Swimming is one of the most popular sports in the US today. With well over 400,000 members on the USA Swimming registry, it begs the question: what is so great about swimming? In this article, we will explore that various and diverse ways that swimming can positively impact your overall health and well-being.
Swimming works virtually every muscle in the body and engages muscles that aren’t typically used in other sports or exercises. Unlike running, an activity that largely builds leg muscles, swimming requires a multitude of different body groups to move throughout the water. The muscles in your legs, hips, and glutes, for example, are constantly engaged throughout the repetitive up-and-down kicking motion, while your chest, biceps, triceps, and back muscles are worked with every stroke you take.
More than anything, swimming is a wonderful way to build core strength. The alternating kicking-stroking motion is all powered by the muscles in your core – your abs, hips, and lower back. Strokes like freestyle and backstroke require you to pivot through your core which can be incredibly effective in developing chiseled, ripped abs.
Like other exercises, swimming is a great way to boost endorphins – the “happy” chemicals in your brain. The more you’re able to increase your endorphin levels, the less stress you’ll feel and the better your mood will be. Unlike other exercises, however, swimming has its own unique way of releasing endorphins. Because water has a beneficial way of dulling the amount of sensory information that constantly pummels your body on a daily basis, being in the water brings a sense of weightlessness and calm that can relieve feelings of depression and further boost your sense of happiness.
The cardiovascular benefits of swimming are plentiful, but perhaps one of the greatest is its ability to reduce the type of harmful inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis build-up in the heart. Because swimming is such an aerobic activity, it can also eliminate the type of inflammation that leads to the rapid progression of diseases in other areas of the body as well. People with arthritis, for example, can greatly benefit from the swimming as it can help reduce joint pain and stiffness that’s often present in parts of the body.
Though it’s common knowledge that swimming is a great way to burn calories, many people don’t quite understand the capacity at which these calories are eliminated. Depending on the type and intensity of your swimming workouts, you can burn as much or more calories than you would if you went for a long run and you won’t be putting a damaging strain on your ankles, knees, and hips.
Furthermore, with swimming, you don’t have to worry about sweat getting in your eyes or ruining your shirt. To put things in perspective, a 10-minute run can burn around 100 calories. A 30-minute moderately-intense swimming session can burn 150 more calories than if you were to run a 5K in half an hour.
While we’ve explored how swimming can have a positive impact on things like stress and depression, research has shown that children who grew up taking swimming lessons show better results in language development, fine motor skills, confidence, and physical development than kids who were described as non-swimmers. Researchers also believe that swimming can also help improve math skills, as participants have to regularly calculate distances swam, set times, interval drills, and more.
The aforementioned benefits of swimming hardly graze the full spectrum of just how advantageous this sport can be. If you’re interested in learning more about swimming, how you can benefit from it, ways to improve your skills, and more, check out the wealth of information on our SwimJim blog site, today.
Whether you have watched people swimming lanes at the local pool or freestyle Olympic competitions on TV, you have more than likely seen the freestyle stroke, also known as the front crawl. The freestyle stroke maximizes speed and efficiency which is why it is the most preferred stroke of athletes and competitors.
Learn more about the freestyle stroke, common mistakes often made while attempting this stroke, and techniques you can try to improve your front crawl in the tips below.
The freestyle stroke is done from the prone position in the water, which means face down in the water.
Arms – To execute this stroke, your arms alternate movements from an overhead position moving backward towards the hip, propelling you forward, to coming from the hip and out of the water to the overhead position.
Legs – The freestyle stroke requires your legs to kick up and down in the water with pointed toes which is a simple technique called a flutter kick.
In order to front crawl stroke successfully, you must breathe at the right time during the recovery phase. Inhale the moment your mouth clears the water on your recovery side (side your arm is out of the water reaching forward) and begin to exhale the moment your face turns downward into the water.
You can use this technique to breathe unilaterally, every other stroke, which means you’re always breathing when the same arm is recovering, or bilaterally which is every third arm stroke. Bilaterally is more balanced and helps you learn to breathe on both sides.
