It’s a steamy mid-summer day and time for your daily workout. Picture yourself gliding almost effortlessly through sparkling blue water or you could be sweating over workout equipment in the gym. Think about it…a sparkling, refreshing pool or gym-based workout. Which sounds more enticing? Can’t you just feel the invigorating cool water? Sounds pretty good, right? Take the plunge. The good news is that swimming is well documented as an excellent form of exercise. If you still need convincing, here are some great reasons why swimming can benefit your overall health and wellbeing.
Swimming offers multiple health benefits with less effort. Just two and a half hours per week of aerobic physical activity, like swimming can decrease your risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. People report enjoying water-based exercise more than exercising on land, and they can exercise longer in water without increased effort. Maybe that’s why swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the nation. Well-Being spoke with Mary Beth Taylor, Family Nurse Practitioner, record holding competitive swimmer and inductee of the Delta State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012, who also is swimming instructor and coach of the summer swim league at The Club at Township, about some of the general benefits of swimming. “Swimming is a great aerobic workout, because it uses all of the muscles in the body like no other form of exercise,” Says Taylor. “It promotes fitness by improving endurance, requires breath control, improves muscle strength and tone, promotes circulation, contributes to weight loss and improves range of motion of joints, just to mention a few of it’s benefits.”
Swimming provides an efficient cardio workout. When you are in the water, your heart rate is lower than on land, possibly because of the lowered impact of gravity and lower water temperature. Your heart has to work less in the water to get the same benefit of exercising on land. Swimming can help you improve overall health over time by improving cardiovascular function, lowering blood pressure, and ultimately the risk of heart attack or other health complications.
“Besides improving cardio health, swimming helps to relieve anxiety and depression and improves symptoms of ADHD, benefits neuromuscular disorders, some dermatological problems, diabetes and post-operative conditions,” adds Taylor.
Swimming is low impact, so it is easier on the muscles and joints. If you suffer from arthritis, or just don’t like the pounding of the running trail or the treadmill at the gym, swimming is a great alternative. It’s also beneficial if you are recovering from an injury and need to rebuild function without causing further damage to the affected area. The buoyancy of water means you’ll only have to support a fraction of your own weight. As the water supports the weight, the spine, joints and muscles get a welcome break while exercising.
Well-Being also talked to Catherine Sherer Bishop, MFA, TCRG, who works with Baptist Healthplex in Jackson. She is a swimming instructor, teaches Ballet Fitness, Pilates and is a teaching assistant at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Lower School.
“Swimming is an excellent avenue of exercise for people who suffer with obesity, arthritis, and who are pregnant, to name a few special populations,” Bishop explains. “At Baptist, we provide water classes six days a week, which include prenatal classes, arthritis classes, and power water aerobics.”
Swimming is ideal for all ages. Whether you are a kid, a senior or fall somewhere in between, swimming is not only a fun way to exercise, it helps build and maintain muscle tone, strengthens the whole body and can help foster a healthier mental outlook. It’s important to enroll kids in swimming lessons early, so they will gain the confidence and skill to be comfortable and safe around water and develop a love of swimming for fun and fitness. Swimming can be a family sport, a social sport, and a competitive individual or team sport. It is a skill that can grow and change with you throughout a lifetime. For seniors, swimming is an excellent full body workout that doesn’t stress the muscles and joints. It is also a great way to motivate older adults to improve their exercise habits – 75% of seniors don’t exercise enough. Water-based exercise can improve their quality of life, decrease disability and help maintain bone health in post-menopausal women. “No matter your age, having the skill of swimming is most important for safety reasons,” Taylor concludes. “Swimming is a great all around sport, but in order of importance safety comes first, then health and fitness.”