Most of us love to take a dip in the pool on a hot summer’s afternoon –– but did you know that swimming is a versatile form of exercise that has a long list of wonderful health benefits?
That’s right –– it’s not just a nifty way to beat the heat with aerobic exercise or show off a new swimsuit. Hitting the swimming pool or open water has long been many people’s number one choice for weight loss, gaining strength in multiple muscle groups, boosting lung capacity, lowering blood pressure, and even reducing stress.
There’s a whole host of reasons why swimming is great for your body and mind. Today, we’d like to introduce you to why swimming is such a great exercise and how you can benefit from it!
Advantages of Swimming
Many of us are reluctant to lift weights or hit the gym, but swimming is a much more pleasant way to improve our health. Incorporating swimming and aquatic fitness — or any form of cardiovascular exercise — into your life can open up a world of physical and mental health benefits for your entire body.
Swimming Is Good for Your Joints
Here’s something that makes swimming an excellent choice of physical activity for older people. Water supports up to 90% of your body weight, meaning it’s easy on your joints. Being a low-impact workout also makes swimming good for those with certain injuries and health conditions. It’s often even used in physical therapy –– hydrotherapy (warm water exercises) has been shown to help those with rheumatoid arthritis.
It Comes With Mental Health Benefits
Swimming has been linked to a number of mental health benefits. It can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, as well as slow down dementia, boost your self-esteem, and just make you feel better overall. Some have also found that swimming helps them sleep better at night.
Water Can Relieve Stress
Moving in water can be especially relaxing. Unlike running on a treadmill in a gym or taking a Zumba class, you can feel more at peace while you swim. Whether it’s because of the soothing presence of water or the boost you get from exercise, swimming is a great stress-reliever for many people.
Strengthen Your Muscles and Bones
Swimming is an excellent way to improve the strength and tone of your muscles. Because your whole body is moving against the water as you swim, nearly all of your muscles are working against resistance. That means you get a full-body workout. Swimming can even positively impact the bone health of women post-menopause.
Swimming Keeps Your Heart Healthy
You can actually keep your heart happy by making swimming part of your lifestyle. Swimming is a great exercise to keep up your cardiovascular health. Having a 30-minute swim session three times a week can also improve your overall energy and boost your metabolic rate. It may even increase your life expectancy; swimmers have a lower risk of early death due to heart disease and stroke.
Improve Your Balance and Posture
As you get older, you may find your balance affected somewhat. We also tend to slouch or neglect our posture with age. Regular swimming or water exercises can actually help combat that. Swimming can improve your balance, posture, and coordination. The buoyancy of water is also a good way to prevent injury from tripping or falling.
Become More Flexible
Flexibility is something many people struggle with, especially seniors. Fortunately, there are many water exercises and stretches you can do to improve your flexibility. Doing these aquatic stretches can help improve overall strength and flexibility, preventing injury and fatigue. Gentle swimming also eases the tension on stiff joints.
Swimming Helps Lose Weight Through Cardio
Doing some cardio every week is a good way to shed some pounds if you’re trying to lose weight. During a good swim workout, you’re getting your heart rate up, whether you realize it or not. Even light swimming can burn twice as many calories in half an hour as walking can. Much like running or jogging, this can help your overall health and endurance––and with less sweating and joint pain.
Have Fun and Unwind in the Pool
The wonderful thing about swimming is that it’s a cost-effective way to have a good time. On a hot day, nothing is better than donning your swimsuit to take a cool dip in a pool, lake, or ocean. If you live near a beach, you can make a whole day out of it. Pack a picnic, bring a book and a blanket, and get ready for some wonderful relaxation.
Spend Time With Friends and Family
Swimming and pool games are a great way to spend some quality time with those you love. For families, swimming and other recreational activities can help strengthen bonds. It can also be hugely beneficial for your kids and grandkids. For young children, swimming can help build their cognitive, physical, and social skills.
How To Get Started
By now you’re hopefully convinced as to why swimming is a wonderful exercise. The good news is, you don’t need much to get started. Here are some tips and pointers to help you get into your own swimming routine!
Get Your Equipment Together
Before you dip your toes in, there is some basic gear that you need to get started. All you really need is a body of water, but you should also have these things on hand:
- A Comfortable Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit that makes you feel confident is the perfect way to prep for your workout.
- Foam Water Weights: Though not strictly necessary, a lot of water exercises include foam water weights; you may find them at your local pool.
- Kickboard: You don’t need a kickboard to swim, but it can be helpful for many different exercises and to support your balance.
- Goggles: If you’re planning on going underwater, goggles are helpful to help you see and prevent stinging in your eyes from salt water or chlorine.
- Swim Cap: A swim cap can help protect your hair from chlorine; it also reduces drag when you’re trying to up your speed.
- Sunscreen: If you’re swimming outside, never forget a high-quality, waterproof sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Scope Out Local Gyms and Pools
Looking at local opportunities is a great way to begin your swimming fitness journey. Check community boards, internet forums, or ask people you know for recommendations in the area. If you’re already part of a gym or community pool –– even better! If you live near a body of water, you can even consider using that for a bit of healthy and recreational swimming.
Go at Your Own Pace
Before diving in, you should consider your swimming level and physical fitness. As with any exercise, overdoing it can lead to soreness, cramps, or even injury. Begin by taking things slow. Make sure to check in on yourself, your heartbeat, and your breathing. You will find that, over time, your swimming will improve; there’s no need to rush things!
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re swimming. Firstly, make sure that whatever body of water you’re in is safe. Having a lifeguard on hand is always important in case of any emergencies. You should also make sure that you’re staying hydrated. Although the water helps cool you off, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re not thirsty when your body is craving fluids.
Enroll in a Class or Find a Trainer
Having a person –– or group of people –– by your side is a great way to get into fitness. A personal trainer can help assess your individual needs. They can show you great techniques to stay safe and healthy as you exercise. Enrolling in a class is also a cost-effective way to get some guidance, as well as company. Working out in a group is a hugely beneficial way to get started.
Recruit Some Swim Buddies
Working out is always more fun when you’ve got a friend by your side. You and a friend can help each other achieve your goals by keeping track of your routines, holding a stopwatch, and assisting you through various exercises. Even just walking back and forth in a pool is a good workout –– and being able to chat with a friend makes it much more fun.
Try Out Different Things
There are tons of different exercises you can do in a pool. If you’re swimming laps, you can vary the types of strokes you try out: whether it be breaststroke, freestyle, backstroke, or even the more intense butterfly. Using pool noodles, kickboards, water weights, or even the side of the pool, you will find many ways to exercise in the pool.
People of all ages and genders can benefit greatly from swimming. Aquatic fitness is a cheap, easily accessible exercise that addresses many needs of both your body and your mind. If you’re interested in exploring swimming as exercise, talk to your doctor or local gym. And don’t be afraid of getting your hair wet!