Swimming is one of the best exercises for lazy people and many people who don’t exercise should consider the reasons to go swimming. If you really do need some motivation to get your butt off the couch but can’t face other forms of exercise, swimming is the activity for you. And even if you are fit and healthy and exercise regularly, you’ll still find some great reasons to go swimming. So, get your cossie, get to the pool and dive right in here to learn about the benefits of swimming.
1. Low Impact
While I know that pushing through pain is mentally rewarding, if I have one bugbear about exercising it is the physical toll it can take on the body. I am such a wimp when it comes to pain so I like exercise that is easy but worthwhile. I know some of you will say that if the exercise is easy it is doing me no good, but when I say easy, I mean I want results to be commensurate with effort. To me, one of the best reasons to go swimming is that it is low impact. Of all the aerobic exercises swimming is the kindest to our skeletal system. You don’t get things like plantar fasciitis or shin splints with swimming, even if you have a really hard, strenuous swim session.
2. Do More with Less
Now girls, I know I was a bit jokey when I said swimming is good for lazy people but let me just expand on that. What I mean is that there is reduced effort required in water to exercise but still good results are obtained. How swimming boosts your health with less effort is because your body becomes lighter in water, making it easier to exercise. If you are lazy, unused to exercise or overweight, there is advantage to kicking off a workout regime with swimming. As you gain fitness you can move your water-based exercises to terra firma. And if you don’t want to (i.e. because you are still lazy!), your swimming sessions can just get longer and more strenuous. This whole issue of water making exercise easier also makes it ideal for fragile, infirm or aged people to be able to maintain fitness.
3. Tone and Strength
While making your body lighter and easier to move because your weight is supported, the fact that water is 12 times denser than air means that swimming is also a resistance exercise. This means that compared to some other aerobic exercises, swimming is a great choice to increase muscular strength and tone. Unlike jogging, say, each swim stroke is a resistance aerobic workout for arms and legs. Various studies have also shown that swimming strengthens bone health, which is why it is recommended as an exercise for hip replacement patients, arthritis sufferers and as physiotherapy for many ailments.
4. All over Workout
One of the major benefits of swimming is helping to keep joints and ligaments loose and flexible. A lot of individual exercises, and in particular gym exercise machines, target specific body areas and you need to have a full regimen of exercises that work out your whole body. In contrast to this, swimming takes your body through a wide range of motion. With one stroke your arms are moving in wide arcs, your hips are engaged in propelling you forward and as your legs push you through the water, your head and spine twist from side to side. You are also getting a full body lengthening stretch from head to toe. Think of your ballet class or dance lessons and remember to really point those toes as you glide swan-like through the water.
5. Calorie Burner
You may think that with this talk of swimming making exercise easier and that it is a more gentle workout, that it’s not good to incorporate in an exercise routine if you are looking to lose weight. Untrue! Of course it depends on how much effort you put in and your physiology but I think you’ll love to know that generally, these are the calorie burn rates you can expect for 10 minutes:
Freestyle – 100 calories
Backstroke – 80 calories
Breaststroke – 60 calories
Butterfly – 150 calories
This means that if you can spend an hour in the pool splitting it equally between breaststroke and freestyle, you will burn up 480 calories, and if you can throw in a few minutes of backstroke or butterfly you’ll easily top the 500 calorie mark. And think of how much effort that took! To me that’s a great return and one of the best reasons to go swimming.
6. Prolongs Life
Now, I am not going to claim that swimming replicates Cocoon and that a simple swim is like a dip in the fountain of youth, but there is a powerful piece of research that shows that one of the benefits of swimming is that you can live longer if it is your regular form of exercise. This research was no small study with few subjects over a short period of time. A group of researchers from the University of South Carolina conducted a study following more than 40,500 men aged between 20 and 90, over a period of 32 years (really!). The men had all different levels of fitness and followed different exercise regimens. The study showed that the men who regularly went swimming had a 50 per cent lower death rate than the men who walked, ran, or got no exercise. The study also concluded that women would reap the same benefits of swimming.
7. Stress Relief
I love this. So come on ladies, how many articles have you read in your lifetime giving advice on stress relief? And how many have presented swimming as a solution? Not many – and I don’t know why, because swimming really does provide excellent stress relief. Firstly, swimming naturally promotes the release of our feel-good chemicals (endorphins), but also the constant stretching and relaxing of the muscles and the deep rhythmic breathing has the same calming and therapeutic effect as yoga. Additionally, if you can "tune out” and simply concentrate on your breathing and the sounds of the water, it’s the perfect time to meditate.
Swimming can also help in the fight against high cholesterol, diabetes, general joint and muscle inflammation and even asthma. Are you convinced there are plenty of good reasons to go swimming? Do you swim or will you take it up now? Girls, if you can’t swim, I highly recommend you get some lessons and embrace the fun and benefits of swimming.