Swimming is one of the most popular sports globally and ranks second in the top ten most popular Olympic sports. Today, we have specific heated pools and regular swimming pools in clubs, resorts and even in many housing societies. But, people have been using natural water reservoirs for ages to swim. In modern times, most of us look at swimming as a rejuvenating experience for the weekend or once a month. However, it is much more than that. People have been using it as a form of exercise and recreation for years. Besides being fun, swimming is an excellent exercise to keep you fit and active. In addition, it brings several mental and physical benefits to you.
However, you don’t have to be a champion swimmer to benefit from swimming. People of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences can benefit from swimming. In addition, it is one of the few physical activities you can do at any age. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, swimmers have about half the risk of death compared with inactive people.
So, why not jump in? It is never too late to gain this excellent sport’s multiple physical and mental health benefits. The article explains all about the fantastic benefits of swimming.
Health Benefits of Swimming
For ages, swimming has been a natural and viable source of exercise. When swimming pools were not in existence, rivers, lakes and reservoirs were the swimming getaway. But now, with time and urbanization and reduced ease of access to water bodies, swimming pools play a significant role in recreation and fitness. Study suggests that considering swimming as an exercise performed in water reduces the stress in the joints, increases a person’s physical strength, and reduces body fat. It also treats blood lipids that cause cardiovascular disorder. Let us look at the various benefits of swimming.
Swimming causes a broad range of motion in the body. It makes your joints and ligaments relaxed and flexible. Swimming includes:
- Movements like arms in wide arcs.
- The coordination of hips and legs in the water.
- Twisting of head and spine from the sides.
With every stroke, muscles move and stretch, which improves your efficiency. It also stretches your body from head to toe.
To improve your flexibility along with the benefit that swimming provides, warm up and cool down exercises are important. They help avoid cramps and maintain proper positions in water. It also enhances your balancing abilities.
With flexibility, strength is one of the positive outcomes of swimming regularly. Enhancing strength brings a multitude of benefits that are both mental and physical. For example, it speeds up weight loss. Furthermore, since water is denser than air, constant swimming strokes improve muscle endurance and strengthen them. In addition, higher resistance against the movements supports and tones your muscles.
Swimming is an excellent workout for your body, equivalent to gym training. The primary difference between the two depends on the equipment and usage. That means, in the case of gymming, you use artificial weights, while swimming uses the natural density of water to offer its benefits.
Enables Weight Loss
Water is denser than air by 800 times. Hence, every kick, push, and pull acts as resistance training for the body. It works wonders for your core, arms, and glutes. It also effectively builds your hips and shoulders. For example, the breast stroke and butterfly are suitable for your shoulders, arms, and chest. Moreover, backstroke is excellent for your back, abs, and quads.
As per a Harvard study, an easy and relaxing swim can burn anywhere between 360 to 500 calories per hour. At the same time, a relentless swim can burn about 700 calories per hour. In addition, it builds lean muscles. They further increase your metabolism, enabling more breakdown of calories in your body.
Great for People with Injuries
A person suffering from an injury or a condition like arthritis faces challenges when performing high impact exercise. They can go swimming as water aids their muscles in such a situation. It is a low impact exercise and helps with bodily movements without straining the affected area. Furthermore, swimming is not a weight-bearing exercise and makes you feel lighter due to buoyancy. Thus, it makes you move without weights and relieves pressure on the injury.
A study evaluated swimming as a rehabilitation strategy in rats with a contusion. The result was a significant improvement in hindlimb function during swimming compared to untrained animals. Moreover, swimming is active stretching and keeps the muscles loose and flexible. It is also a cardio workout and helps you to stay in shape.
Suitable for People with Disabilities
Water is a fantastic medium for exercising with people suffering from a physical disability, including multiple sclerosis (MS). There are many physically disabled people who like to swim. Hence, the pools worldwide are making them more accessible to them.
Swimming is also beneficial for people suffering from mental health issues. It boosts confidence and is effective for lowering incidences of depression and anxiety and improving sleep patterns. The buoyancy of water poses less stress on muscles. It supports a bette range of motion, coordination, and flexibility. In addition, it simplifies social interaction skills for an individual as they receive and follow instructions.
Releases Endorphins and Serotonin
Swimming is a great exercise for your body. It boosts the release of endorphins, a hormone that is responsible for diminishing the perception of pain and stress. Hormones that work in response to stress or pain. Their production occurs in the pituitary gland. The endorphins interact with your brain receptors to reduce your perception related to pain. They also make you feel happy, positive and healthy.
