Swimming is one of those workouts that can easily be a second thought – the gym always seems to take priority. Only as you step into the pool do you ask yourself, why haven’t I done this sooner? If you’re debating whether to invest in a new swimming cap and brave the lanes, here are 10 incredible reasons why you should.
If the thought of being tied to a treadmill sends shivers down your spine, renew your love for swimming. Combined with a well balanced diet, 4 x 40 minute swimming sessions a week can really help shed excess weight.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a “154-pound person burns around 510 calories by swimming laps for an hour,” reports Livestrong, proving that it’s still possible to blast fat at an intense rate without running miles. To maximise your calorie-burn, don’t stick to one stroke – the butterfly is the trickiest of the bunch, but great for weight loss, with the potential burn 800 calories an hour!
Don’t tire yourself out with crunch after crunch – take a dip in the pool instead. Swimming can be a great core workout. Freestyle swimmers: to stay perfectly aligned and at your fastest pace, you need to ensure that your core is engaged. At first, you may struggle to keep your stomach strong/tight and swim well at the same time to begin with. But the more you practice, the more familiar it will become, and eventually you’ll do it instinctively from push-off. Hello six-pack!
As a low-impact sport, swimming can also help relieve aches and pains. If you’re suffering from a bad back or knee pain, swimming could be just the exercise you need to take the pressure off. Its rehabilitating effect stems from the fact that it isn’t a weight-bearing workout; the water provides support as you stretch, relax and heal.
Coupled with yoga and pilates, swimming is up there as one of the best sports in promoting flexibility. It stretches and tones the areas of your body that are neglected as a result of sedentary living, including the hips, back and hamstrings.
If you’ve a very weight-driven/cardio-heavy training schedule, it’s easy to forget the role flexibility has in improving your sporting performance. It strengthens, sculpts, and helps you pick up speed. Gradually increase your range of motion through swimming. Features of the pool such as the water resistance and buoyancy reduce the impact of the exercise on your joints, enabling you to stretch and flex comfortably and effectively.
The beauty of swimming is that it has no age limit. Research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that introducing a baby from as young as 2 months old to swimming is a great way to enhance their development. It improves their sense of balance/ability to reach for objects. At the same time, swimming is also said to improve bone health and gradually ease symptoms of arthritis in older adults. It’s one sport that suits all.
Swimming can also be an incredibly social activity, allowing friends and family to relax/have fun, and get fit at the same time!
As a total body workout, swimming is one of the best exercises at boosting cardiovascular health. The resistance of the water makes the heart work harder, improving circulation/blood flow as a result. The natural buoyancy and warm temperature of the pool also stops you from feeling the actual intensity of your training, allowing you to push harder and faster in your cardio workout, and strengthen your heart even further. If you want to naturally lower your blood pressure, swimming is a great way to do it.
Exercising may not be your first choice when it comes to relaxing in the evening – lounging in front of the television? Now you’re talking. But little do people realise that swimming provides greater stress relief than your favourite TV show.
Endorphins aside, not only does swimming stimulate those lovely mood-boosting hormones, but it also provides an opportunity for you to clear your mind and take perspective of your day. Some hard-hitting gym-goers hate the peace and quiet the pool provides, but if you’re in need of a serious wind-down, swimming can help.
The stress-busting attributes swimming brings also work on a deeper level for those with a mental illness. If you suffer from anxiety, swimming can help ease pent up tension/muscle pain and allow you to be mindful/worry-free as you exercise. However, it’s important that the pools you swim in are well heated, as cold water doesn’t have the same effect (around 78–80 degrees). What’s more, it’s the perfect workout for those who are self-conscious about the way they look, as swimming tones, sculpts and strengthens the whole body – leaving you looking great, and feeling even better.
Swimming gives you breathing space – literally. On average, we breathe anything between 12-20 breaths a minute; it’s second nature to us. That being said, a large proportion of us also suffer from stress-related symptoms. In the UK alone, healthcare specialists, Bupa found that from a survey of 10,000 participants, 44 per cent suffer from stress.
The two relate – breathing and stress – a surprising amount. When we feel stressed or anxious, our muscles start to tense and tighten up. This makes breathing harder, to the extent that some people experience a shortness of breath, or even panic attacks.
Swimming helps to calm and regulate your breathing. As you work on perfecting your stroke and technique, your breathing improves alongside, which in turn can help lower blood pressure, aid weight loss and eliminate toxins. Swimming is the ideal workout for those who suffer from asthma, as it encourages you to open up your lungs and control your breathing.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a workout that breaks up your gym routine, swimming is the exercise for you. Even if you need music to train effectively, there are waterproof earphones available now to keep you company when you’re swimming.
And remember, floats aren’t just for kids. If you’re new to the pool, a small float can help you master your stroke. Or if you’re looking to improve/concentrate on your kick, by holding the float flat or horizontal, you can create a tougher swim that’s more leg-focused. Make it fun – grab a friend and start swimming!