We hope that everyone reading this resolved to swim more in 2014! Swimming is both fun and a very good exercise. Swimming is a unique exercise because it allows you to work your body without the harsh impacts to your skeletal system that you find in running or jogging. The human body becomes very light in water: in waist-deep water, your body bears only 50% of its weight. In chest-deep water, your body bears only 25-35% of its weight. In neck-deep water, you bear merely 10% of your own weight. Since the water supports the rest, your body is free to move without stress on joints or bones, making for a more gentle workout.
So you know the pool is a great place to exercise, but what exactly is that exercise doing for your body? The health benefits of swimming are almost too many for one article, but we're going to do it anyway:
Provides Relief From Arthritic Pain
Water's amazing supportive ability means that the pool is the perfect place to workout if you're overweight or suffer from arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation recommends that those who suffer from arthritis should stretch muscles, strengthen muscles, and perform aerobic workouts. Swimming combines all three into one activity.
Builds Muscle Strength and Tone
Water is about 12 times as dense as air, so every movement in water becomes a resistance exercise. Resistance exercises are known to be the best way to develop muscle strength and tone. In one study, men who participated in an 8-week swimming program saw a 23.8% increase in their triceps (the muscle at the back of the arm).
Improves Bone Strength
The resistance exercise provided by swimming also helps improve bone strength. The benefits of swimming on bone strength are especially notable in post-menopausal women who are highly susceptible to osteoporosis.
Encourages Muscle Flexibility
The broad range of motions that are possible and involved in swimming encourage joints and ligaments to become and remain loose and flexible. Additionally, swimming strokes lengthen the body, stretching muscles repeatedly from head to toe, developing elasticity in muscle tissue.
Improves Heart Strength and Efficiency
Aerobic exercise, also known as "cardio", is known to strengthen the heart. It helps make the heart larger and also improves pumping efficiency. This results in increased blood flow throughout the body. In one study, sedentary men and women participated in swim training for 12 weeks and at the end saw their maximal oxygen consumption improve 10% and the amount of blood pumped with each heartbeat improved by as much as 18%.
Can Lower and Control Weight
As a general rule, for every 10 minutes of swimming, the average person burns 60 calories doing the breast stroke, 80 calories doing the backstroke, 100 calories swimming freestyle, and 150 calories doing the butterfly stroke. And because of the low-impact nature of exercising in water, it's easy to workout for longer periods of time.
Relieves Asthma Symptoms
Swimming is done, by necessity, in a moist environment, which helps alleviate exercise-induced asthma symptoms. For regular asthma sufferers, swimming can actually improve the condition overall. In one study, children who completed a 6-week swimming program saw improvements in the severity of their asthma symptoms, snoring, mouth-breathing, and experienced reduced hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Even more impressive, these health benefits were still apparent a year after the program ended.
Swimming regularly can increase lung volume and teach proper breathing techniques, both beneficial to asthma sufferers.
Lengthens Life Expectancy
It's true! Swimming regularly can lengthen the span of your years. In a huge study of over 40,000 men aged 20-90 over the course of 32 years, those that swam had a 50% lower death rate than runners, walkers, or sedentary men. It's believed that the results would be similar for women. And because swimming is such a great exercise for older people, regular swimmers experience good health for longer than those who don't swim.
With a list of health benefits like this, who wouldn't want to go swimming? Make it your New Year's resolution and have a safe, healthy 2014. Happy swimming!