Swimming is one of those rare forms of exercise that can be great fun as well as a complete workout. Kids' enthusiasm for visiting the pool is rarely matched by their desire to follow a high-intensity training program or attend regular jazzercise classes. There is something about swimming that makes us feel free and agile whatever our age, and luckily it is also one of the best exercises available.
Swimming is often recommend to those with poor mobility or recovering from injury due to the gentle nature of the sport. The water naturally supports nearly the entire weight of a swimmer's body, meaning that less strain is placed on joints and ligaments during exercise. However, this does not mean that swimming should be regarded as simply for the elderly or the infirm. Swimming's greatest strength is its versatile nature in improving health. Recovering from surgery and want a gentle workout? Swim. Suffering from osteoporosis and want to increase bone density and mobility? Swim. Want an exercise that burns more calories than jogging or cycling? Swim.
Aerobic exercise is one of the best things that a person can do for their health. By increasing your heart rate through movement, you place a strain on your cardiovascular system and so strengthen it. This helps your heart, your lungs and your whole body. While traditional forms like running or cycling are great, swimming is sometimes seen as an inferior alternative. You aren't drenched in sweat lumbering on a treadmill or covering fast distances on a bike, but due to the nature of water, you are working harder. Water is around 800 times as dense as air, meaning that movement in the pool takes more energy and effort and so has a greater impact on overall health. Swimmers burn around 350 calories in thirty minutes, more than most other forms of exercise. The lack of sweating doesn't mean that those swimming are working less, but rather that the water constantly cools the body.
Swimming is also unique in that is an exercise for your whole body. While you are improving your health by raising your heartbeat in the pool, you are also working muscles that even weightlifters may miss. The upper body gets the best workout, but the core and lower body are also constantly involved. This leads to a phenomenon known as swimmer's muscles, related to the famous swimmer's body, due to the fact that the pool works your muscles in specific ways and creates toned bodies.
Heated pools relax and loosen the body and so increase flexibility, meaning that as you swim and stretch against the water, muscles become longer and more defined and lead to the incredibly toned look that swimmers can achieve. This means that a swimming routine can be a useful addition for runners or weightlifters, as the smaller, denser muscle growth is complimented by a stretching and elongating process. Furthermore, as muscles continue to burn fat while you at rest, the impact of a regular swim routine can mean you are losing weight even when you aren't moving.
While complimenting all-over muscle growth, increasing cardiovascular health and toning your body, swimming has another advantage for overall fitness. Most exercise will place a strain on a particular part of your body. Runners can experience problems with their knees or ankles, weightlifters may discover problems with their backs or necks and cyclists can develop a freighting affection for Lycra. Swimmers face few of these challenges. Water supports nearly 90% of a person's weight, meaning that stress to bones and ligaments is greatly reduced without loosing any of the intensity. Swimmers have consequently been shown to have the lowest mortality rate of all, with Dr Steven Blair of South Carolina University finding that men who swam had a 50% reduced risk of death than those who ran or jogged.
Swimming also provides a number of non-physical health advantages. Exercise has been shown to be one of the best cures for mental health disorders like depression and anxiety due to the natural release of serotonin. Regular swimming improves overall mood, helps regulate sleep and reduces the risk of both physical and mental problems.
One of the most overlooked elements of a complete health is the impact of having a satisfying social life. As we age, it can be difficult to meet new people outside of work. Swimming offers the potential to meet new people who are actively engaged in your hobby. This can provide motivation to continue swimming alongside the mental boost that comes from actively engaging with people you like. Increasingly, modern lifestyles lack sufficient meaningful social interaction which can lead to poor mental health, and swimming clubs offer healthy socialisation.
Meeting with like-minded individuals doesn't just mean going to the local pool. Wild swimming has experienced an explosion in popularity in recent years with local clubs set up for interested people to join. Alongside the social boost and ability to experience new environments, cold water swimming has a number of additional benefits. Immersion in cold water has historically been promoted as a wonder cure for a number of ailments and modern science has shown this to be correct.
Regular changes in body temperature produces an increase in brown fat. This style of body fat, as opposed to the more common white fat, is less common within our bodies and produces a number of health improvements. Increased brown fat helps burn calories, regulates blood sugar levels and reduces the chance of diabetes. Cold water also improves circulation and metabolism rates, burning additional calories both during exercise and rest. Wild swimming can be great fun alongside the health benefits, but isn't for everyone. Taster sessions are available with many clubs, and there are even city based options.
Swimming offers a huge number of health benefits for everyone. The ability to tailor a swim routine to any particular health goal, whether to improve cardiovascular health, lose weight or recover from injury safely, makes a regular trip to the pool the perfect overall solution.