Swimming works your whole body. Each swimming stroke focuses on different muscle groups, and the water provides a gentle resistance. No matter what stroke you swim, you’re using most of your muscle groups to move your body through the water. Swimming works your insides as well. While your muscles are getting a good workout, your cardiovascular system is too. Swimming makes your heart and lungs stronger. Swimming builds up your bone mass, and also reduces inflammation and helps you address most chronic disorders. Swimming is so good for you, that researchers say it may even reduce your risk of death. Compared with inactive people, swimmers have about half the risk of death. Some other studies have shown that swimming may help lower blood pressure and control blood sugar. Swimming is appropriate for people with injuries, arthritis, and other chronic illnesses. It’s a good exercise option for people with asthma, and beneficial for people with MS as well.
Swimming is an efficient way to burn calories. A 160-pound person burns approximately 423 calories an hour while swimming laps at a low or moderate pace. That same person may burn up to 715 calories an hour swimming at a more vigorous pace. A 200-pound person doing the same activities would burn between 528 and 892 calories an hour. A 240-pound person might burn between 632 and 1,068. To compare these numbers to other popular low-impact activities, that same 160-pound person would only burn around 314 calories walking at 3.5 miles per hour for 60 minutes. Yoga might burn just 183 calories per hour. And the elliptical trainer might burn just 365 calories in that hour.
Swimming improves your sleep. Swimming may have the power to help you sleep better at night. In a study on older adults with insomnia, participants reported both a boost in quality of life and sleep after engaging in regular aerobic exercise. Nearly 50 percent of older persons experience some level of insomnia, so this is excellent news. The study focused on all types of aerobic exercise, including the elliptical, Stairmaster, bicycle, swimming pool, and exercise videos. Swimming is accessible to a wide range of people who deal with physical issues that make other exercises, like running, less appealing. This can make swimming a good choice for older adults looking to improve their sleep.
You boost your mood with swimming. Researchers evaluated a small group of people with dementia and saw an improvement in mood after participating in a 12-week aquatic program. Swimming and aquatic workouts aren’t just psychologically beneficial for people with dementia. Exercise has been shown to boost mood in other people, as well.
Researchers surveyed a group of swimmers immediately before and after swimming at a YMCA in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Of the 101 people surveyed, 44 reported being mildly depressed and feeling stress related to fast-paced life before swimming. After swimming, the number of people who still reported feeling stressed decreased to just eight. While more research needs to be done in this area, the researchers concluded that swimming is a potentially powerful way to relieve stress quickly.
Swimming is also safe during pregnancy. If you were looking for a safe way to maintain healthy exercise during pregnancy, you’ve found it. Pregnant women and their babies can also reap some wonderful rewards from swimming. In one study in animals, a mother rat’s swimming was shown to alter the brain development in her offspring. It may even protect babies against a type of neurological issue called hypoxia-ischemia, but more research is needed. Aside from potential benefits to the unborn child, swimming is an activity that can be performed in all three trimesters. Another study shows no adverse effects of swimming in chlorinated pools while pregnant. In fact, pregnant women who swam during their early to mid-pregnancy had a lower risk of preterm labor and congenital defects. Keep in mind that while swimming is generally considered safe during pregnancy, some women may have activity restrictions due to complications in pregnancy. Talk to your health professional before starting any new exercise programs during pregnancy, and if you have complications, ask about activities that are safe.
Swimming is great for children as well. Children need a minimum of 60 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. It doesn’t need to feel like a chore either. Swimming is a fun activity and doesn’t necessarily feel like formal working out. Your child can do either structured swimming lessons, diving, or be part of a swim team. Unstructured swim time is another solid option to get children moving.
Swimming can also be an affordable option compared to others, like cycling. Many pools offer reasonable rates to join. Some public schools and other centers offer swim hours for free, or for a sliding scale according to your income. If you’re still concerned about the costs of joining a pool, check with your employer or your health insurance, some offer reimbursements for joining a fitness program. Note: If you are under the care of a Physician, please check with them before starting any exercise regiment.