Regular swimming ensures a proper flow of good hormones in the body, with intense mental health benefits. They also enhance your body’s response to stress. In addition, swimming helps in diverting the mind as it focuses on breathing pattern, number of laps completed and avoidance of collision with others. These include breathing patterns, the number of laps completed, and the distance between other swimmers to keep away from a collision.
Beneficial During Pregnancy
Swimming is safe during pregnancy. It is one of the few exercises that can help you stay fit during pregnancy. In addition, the water weight helps support extra and is a low impact exercise on joints and ligaments, which can be a great relief, especially in your last trimester. However, if you are new to swimming, please check with your doctor before making that a practice. Furthermore, you must choose strokes that you enjoy and are comfortable with.
Studies also prove that water-based exercise can improve the health of pregnant women. In addition, they positively affect the pregnant women’s mental health. Hence, swimming can be an excellent way to enhance your physical and psychological health.
Swimming is beneficial for people with arthritis. That is because water-based exercises help people with arthritis enhance the use of their arthritic joints without worsening symptoms. Studies suggest that people with rheumatoid arthritis show significant health improvements after participating in hydrotherapy (exercising in warm water) than with other activities. In addition, research indicates that water-based exercises also improve affected joints and decrease pain from osteoarthritis.
Improves Mental Health
A multivariate analysis of variance indicated that swimmers reported more significant decreases in scores on anger, confusion, tension, and depression than other individuals. It makes swimming an excellent exercise to enhance your mood. In addition, studies also prove the beneficial effects of pool exercises as an effective intervention for individuals with fibromyalgia.
Beneficial for Children and Older Adults
Swimming is a vital kill that should be learnt at an early age. It helps children master basic skills such as walking, talking and counting more quickly.
A UK case study demonstrates the multiple benefits of swimming for young children. It observed an increase in children’s self-esteem and confidence in their abilities. In addition, children who participated in the case study articulated that they felt more safe and had better stamina.
Swimming also positively affects older adults. It improves their quality of life and reduces disability.
Best Swimming Practices to Reap Maximum Benefits
There are majorly four different strokes in swimming, practising which can help strengthen the muscles of various parts of your body. Let us look at some of the best swimming strokes and styles with several benefits.
Breaststroke is known as the primary stroke when it comes to swimming. It is preferred as it is an easier option to start with as the face comes out of water after every stroke, making the breathing a little comfortable. In this swimming style, the swimmer swims on their chest and the torso does not rotate. It is the most recreational pose because the swimmer’s head stays out of the water most of the time. You can also execute this position at slower speeds.
Breaststroke is a much better cardiovascular workout than other strokes. That is because it helps strengthen your heart and lungs. In addition, it helps tone your thighs, lower legs, upper back, triceps and hamstrings. However, it also tones your chest muscles.
The Butterfly Stroke
This stroke is a little bit tough. It requires a high energy level because of its actual motive to strengthen the upper body, arms, and abdominal muscles. The swimmer swims on their chest and moves both hands symmetrically in this pose. It is accompanied by a butterfly kick or dolphin kick. It is one of the most effective all-round strokes to help tone and build muscles. Besides toning your muscles, it helps increase your flexibility, enhance suppleness and improve posture.
Backstroke or back crawl mainly focuses on the stomach and the breathing part. It means a person swims on their back while practising the pose and supports easy breathing. It aids in toning the stomach, legs, arms, shoulders and hip muscles and can also help in improving posture. However, it has a disadvantage that the swimmer cannot see where they are going. It requires performing a flutter kick in the legs. It is one of the four techniques to swim on the back.
It is a bit of an aggressive swimming stroke practised by regular swimmers and trained athletes. Freestyle gives a full body workout. However, the fastest way to perform it is by not breathing. That is because the motion caused by taking a breath leads to a rise in the frontal drag, decreasing the stroke rate.
- You should swim for a stipulated time, which boosts stamina, increases strength, builds endurance and helps gain proper energy.
- Over-exhausting the body can be harmful. It can cause muscle pull or tissue tear. If you are not careful, you might hurt someone or yourself, leading to severe injuries. Apart from this, drowning can be a severe consequence of careless swimming, especially for new learners and beginners.