Wide arm movements during recovery expends too much energy and leads to an inefficient freestyle stroke by forcing more of your body to sink into the water.
Technique: Let your elbow lead the recovery allowing your muscles to be as relaxed as possible. Your hand should be loose with your forearm dangling as soon as your arm exits the water. Prevent overreaching by entering the water with your recovery arm close in front of your head.
Better understand your buoyancy and how reaching effects it by swimming on your side and noting how your body sinks deeper into the water the higher your arm reaches. Knowing this correlation will help you intentionally prevent overreaching.
Though looking where you’re going is a natural instinct, it creates a problematic body position during the freestyle stroke. Facing ahead means you’ll be working harder and going slower because it puts your body in a position that creates more resistance.
Technique: Look at the black line at the bottom of the pool to track where you are going. This will not only ease your resistance, but relaxing your neck by looking down will allow your core to do most of the work which will put less strain on your back.
Adopt a head position that works for your body type and swimming technique. A mid-head position, used by many of the best swimmers in the world, lets you see slightly in front of you, but still keeps your body in a high position in the water. For a good mid head position, your hairline should be just cresting the top of the water and though you’re looking down at the black line, you’re seeing about 1-2 meters ahead at the bottom of the pool.
Fully extending your arm when reaching in front of you during the freestyle stroke can cause you to pull crooked, fishtail, and put extra stress on your shoulders.
Technique: Imagine there is a line down the middle of your body from head to toe, you do not want your arm to cross over this line onto the other side when reaching your propulsive arm out and into the water.
Be sure to rotate in order to prevent pulling crooked from the start. Practice rotating your shoulders and your reach with your back up against the pool wall.
It’s never too late to learn and perfect your swimming skills. Dive into some swimming lessons for adults and make waves with the experts at SwimJim. Looking for private or group lessons for a variety of ages? Contact us today to see how the SwimJim team can help!
For a child on the autism spectrum, the benefits of learning how to swim are priceless. Its inherently therapeutic nature provides a comforting space for the child and aids in reducing stress from the outside world. Swimming lessons serve as a stimulant towards the child’s engagement in social interactions, which in turn helps their speaking skills, self-esteem, and other cognitive faculties. Additionally, knowing how to swim could save a child’s life.
Because April is Autism Awareness Month, here’s what any parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) should know about swimming lessons and how they can help their child develop.
Water is a stress reliever
Water has a calming quality that soothes our bodies and reduces stress, and the therapeutic benefits of swimming and aquatic therapy are well documented. For example, the hydrostatic pressure of water creates a cradling and “weightless” environment, which helps relax your muscles.
For a child with ASD, these qualities of water are even more valuable because they help decrease hyperactivity and aggression. Instead, their focus can be turned to the concentration needed to keep themselves afloat. The gentle rhythms of floating in the water and the support of the water surrounding their bodies means the children don’t have to exert too much force on their bodies.
Additionally, the feeling of weightlessness that comes from swimming and treading water helps the child control their body movements so they do not harm themselves. Swimming also helps those with a strong sensitivity to touch get introduced to new sensory experiences in a safe, calming environment.
Drowning is the leading cause of death among children with ASD, according to the National Autism Association—it’s estimated that 91% of deaths of children on the spectrum ages 18-years-old and younger are the result of drowning. Most of the time, these cases involve wandering away from home.
The rate of children with ASD wandering from their home or away from a safe environment is four times higher than among the general population of children. When children on the autistic spectrum wander, they often find themselves attracted to water. In nearly all cases dying after wandering, the cause of death is from accidental drowning or suffocation.
Many children on the autism spectrum are unable to relay their address or phone number to other people, especially if they do not know them. Therefore, teaching them how to swim and be safe around bodies of water is a matter of life and death for a child on the autism spectrum.
