The Benefits of Swimming
Alright, alright, so I’m a self-proclaimed water rat, both on it and in it, but that shouldn’t diminish the importance of water exercising in one’s overall health planning. There are many, many benefits that swimming and general water exercises offer. So, let’s rattle off a few of those benefits . . . .
(The 10 points listed below have been paraphrased from an article by Michael Franco in Aging, http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/aging/retirement/10-health-benefits-of-swimming.htm):
1. The ability to do more with less. Part of the madness of regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is the negative impact that our own body weight has on our joints, i.e., running. Exercising in the water greatly reduces that negative impact. For example, if you are submerged to your waste, your weight is ostensibly reduced by 50% . . . submerged to your chest, 25% - 35% . . . and submerged to your neck, your weight is handled by the pool up to 90%.
This means you can exercise in water without the stressful concern of having your own weight damage your joints.
2. Increased muscle tone. The wonderful effect of water on our bodies, besides buoying it up, is to provide a mild form of resistance, which means every movement in water is a form of resistance training. So swimming is a total exercise for the entire body, thus tone all your muscles.
3. Improved flexibility. Swimming, even though toning your muscles, greatly adds to one’s flexibility. Point of fact, my youngest daughter, Martha, actually became too flexible because she swam too much when she was quite young and the doctor recommended her do some weight training to tighten up her joints. Of course, that’s an extreme case, but in general the movements involved in swimming are tremendous for us older folks who find our ankle, hip, shoulder, etc., joints taking longer and longer each morning to loosen up.
4. A healthier heart. Our most important muscle, our heart, is sometimes that last one that we exercise; even though all doctors preach the benefits of heart exercises in any exercise program. Swimming offers a less stressful manner in which to exercise our heart, in turn pumping blood efficiently through our body and reducing overall body inflammation, reducing the risks of heart disease.
5. Weight control. It should come as no surprise that swimming, being a form of aerobic exercise, helps to control weight through burning calories. Naturally, you still need to maintain calorie intake to put together weight control program. (I recall belonging to a health club in downtown Baltimore years ago, and in that club they had a bar that both sold healthy fruit drinks and alcohol. Seemed counter productive to me for someone trying to lose weight. However, I guess for the establishment it was a means of ensuring a long-lasting clientele.)
6. Reduce asthma symptoms. Swimming, especially in an indoor pool, can greatly reduce asthma symptoms. This is accomplished because the pool produces moist air, and moist air can help reduce exercise induced asthma. Also, exercise in general, can help reduce asthma symptoms by increasing one’s lung capacity, thus improving breathing.
7. Improved cholesterol. Not only will swimming, as an aerobic exercise, keep your cholesterol in check, but it improves the flexibility of your arteries, called endothelium. Thus, increased artery lining flexibility will allow blood to flow better improving your chances that cholesterol will not develop problems in your arteries.
8. Lower risk of diabetes. It is widely accepted that weight can greatly increase your risk of contracting diabetes. Swimming regularly (i.e., three times per week for 30 minutes at a time), as an aerobic exercise, can significantly reduce weight can, thus reducing the possibility of developing diabetes.
9. Lower stress levels. Swimming, as other aerobic exercises, release endorphins in the body, which are widely known as a “feel-good” chemicals. Most people recognize yoga, tai chi, meditation, etc., as programs that allow one to relax and reduce stress through a form of self-awareness; such as listening to your own breathing and drowning out all outside noises. Swimming does the same, yet with the added benefit of listening to the rhythmical sound of waves as you move through the water. (That’s just one reason I love sailing so much – just the sound of the wind and waves on the boat.)
10. You just might live longer. “Researchers at the University of South Carolina, followed 40,547 men, aged 20 to 90, for 32 years and discovered that those who swam had a 50% lower death rate than runners, walkers, or men who got no exercise.”
Those are my (and Michael Franco’s) top ten benefits to swimming. So … Get out, get wet, and get healthy!. .