Health Benefits of Swimming

Post Date: April 2017  |  Category: Arthritis Diabetes Diet & Fitness Exercise Heart Health Senior Health

Photo of two older adults swimming together.

Did you know the benefits of swimming include training your body to use oxygen more efficiently? Your lungs and heart will thank you!

When it comes to working out, do you seek water or flee for dry land? If you didn't learn to swim as a child, water workouts may sound unappealing—even daunting. Why get wet when you can just slip on your walking shoes?

You may be surprised to discover that the health benefits of swimming are unique. Take a minute to learn a little more about the sport that Michael Phelps made famous (again). You don't have to hold your own against an Olympian to reap the numerous health benefits of this aquatic activity.

Did You Know?

  • When you're immersed in water, you really are floating. Water supports up to 90 percent of your body weight.
  • Swimming works every muscle in your body. Your arms, legs, back, and core collaborate to create the balance and power needed for any swim stroke.
  • Propelling your body through water takes greater effort than exercising on dry land—up to 14 percent more effort—according to experts at Bucknell University. This extra resistance means that 30 minutes of exercise in water can give you the same fitness benefits as 45 minutes of the same exercise on dry land.
  • A rare feat in the fitness world: a swimming workout counts as cardio and strength training.
  • Swimming has been compared to yoga and meditation for its mental health benefits. The comparison isn't so surprising: when you swim, your body flows through repetitive movements, and your breathing follows a rhythmic pattern. Counting laps while you listen only to the sound of water and your breath can help you tune out other thoughts. When you exit the pool, you may find yourself centered, clear-headed, and de-stressed.
  • The sport is low-tech, but still has options for gearheads. There's a wide variety of accessories to choose from: training fins, goggles, kickboards, hand paddles, and even snorkels are available to keep your workouts interesting. Training snorkels are designed specifically for swim workouts. They're streamlined and easy to use, and, unlike standard snorkels, can be worn with your favorite goggles rather than a bulky mask. They allow you to swim front crawl without turning your head to breathe, which can help you focus on stroke technique as you move through the pool.
  • Because most swim strokes require some breath-holding, swimming trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently. As a result, the sport can help lower your resting heart rate and breathing rate.
  • A swim workout is a big calorie-burner. Even low-intensity swimming can burn 200 calories in a half-hour depending on your body weight. That's more than double the burn rate of walking.

Swimming With Chronic Health Conditions

Regular swimming offers health benefits across the board, and it may offer specific benefits if you're managing certain chronic health conditions.

  • Arthritis
    Swimming allows you to build or maintain fitness while taking the load off your joints—making it the perfect workout choice if you're living with arthritis.
  • Diabetes
    Water exercise can help you manage your weight and keep blood sugar under control. It can also help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and improve good (HDL) cholesterol. As an added benefit, it poses less risk of injury to those who have reduced sensation in their feet as a result of diabetic neuropathy.
  • Your Heart
    In addition to improving your cholesterol levels, swimming can help lower your blood pressure, improve your blood circulation, and build the strength of your lungs. According to experts at Cleveland Clinic, swimming is terrific for your heart.
  • Stress and Depression
    Evidence shows that regular swimming may help reduce stress and depression. Like any aerobic exercise, it releases endorphins, your body's natural mood-boosting hormones. Its meditative qualities can also help improve mindfulness. Harvard Health believes this stress-busting benefit may not only improve your mental health, but it may also contribute to the heart-healthy benefits of swimming.
  • Asthma
    According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, swimming is an ideal exercise choice for those with asthma as it allows you to build endurance while breathing warm, moist air. As an added bonus, swimming is at the top of the list of exercises that can help build lung capacity.

So grab your suit and your nose clip and find the nearest pool. If you haven't done swimming workouts in the past, take it slowly. If it has been some time since you've exercised, or if you have any specific health concerns, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. As you build your endurance, make sure you're developing correct stroke technique. According to USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport of swimming in the United States, using the right technique is the key to preventing pain and injury as you increase the distance of your workout.

Still a little hesitant to get into the water? Call up some friends. In addition to all its mental and physical benefits, swimming can provide a great opportunity to catch up with friends—or make some new ones. A swimming or water aerobics class at your local community center or gym can be a great way to meet some new people while refining your technique and getting in a fantastic workout.

By Nancy Burtis Boudreau

 

Sources:

WebMD, Swimming

Fitness, Benefits of Swimming: 10 Reasons Every Woman Should Get in the Water

Swimming.org, 8 Benefits of Swimming, Whatever Your Fitness Level

Diabetic Lifestyle, Swimming: A Good Exercise Option for People With Diabetes

Harvard Health Publications, Take the Plunge for Your Heart

Cleveland Clinic, Swimming: Joint-Friendly and Good for the Heart

Psych Central, How Swimming Reduces Depression

U.S. Masters Swimming, Sucking Wind (In a Good Way)

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Asthma and Exercise

USA Swimming, Shoulder Injury Prevention

Bucknell University, Swimming Information


These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regime.