I love the water. I’m a terrible swimmer, but an excellent floater and have discovered an excellent water runner. I love water running and am in the pool at least three times a week running.
Imagine my joy when I learned that experts think swimming might just be the best exercise ever as swimming accommodates all ages, stages, abilities and disabilities. Plus, there’s also evidence it can slow down the aging process.
A long-term study at Indiana University Bloomington’s Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming found that Masters Swimmers (over age 35) who swam roughly 3,200 to 4,500 meters (about 3.2 to 4.8 kilometers) three to five times a week, postponed the aging process—not just for a few years but for decades!
Thank goodness we don’t have to be a Masters Swimmer to reap swimming’s benefits. Health and well-being benefits start with a minimal amount of swimming, but to get the full fitness effect, we need to get the heart rate up and boosting the intensity of the swim.
Another study, by Dr. Steven Blair at the University of South Carolina, has shown swimming dramatically reduces the risk of dying. The study spanned 32 years and followed 40,000 men, aged 20 to 90. Those who swam had a 50 per cent lower death rate than runners, walkers and those who didn’t exercise at all.
Swimming is kind to your joints and improves flexibility.
Swimming is a form of exercise that’s suitable for all ages because it’s so easy on the joints. The water supports the body so only a fraction of your weight has to be supported by your limbs. It also favors smooth circular movements rather than quick jerky movements that can strain joints. I learned this first-hand. Prior to hip surgery, I started water running, since I could no longer walk, let alone run. It kept me active and didn’t add to my hip pain. After hip surgery, I continued water running to rebuild strength and mobility. It helped speed up recovery time. I have to say, it’s still my favorite exercise – 45 minutes of water running is equivalent to running five miles on the road. (It feels a lot easier too!)
Swimming helps you lose weight.
A simple half-hour swim can burn as much as 250 calories. Even a gentle swim can burn 200 calories. Since water is about 800 times denser than air, your body has to work harder in the pool, even though it doesn’t feel like it. Gliding through the water can be a glorious and relaxing feeling.
Swimming improves mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed swimming promotes feelings of well being. Most swimmers are more positive and experience more good moods than non-swimmers. For people with fibromyalgia it can decrease anxiety, and exercise therapy in warm water can decrease depression and improve mood.
Swimming is a great aerobic exercise. As a child, my doctors recommended I take up swimming as exercise for my asthma as it helps to increase lung capacity while providing a solid work-out. It helped and it’s one of the reasons I continue to swim today.
Swimming can help the areas you want to tone.
Since swimming involves a variety of strokes that use different muscles, you can target the areas you most want to tone – be it legs, upper arms, or stomach muscles. This link includes techniques for doing each stroke.
Swimming is cheap.
Unlike some sports which require a lot of equipment, swimming just requires a swimsuit, bathing cap and a pair of decent goggles and, of course, a pool. Our community has both an indoor and an outdoor pool, which is great as it’s readily accessible. There are many public pools and local gyms with pools. Some have a membership requirement, others have daily fees. In the heat of the summer, it’s a great way to cool down and work out at the same time.
Swimming is suitable for all ages.
Swimming is ‘cradle to grave.’ You simply adjust the pace to your age and ability.
Swimming is social.
If you swim regularly you’ll most likely make new friends of all ages, since people not only swim at the pool but also like to relax, socialize and talk. Plus, you can meet new people through swim workout and swim classes ranging from aqua tai chi and aquasize to water running.
If you aren’t already a swimmer, but think you might like to start, check with your doctor to make sure there aren’t any health issues to take into account. You may want to enroll in swim lessons. An instructor can help build swimming skills and alleviate any fears you might have about the water.
Take it slow in the beginning and progress at your own pace. Don’t try to measure up to a 20-year-old speeding through the water. Instead, enjoy the experience of swimming – of floating and moving through the water.