Growing up, you couldn’t get me out of the pool. There was something incredibly refreshing about swimming laps and jumping from the high-dive into 18 feet of water below. As I got older, however, the time spent in a pool all summer significantly dropped. On the other hand, the importance of the activity did not.
So, in recognition of Swim a Lap Day, let’s chat and chew about the health benefits of swimming.
Increases muscle tone and strength. Unlike runners, who typically see muscle build in their legs, swimmers gain muscle strength throughout their entire body—they utilize larger groups of muscle to move through the water. During a swim, your legs kick while your arms pull, and as your back reaches and rotates, your stomach tightens to power the legs and stable your core.
Swimming makes you more flexible. As mentioned above, swimming allows your body to stretch, rotate, twist, reach, and pull as you move in the water. At the gym, many exercises are focused on one muscle at a time; swimming positions the body in a wider range of motions that helps joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible.
Swimming is good for your heart. Swimming is an aerobic exercise, therefore, is strengthens the heart and increases its size. This not only makes it pump better, but also leads to improved blood flow throughout the body. According to the American Heart Association, just 30 minutes of exercise—such as swimming—can decrease chances of coronary heart disease in women by 30-40 percent.
It reduces asthma symptoms. When you work out in a gym, typically the air is stuffy and very dry; however, swimming allows you to workout in moist air, which can ultimately reduce exercise-induced asthma. Studies, such as this one, have also linked swimming to improving symptoms and the general condition of the lungs. Even for those who don’t suffer from asthma, swimming increases lung-volume and encourages good breathing techniques.
Swimming helps with weight loss. Despite the cool body temperatures associated with swimming, the sport is actually a top calorie burner. While the exact number of calories depends on the person, the average burned every 10 minutes of swimming is: 60 with the breaststroke; 80 with the backstroke; 100 with freestyle; and a whopping 150 with butterfly.
Helps reduce stress and relieve depression. In addition to the release of endorphins, swimming also creates a feeling of relaxation comparable to yoga. Swimming not only stretches your body, it combines deep rhythmic breathing and a focus inward that allows you to block all outside distractions and stressors. This naturally lowers stress levels and depression. In addition, research has also shown that swimming can actually reverse damage caused to the brain from stress—this process is called hippocampal neurogenesis.
There are many other benefits associated with swimming, including improvements to your skin if you take a dip in salt water. If you want to mix up your exercise routine, try adding some time in the pool and see how it benefits your overall health. And if you ever need some words of encouragement, as Dori from Finding Nemo reminds us all, just keep swimming!