Swimming is not just for summer anymore. Swimming is the second most televised summer Olympic sport (behind fan-favorite, gymnastics), and the founding of master’s and club swimming teams are shooting up around the country. But what explains the rise in popularity that swimming has experienced? Well, swimming has so many social and health benefits that it’s hard to see why it didn’t get popular sooner. What health benefits? Read on to find out why your next workout should be in the pool rather than on dry land.
Swimming, especially strokes like breaststroke and butterfly, can work smaller muscle groups– especially those in the shoulders and forearms. If you want to get the infamous swimmer shoulders, popularized by the recent summer Olympians, hit the pool rather than the weight rack. If you’d instead work on your lower body than your shoulders, try treading water. The effort and work it takes to keep yourself horizontal will work not only your abs but also muscles untouched by running, cycling, or other forms of cardio.
Feel the Burn
Looking to burn those calories the most efficient way possible? Hit the pool! A 40-minute workout can burn up to 1,000 calories! In the Medicine in Sports in Science and Exercise scientific journal, researchers found that swimming burned more calories than cycling, running, and all other forms of cardio over the same time. With muscle gain and cardiovascular benefits, swimming is the ideal workout.
If you are older, struggle with arthritis, complications from injuries, or have diseases like Osgood Schlatter’s, swimming is the perfect way to strengthen those muscles and tendons and stay in shape while recovering! Exercising in the water means that your body isn’t affected by gravity, which can put a strain on your muscles and tendons. This concept makes swimming ideal for those who can’t otherwise do weight-bearing exercise because of pain. You can also isolate specific muscle groups with the help of a pull buoy or kickboard, making it ideal for recovering from an injury. If you swim standard front crawl, you distribute the pressure equally across your body. This pressure variation is different than traditional weight-bearing exercises, which center the stress in your knees, which can give these tender joints a beating.
Healthier Hearts in Swimmers
Sure, swimming has strength benefits and burns calories, but swimming also offers some excellent benefits to your heart and respiratory system. For example, researchers have shown swimming reduces arterial stiffness in adults, which is a major contributing factor in heart attacks. The way you breathe during your stroke is also important. While in other sports on land, when participants tend to take shallow, quick breaths, swimmers must take deep breaths and then release the air over a more extended period, instead of making many short breaths in a row. This type of breathing strengthens your lungs!
Swimming Cuts Stress
In a survey conducted in Taipei, researchers asked participants before and after they swam at a local YMCA how they felt. The number who felt stress dropped by 80% after swimming! Many Olympic swimmers have talked about this in interviews, saying that they leave it all in the pool and that swimming is an outlet for their emotions. When swimming (or doing any other form of exercise) you are often forced to concentrate on what you are doing. This concentration, combined with the physical exhaustion, can help lower cortisol levels and thus improve sleep.
Swimming Saves Lives
Swimming is also a great way to promote safety. Being a strong swimmer can lower (but not completely get rid of) your risk of drowning. Drowning, which is often preventable, causes around 3,000 deaths per year, many of which are children under the age of 14. Even children and adults who are in a submersion incident and don’t drown often have to have their lungs pumped, suffer brain damage or are otherwise affected. Swimming not only increases confidence in the water, but it also teaches safety and respect around water, be it pools, the ocean, or any other body of water.
Not only is swimming physically healthy for you, but it also has many mental and social benefits. For example, an Australian study found that 5-year-old children that went swimming lessons were better at counting and reading than their counterparts. Swim teams and leagues can also be an excellent source of healthy friendships! Children that form friendships around sports cite that as a significant reason they play games and sports, making it easy to get your children involved in the sport as well.