Swimming helps autistic children learn and communicate better
In swimming lessons, children often perform exercises that use facial muscles, which serves as reinforcement for speech therapy. For example, when a student blows bubbles in the water, or motor boat noises, they are practicing the phonetics of p, b, and m sounds.
Additionally, learning how to hold and control their breath aids in articulation and enunciation. That way, they develop better communication with their parents and instructors. Parents of children with ASD who have taken them to swimming lessons have noted that their cognitive processes have improved, meaning the child is able to intake information and acquire knowledge better. This is due to the individualized nature of a swim lesson, which does not give them too much information to focus on all at once.
Social skills and self-esteem
Children on the autism spectrum benefit greatly from group lessons in which team-building and interpersonal relationships are essential. Apart from the pride associated with a child’s personal achievements in learning basic swimming skills, they can also learn how to support other team members and successfully interact with them. As part of a team, they can learn how to cooperate and have friendly competition, all while experiencing the positive feedback from their individual efforts.
Children will also develop listening skills that allow them to understand and follow instruction. Putting children with ASD in these kinds of social situations allows them build confidence in a safe space that is not too demanding.
Swimming lessons provide so many opportunities to improve and supplement an autistic child’s learning and development. In addition to improved social skills, it also gives them a chance to succeed at what may seem at first like an impossible task. This sense of accomplishment can help propel them forward to achieve even more than they ever thought possible.
When you think of enrolling your child in swimming lessons, what comes to mind? Do you think about long summer days watching your child splash happily in the pool or cheering them on as they swim in their first race? Maybe you think about spending summers at the lake or beach and watching your child swim with confidence and ease.
What you might not think about, however, is just how important it is to keep your child enrolled in swimming lessons throughout the winter. Though the short, cold days may seem like an unlikely time of year for swimming lessons, there are numerous advantages to wintertime swimming lessons.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that appears at the same time each year. For children, winter can be a particularly difficult time as daylight hours become shorter, normal summer-fun routines get cut back, and cold weather prevents them from enjoying time outdoors. All of these can lead children to feel symptoms of depression or unexplained fatigue. However, by keeping your child enrolled in swimming lessons throughout the winter months, they can engage in regular exercise that’s been proven to help children get better sleep, keep energy levels and appetites up, and provide other relief to these symptoms.
In the winter, your child doesn’t have as many opportunities to play with friends or meet new acquaintances at places like parks, playgrounds, or picnics. However, with weekly swim lessons, your child can have a much-needed break from the confinement of the indoors while also having the chance to socialize with friends both new and old. Not only does this help thwart the loneliness that can often accompany long winter months, but it keeps you child on a reliable schedule that they can look forward to throughout the week.
Moderate exercise is proven to help boost the immune system and keep your child healthy during a time when sickness tends to run rampant. And while it’s best not to put additional stress on your child’s immune system if they are fighting an illness, keeping them enrolled in swimming lessons when they are healthy will help them build a strong immune system. Additionally, swimming helps your child stay healthy in the following ways:
Perhaps one of the most important reasons to keep your child enrolled in swimming lessons throughout the winter is to ensure their safety and security around water. Unfortunately, the statistics on child drownings are very grim: an average of 350 children under the age of five drown in pools each year – a majority of which occur in June, July, and August. And while having a few months of swimming lessons here and there will no doubt help to give your child safe exposure to water, keeping them enrolled throughout the winter will give them the skills and techniques they need to stay safe in the water.
The basics of swim safety teach your child to turn over and float independently in case they accidentally find themselves in deep water. As the foundation of toddler and kids swimming lessons, instructors will help your child build upon these skills so they feel comfortable and confident while swimming in any body of water – from the bathtub to the ocean.
After a winter of swimming lessons, you can have peace of mind come summer when pools open, vacations call, and your child longs to get swimming!
As you can see, there are several key benefits of keeping your child enrolled in swimming lessons throughout the winter. Sign your child up for swimming lessons at SwimJim, today!