- Once the fear of swimming or water sets in, it becomes tough to carry on with it. It can lead to anxiety and restlessness in people.
- Pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds with proper chlorine or bromine levels and pH are less likely to spread germs. However, several water bodies and unhygienic pools may affect your health due to the germs. Hence, it is essential to ensure that the water source is safe.
- Injuries and drownings are less likely when trained staff and adequate safety equipment are present. So, ensure that you swim at water bodies with safety equipment.
- Taking a shower before you get in the water is beneficial as rinsing off in the shower for just 1 minute removes most of the dirt or anything else on your body that uses up chlorine or bromine needed to kill or inactivate germs.
A proper set of warm up exercises should be done before the swim to prevent cramps and pains and give more flexibility when in water.
How Long Should I Swim For?
As per NHS UK, a 30-minute session of moderate to vigorous-intensity activity at the pool on one or more days a week will count towards your recommended weekly activity target. However, any improvement on what you currently do is good. Even small changes can make a big difference to your health and make you feel great.
Some studies also suggest that a minimum of 20 minutes of swimming every day is equivalent to regular exercising. You can increase it gradually with standard practice.
Who should not Swim?
Doctors advise some people not to swim. Refrain from swimming if you have a fever, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, an infection that settles in your lungs, or swollen glands Additionally, people with open cuts or wounds (particularly from surgery or piercing) should avoid swimming. Even if you go in the water, use waterproof bandages to cover the cut or wound completely. Furthermore, people who are allergic to chlorine and other chemicals in water should refrain from swimming. People with asthma and other chronic diseases should also consult their doctor before swimming.
It is necessary to keep in mind that you should not consume any heavy meal at least 2-4 hours before swimming. Food needs to go through adequate digestion before swimming. Otherwise, it can cause nausea or vomiting. Consume a light snack like a fruit 30 mins before the swim or keep a gap of at least an hour after a heavy meal.
Swimming is one of the most prominent forms of exercise that helps rejuvenate the body inside out. It relaxes all the body contractions and can help relieve mental stress. Therefore, it is preferred by people from all areas regardless of their age, gender, race and status. Once they know the basic styles and the poses, they can enjoy swimming in natural water bodies like flowing rivers or ponds, or even deep-sea diving could be an adventure.
Swimming is a type of cardiovascular exercise. Thirty minutes of swimming can burn 250-300 calories. It tones the body and helps reduce weight. In addition, regular swimming strengthens the body and builds endurance. Hence, it is safe to say that swimming is an all-round activity that can help you improve your physical and mental health.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What happens to your body when you swim every day?
A. Regular swimming strengthens the body and builds endurance. It is also a good exercise for weight loss. In addition, it aids the working of cardiovascular system.
Q. How long do you need to swim to get a good workout?
A. Swimming for nearly a minimum of 30 minutes per session, 5-6 times a week, is considered a good workout. It is a type of cardiovascular training, so you can gradually increase this time to 45 minutes when your body has built the required endurance. However, it would help not overexert yourself as it can lead to tissue tear or muscle pull.
Q. Does swimming lose belly fat?
A. Swimming is an excellent exercise to lose belly fat and overall weight. It tones all the muscles of the body. Therefore, regular swimming can be very beneficial in reducing belly fat.
Q. Can swimming give you abs?
A. Yes, swimming can give you abs over time because it tends to tone muscles over time. It is a good workout for core muscles, builds your abs, and helps overall stability and body control. In simple words, core muscles like abs, hips, and lower back are engaged while swimming.
Q. Does swimming build your chest?
A. Yes, swimming usually tones the chest muscles and the upper body if done regularly. Breaststroke is a much better cardiovascular workout for the chest than the other strokes. Swimming alone cannot build your chest muscles, but it can be beneficial in toning them.
Q. Does swimming grow shoulders?
A. Swimming can broaden the shoulders, but only to a certain extent. That is because most of a person’s shoulder width is determined by their bone structure, not their shoulder muscles. Therefore, even if they grow in response to swimming, this transformation is mainly seen only in competitive swimmers.
Q. How many calories does swimming burn?
A. Swimming burns a lot of calories by increasing your metabolism. For example, an easy and relaxing swim burns 500 calories per hour. At the same time, a rigorous swim burns 700 calories per hour.
Q. Can swimming increase height?
A. Swimming does aid in proper growth pattern but height majorly depends on genetic makeup, DNA and some other factors like nutrition, hormones, and medical conditions.