routine for most of his life. He recognised swimming as the best way to get a full-body workout without the impact associated with most other cardio activities. Fortunately, you don’t have to compete at that level to take advantage of the physical and mental beneﬁts of swimming.
Swimming, for fun or for sport, offers a total body workout. Nearly anyone can do it, including children, young adults, professionals, and the elderly. In addition to the impact it has on the cardiovascular system, swimming can also improve mood and provide opportunities to socialise with like-minded professionals who use the same pool.
Benefits of Swimming
Improves Cardiovascular Function
According to the American Heart Association, a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day can reduce heart disease in women by up to 40 per cent. Increasing the intensity and adding 10 minutes to the workout can help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, thus reducing your risk of a stroke or heart attack. A second study compared the cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and maximum energy output of 46,000 people who were swimmers, runners, walkers, or sedentary. The swimmers performed better on all of the tests, followed by walkers.
The resistance in water is far greater than that in air. Therefore, swimming and water-based exercise will help build muscle faster than land resistance training. When you swim, you use all the large muscle groups: your arms to move forward, your legs for lift and to move faster, your back muscles to help power your arms, and your core to stabilise your body as you move through the water. Regular swimming will help develop your long, lean muscles, which support the smaller muscles you develop during your land-based weight training.
By using all of the body’s muscles at once, stretching and lengthening the body with every stroke, engaging the hips and moving the head from one side to the other, you’ll improve your ﬂexibility. No other single exercise provides the range of motion swimmers experience when moving their body in the water. Heated pools can further improve range of motion and are particularly effective for people who have arthritis or have been sedentary for some time.
Swimming is more effective at burning calories than running on a treadmill. No matter your weight, the water will make you feel lighter and better able to exercise your large muscle groups than if you used land-based gym equipment alone.
Water is calm and relaxing. Going for a regular swim can help you forget about the pressures in your life and help you focus on what’s really important. While swimming, you’re forced to focus on your body and the movements required to keep you moving in the water. This helps the swimmer tune out the rest of the world. Those who enjoyed swimming as a child are often reminded of those happy memories when they get in the water later in life. Like all physical exercise, swimming releases endorphins. Simply going for a short swim every morning is a great way to start the day in a good mood.
Swimming produces effects similar to yoga for many people. The deep, rhythmic breathing and constant stretching relax the body while improving mood. Both swimming and yoga have been shown to reduce anxiety as well as depression.
A study by Cooper Clinic in Dallas found that swimmers were less likely to die prematurely than people who primarily use other types of exercise or don’t exercise at all. More than 40,000 men between the ages of 20 and 90 were followed for 13 years. Only 2 per cent of the swimmers died over that time period as opposed to 9 per cent of walkers and 11 per cent of the people who were sedentary.
Good for All Age Groups
Swimming is a great form of exercise throughout life. The water reduces pressure on the joints and makes it easier for seniors and people with arthritis to workout. You’re never too old (or young) to learn to swim and most people can continue as long as they are able. Like Dana Torres said in Age is Just a Number, “The water doesn’t know how old you are.”
There are few physical activities the entire family can participate in at the same time. Once young children learn to swim, they can play in the water, compete on swim teams or swim for exercise. Swimming is a great way for young athletes to keep their body in good physical condition during the off-season of their preferred sport.
In addition to being able to spend more time with family, swimming and other water-based exercise, such as aqua-aerobics, can help people make new friends or network. Often the same people use the pool at the same time. Regular swimmers get to know each other and can encourage each other to meet their ﬁtness goals.
While recreational swimming offers a wide range of advantages, swimmers who get involved in competitions can see additional beneﬁts. Entrepreneurs and CEOs who swam competitively translated their learned behaviours from the pool to the business world. Competitive swimming teaches people to work hard, work as a team and to deal with the uncertainty that exists until the race is over. The only way to succeed is to work hard and outperform everyone else.