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 the various and diverse swimming benefits that can positively impact your overall health and well-being.
1. Low Impact
Unlike almost every other sport and exercise on land, a great swimming health benefit is that it provides a strenuous exercise without causing damage to your body. If you are recovering from a serious injury, or have an existing injury that makes it hurt any time that you exercise, swimming is for you. Even if you say that you can’t float, water still gives you buoyancy, which helps reduce the impact your joints take while working out.
2. Fewer Injuries
While runners are known for having bad knees and ankles, tennis players have worn out shoulders and elbows, and basketball players can hurt their hands, legs, and ankles, swimmers are at risk for very few injuries. If you swim the same stroke vigorously for too long you might gain tendonitis in the shoulders, but that is rare and typically low-grade. It’s not a bad thing that the biggest problem that a swimmer has to commonly deal with is water being stuck in your ear.
While swimming might not require you to be as flexible as your friends who are going to a yoga or pilates class, the range of motion involved with swimming requires flexibility throughout your body. By using a wide variety of strokes and drills, you can help lengthen muscles and ligaments.
4. Full-Body Workout
Swimming is a full-body workout and engages muscles that aren’t typically used. Unlike running, an activity that largely builds leg muscles, swimming requires a multitude of different muscle groups to move throughout the water. The muscles in your legs, hips, and glutes, for example, are constantly engaged while kicking, and your chest, biceps, triceps, and back muscles work with every stroke you take. 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.
5. Strength Training
Swimming can quickly make muscles all over your body bigger and stronger. Strengthening muscles throughout your entire body is a major swimming health benefit. While some might think that the only way to get in shape is by hitting the gym and lifting heavy things up just to put them back down again, swimming can provide you with the strength training that you’re looking for. You can even use specific drills to target specific muscle groups to increase your strength.
6. Live Longer
While swimming is great for your muscles, joints, ligaments, one of the biggest benefits of swimming is that it strengthens your heart and lungs as well. Heart disease is currently the highest cause of death in the United States. Having a healthy heart can reduce your risk of death, and research shows that swimmers have about half the risk of death compared to people who don’t exercise. Spending as little as two and a half hours per week in the water getting aerobic exercise can decrease the risk of chronic illness.
7. Say Goodbye to Stress
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.
8. Fight Depression
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.
9. End Inflammation
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 swimming as it can help reduce joint pain and stiffness that’s often present in parts of the body.
10. Lose Weight
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.
To put things in perspective, a 10-minute run can burn less than 100 calories while a 10-minute swim can burn about 150—or more—depending on the stroke, drill, and intensity of your workout.
11. Smart Swimming
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.
12. Helps With All Other Sports
Swimming can help you, even if you’re not a swimmer first. Because of swimming’s ability to work your entire body while still providing strength, flexibility, and endurance training without damage or injury to your body, it is a perfect supplement for any athlete’s training and exercise regimen. Swimming can help you no matter what level you are at and can help your overall fitness.
13. No Sweat
For some people, as soon as they start to run or perform any amount of activity, their armpits start to sweat and by the time they’re halfway through their workout, they are faced with being a sticky, stinky mess. Swimmers never have to deal with that. Swimming is always in cool, relaxing water. No matter how hard or how long you work out, swimming always leaves you clean and cool. Rather than having to figure out how to get rid of stinky, sweat-covered clothes, swimmers only have to worry about the lingering clean smell of chlorine.
14. Lifelong Skill
One of the most common sights at a public pool is people of all ages enjoying the water. Swimming isn’t just for the young, and there are commonly classes and activities for all ages around the pool. Learning how to swim can keep you healthy now, and due to its many benefits and low impact, can keep you healthy and happy throughout your life.
More Benefits and Swimming Smarts
These benefits only scraper the surface of just how advantageous this sport can be. If you’re interested in learning more about swimming, how you and your children can benefit from it, ways to improve your skills, and more, check out the wealth of information on our SwimJim blog. We offer a variety of lessons for young learners so you can get your kids started on a sport that will help them stay active and healthy throughout their lives. If you have any questions about swimming, contact us today.