If you don’t like getting all sweaty and cringe at the idea of a treadmill or a spinn bike, swimming may be your ideal choice for an effective workout.
Swimming is an activity that you can safely do from infancy well into old age. There are numerous benefits to swimming. Here are just a few to get you motivated!
1. Dual purpose: both cardio and strength training
Swimming burns lots of calories, anywhere from 500-650 per hour depending on your own physiology and the intensity with which you exercise. If you swim hard enough, it’s possible to burn more calories swimming than running in the same period of time.
Swimming also doubles as a resistance workout. When a jogger takes a few laps around the track, that jogger is only moving his or her body through air. A swimmer, on the other hand, is propelling himself through water, which is far denser. Every leg kick and every arm stroke becomes a resistance exercise, which will help your overall muscle tone and mass.
2. Easy on the joints
Swimming offers something no other aerobic exercise does: the ability to work your body without harsh impact to your skeletal system.
While other intense cardio workouts can be detrimental for your joints, swimming at higher intensities will not put as much wear and tear on your body.
Water aerobics classes are also desirable for this reason, because if you jump and hit the bottom of the pool, you do so with less force because you’re buoyant in the water.
Athletes suffering from injury are frequently told to swim to maintain their fitness and as part of their rehabilitation, as the resistance of the water makes the muscles work hard without the strain or impact experienced on land.
3. Swimming builds endurance
By increasing your ability to effectively use oxygen, swimming increases your endurance capacity. So, if you’re a runner, integrating swimming into your regular workouts can help give you that extra edge when you run. Swimming also trains your glutes and hamstrings, your core, and your shoulders — all of which are needed for improved form and performance for other sports.
4. It targets underworked muscles
Swimming is a great way to increase muscular strength and muscle tone — especially compared to several other aerobic exercises. When swimming, you work your often-neglected lats, deltoids, and traps — muscles that are difficult to reach while using a bike or running.
And, since swimming is about staying balanced and level in the water while both your arms and legs are moving, it also helps you develop the deep stabilising muscles in your core and lower back that women often miss.
5. Improves Flexibility
Unlike exercise machines in a gym that tend to isolate one body part at a time, swimming puts the body through a broad range of motion that helps joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible. The arms move in wide arcs, the hips are engaged as the legs scissor through the water, and the head and spine twist from side to side.
Plus, with every stroke, as you reach forward, you’re lengthening the body, which not only makes it more efficient in the water but also helps give you a good stretch from head to toe.
6. A Healthier Heart
In addition to toning visible muscles like pectorals, triceps and quads, swimming also helps improve the most important muscle in our bodies: the heart.
Because swimming is an aerobic exercise, it serves to strengthen the heart, not only helping it to become larger, but making it more efficient in pumping — which leads to better blood flow throughout your body. Research also shows that aerobic exercise can combat the body’s inflammatory response as well — a key link in the chain that can lead to heart disease.
7. Lower Stress and Higher Spirits
While exercise-induced endorphins will do wonders for your stress levels, getting in the water for your workout may have its own special brand of mood-boosting benefits.
In addition to a natural high, swimming can also evoke the relaxation response the same way yoga works on the body. This is due in large part to the constant stretching and relaxing of your muscles combined with deep rhythmic breathing.
Swimming is also a meditative exercise, with the sound of your own breathing and the splash of the water acting as a mantra that can help you “drown out” all other distractions.
Tips for your Water Workout
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Plan on doing at least 2 to 3 hours of swimming a week, or mix in swimming with other cardio workouts. You can set your own pace, going as fast as you like.
- Pace yourself with intervals. Swim for 5-10 minutes, or as long as you can manage without stopping, take a breather, then get right back to it and swim again until you need another break, and then go again.
- Invest in swimming equipment like kickboards, pull buoys, fins, hand paddles, gloves, water dumbbells, or other such tools that can help improve resistance and improve your technique.
- Finally, if you’re not already a swimmer and you’re afraid to get started — bear in mind that even if you don’t plan to make swimming your main workout, knowing how to swim is important for safety’s sake!