The Benefits of Swimming

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This time of year, everyone seems to be facing the winter blues. The magic of Christmas has passed, the weather seems to be constantly cold and gray, and everyone is dreaming of spring.  One great way to combat the “blah” of winter is through exercise – and of course, you know what kind of exercise is our favorite: SWIMMING!

But did you know that swimming has many health benefits beyond just being a fun way to get out of the house and burn off some energy? Swimming also:

  • Provides a low-impact workout.
  • Improves lung and heart health.
  • Improve your posture and overall back health.
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight.
  • Boosts your mood.

Let’s look closer at these benefits.

Swimming is a Low-Impact Workout

Swimming is a low impact activity, meaning that it’s easy on your joints.  Because water is denser than air, it puts more pressure on your limbs than out-of-water activities. Yet, the pressure is evenly distributed; it doesn’t collect in your hips, knees, or other parts of your body that might experience strain due to gravity. As such, swimming provides a workout for your whole body without putting undue strain on one specific area of the body.

Water also provides a certain amount of buoyancy, releasing swimmers from some of the constraints of gravity. This makes swimming a great activity for those with osteoarthritis, those who are pregnant, or those who may experience pain when doing weight-bearing exercises.

Swimming Improves Lung Health

How you breathe while in the pool also is different than how you breathe when participating in out-of-water exercises. When running, biking, or participating in other activities, breathing tends to be through short, shallow breaths (i.e. panting). “It’s the other way around with swimming,” says David Tanner, a research associate at Indiana University and co-editor of an educational handbook that discusses the science of swimming. “You breathe in quickly and deeply, and then let the air trickle out” (Heid, 2017). This difference in breathing techniques may actually strengthen your respiratory muscles, as well as keep the lung alveoli from collapsing and sticking together.

Swimming Improves Heart Health

When you muscles are working hard and you are getting in a good workout, your cardiovascular system is working hard, too. The bottom line is: swimming makes your heart and lungs strong.

However, research has also shown that swimming may also help lower your blood pressure. A study conducted by Yuan, Liu, Gao, Wang, and Qin (2016) showed that swimming at a moderate intensity had beneficial effects on systolic blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and blood supply to the brain in overweight adults.

Now, while this research report stated that additional research was done on this topic, it is clear that exercise – including swimming – has an overall positive impact on heart health.

Swimming Improves Posture and Back Health

Swimming can also have benefits for your back. This should be of special interest for those who suffer from back conditions. Because of the horizontal pose of swimming – as opposed to upright positions for other forms of exercise – the back is able to fully extend; this can counteract the “slumped” position that many experience when sitting at a desk or in a car. According to Tanner, “There’s no hard impact on your back like there is with running, and instead of being bent forward like you would be on a bike, your back tends to be arched slightly in the opposite direction” (Heid, 2017). Thus, swimming can actually improve your posture and works to prevent back pain/injuries that stem from long periods of sedentary time.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Did you know that swimming is a great way to burn calories? According to Ashley Marcin, writer for Healthline:

A 160-pound person burns approximately 423 calories an hour while swimming laps at a low or moderate pace. That same person may burn up to 715 calories an hour swimming at a more vigorous pace. A 200-pound person doing the same activities would burn between 528 and 892 calories an hour. A 240-pound person might burn between 632 and 1,068.

To compare these numbers to other popular low-impact activities, that same 160-pound person would only burn around 314 calories walking at 3.5 miles per hour for 60 minutes. Yoga might burn just 183 calories per hour. And the elliptical trainer might burn just 365 calories in that hour.

It is clear that swimming would make a great addition to a workout plan designed to help achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Mood Benefits of Swimming

A 2004 study conducted by Pirkko Huttunen, Leena Kokko, and Virpi Ylijukuri found that swimming – specifically done in the winter months – reduced tension, fatigue, memory and mood negative state points. Four months into the study, the swimmers being researched felt themselves to be “more energetic, active, and brisk than the controls” (Huttunen, Kokko, & Ylijukuri, 2004).

Additional Benefits of Swimming

In addition to these physical benefits, swimming is considered to be a relaxing, peaceful form of exercise; many people report that swimming helps alleviate stress. Swimming also provides the opportunity to make new friends who share a similar interest.

Are you convinced yet?!

There are a variety of different ways you can add swimming to your workout, the most commonly added are different strokes. While each stroke focuses on a different muscle group, most strokes use most of your muscle groups to some extent. Common strokes include:

  • Freestyle
  • Breaststroke
  • Backstroke
  • Sidestroke
  • Butterfly

If you haven’t tried adding swimming to your exercise routine, there’s no time like the present to get started. We can’t wait to hear about your experiences!

Resources:

Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia. (2013). Swimming – health benefits. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/swimming-health-benefits

Marcin, A. (2017). What are the top 12 benefits of swimming?. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-swimming

Heid, M. (2017). Why swimming is so good for you. Time. Retrieved from        http://time.com/4688623/swimming-pool-health-benefits/

Huttunen, P., Kokko, L., and Ylijukuri, V. (2004). Winter swimming improves general well-being. International Journal of Circumpolar Health 63(2), p. 140-144. Retrieved from          https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/ijch.v63i2.17700

Yuan, W.X., Liu, H.B., Gao, F.S., Wang, Y.X., and Qin, K.R. (2016). Effects of 8-week swimming training on carotid arterial stiffness and hemodynamics in young overweight adults. BioMedical Engineering OnLine 15(Suppl 121). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311958120_Effects_of_8- week_swimming_training_on_carotid_arterial_stiffness_and_hemodynamics_in_young_overweight_adults

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One thought on “The Benefits of Swimming

  1. Mindy Jollie says:

    I didn’t really think about the fact that swimming laps can help your lung and heart health, as well as improve your back! This is a good reminder because my husband has been trying to figure out lower impact exercise options on account of his shin splints. We’ll have to find a place that offers a lap pool and get him started on that exercise!

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