Have you ever enjoyed the relaxation of a long bath or soak in a hot tub, only to find your skin wrinkled and pruned once you get out? Maybe you’ve experienced the utter exhaustion after a day of playing at the beach or splashing around at a pool party. While these side effects are virtually harmless and natural for all humans, you might be surprised to learn the science behind this pruney problem.
It is important to remember that your skin is actually waterproof! Think about it: your skin doesn’t soak up the water like a sponge when you get out of the shower or tub – instead you use a towel to whisk away the moisture on your skin. To talk more scientifically, the sebaceous glands in your skin produce an oil called sebum (SEE-bum) that acts effectively as water-proofing while also lubricating and protecting your skin. We tend to think of ourselves as walled off under our skin but it is actually this sebum that keeps us from bloating up with water every time we get into the pool.
When determining what factors contribute to dish-pan-hands, we must turn to the concept of osmosis. After soaking in the tub or pool for an extended amount of time, your skin loses the protectiveness of the sebum layer, becoming more porous and prone to water exposure. After some time submerged in a body of water, the dead cells on your skin’s outer layer start absorbing water, which causes them to swell. This swelling causes the outer layer of skin to stretch, but because it’s still attached to the tight layers of skin beneath the surface, the expanded outer layer is forced to wrinkle.
Though osmosis undoubtedly plays a role in post-water wrinkles, scientists believe that this spontaneous reflex is mostly the result of human evolution. As explained by the Scientific American, several laboratory tests indicate that wrinkly fingers help improve our grip on wet or submerged objects. This natural occurrence channels water away from fingers and toes during wet conditions, which helped our ancestors maintain tighter grips while gathering food from wet vegetation or streams.
Mark Changizi, an evolutionary neurobiologist, found that not only are the wrinkles strategically placed, but that this pattern helped drain the skin’s water away from the fingertips to help provide a drainage network that ultimately improved grip. He conducted a study in which participants picked up wet or dry objects, like different sized marbles with normal hands or with fingers that had been soaked in water for 30 minutes. The results were fascinating: the subjects with wet, wrinkled fingers were able to pick up the marbles much faster than those with dry hands.
Oddly enough, wrinkles typically don’t appear until you’ve been submerged in water for at least five minutes. This means that intermittent contact with water isn’t enough to prompt this unique response. Furthermore, it takes significantly less time to wrinkle in freshwater than it does in seawater.
In fact, it’s very rare that you will ever leave seawater pruny and water-logged. Why? Well, it goes back to osmosis. When you are in a pool, the salt concentrations of H2O in your skin are higher and so the water from outside goes in. Well, when in the ocean, the salt content in the seawater is much higher and therefore draws the water in your skin, after the sebum has rubbed off, out into the ocean. Can you imagine? Your body trying to equalize the salt content of the ocean? That’s a lot of water to give off.
This highlights the important fact that should be remembered in the Summer when you are making a trip to the beach. If osmosis is working against you in salt water (taking water from your skin cells), then you need to counteract this by drinking extra water or a drink like Gatorade that is full of electrolytes. Doctors suggest about 8 cups of water a day, more if you are going to be active. We suggest 15 cups of water to drink during a day you’re spending at the beach, which is roughly equivalent to about 10 cans of soda. This might seem a lot but just remember that with the combination of that sun beating down on you, and the salt water sapping H2O from you, it’s crucial that you stay hydrated while having fun in the surf and sun!
The fall and winter are approaching fast. This means that less people are swimming, which means it’s the best time to get your children into swimming lessons. Until the fall/winter blues fade away into summer, we’ve created a fun & informative video to teach about how to keep your child safe near water.
These lessons are not just for children, but for parents that are watching their children swim.
Feel free to share it with your friends!
With Michael Phelps announcing his retirement from the sport of swimming, he’s had a luscious career. Now the question is, how well have you followed his career? Do you think you know everything about this Olympic athlete? Test your knowledge below!
You know what they say, there’s always room for improvement. Do you know how to become a better swimmer? Whether you are 4 years old or 40, following these tips will help you become a better swimmer.