Swimming has so many benefits, it’s hard to know where to start. Fitness, weight loss, strength and flexibility are some of the sport’s more obvious advantages. But whether you swim for leisure, pleasure or competition, did you know it’s one of the best ways to improve – and maintain – your general health and wellbeing too? Above all, it’s a truly democratic activity that’s suitable for all ages, abilities and fitness levels. So start thinking about adding that daily swim into your schedule now!
Swimming for fitness
We’ve all marvelled at the medal-winners we see on television. The way they streak through the water at superhuman speeds and rock those skin-tight costumes. Oh, the envy! Competitive swimmers are fast, fit and lean. But you don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer like Rebecca Adlington or Michael Phelps, to reap the rewards of regular exercise in the water.
Put simply, swimming burns lots of calories, while putting little stress on the body; a real bonus if you’re not in the first flush of youth, prone to injury, or suffering from joint problems. Swimming works all the major muscles especially in the upper body. So it’s a great way to get stronger and tone up those wobbly bits. It also works your heart and lungs to improve your cardiovascular capacity, and boost endurance.
Your local pool is the obvious place to start. It’s never too late to learn how to swim or how to swim better. So if you need some water confidence, enquire about lessons or adult-only/improver sessions. Alternatively, you can set your own targets, and your own pace, with some regular lengths. Or why not see if your local pool has a swimming club? Most clubs have a number of different squads, tailored to accommodate different levels of swimming. Therefore, there’s sure to be something that suits if you enjoy some company while you exercise, or need that extra little bit of motivation to keep going!
If you’re not sure about lane swimming, why not try water aerobics instead? Water-based workouts are great calorie burners, mixing resistance with cardio. The buoyancy of the water means aqua aerobics is low impact (and makes you feel about 90% lighter!) so it’s the perfect choice if you’re pregnant, have arthritis or suffer from back, knee or ankle problems. There’s a huge selection of classes available these days, from Aqua Zumba to Water Pilates to FloatFit. The latter’s a 30-minute HIIT class that includes lunges, burpees, squats, aqua-climbers and v-sits, all done on water using an AquaBase mat. So there’s bound to be an option that’s right for you and your fitness levels and goals.
Swimming for health
Swimming is much more than an excellent way to slim down and tone up. In fact, it offers a whole host of health and wellbeing benefits too. As you get fitter, your resting heart rate decreases, and your blood pressure should naturally lower. Dropping those excess pounds also reduces the risk of certain chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
But it seems that swimming is a holistic activity that boosts both the body and the brain from a very early age. For example, a report unveiled last year by Swim England revealed that children who take part in swimming lessons develop physical, cognitive and social skills quicker than those who do not.
There are many mental health benefits for adult participants, too. There’s significant evidence to illustrate that swimming can soothe the mind and reduce anxiety; relax the body; reduce loneliness; and offer opportunities to socialise. It’s well known that physical activity can prevent the onset of depression. Many people find it therapeutic to be in or near water, especially outside, so swimming has a real role to play in keeping people positive.
Go wild outside
Can’t stand chlorine or being cooped up inside? You don’t have to swim in an indoor pool! Wild swimming (basically, swimming in lakes, rivers and the sea) is growing in popularity, as are outdoor lidos. This method of swimming is free, easy and exhilarating. Cold water has plenty of health benefits of its own, anyway. These include boosting your immune system, and generating an all-natural high, thanks to the endorphins involved. Devotees insist it also banishes bad skin (thanks to better circulation) and even improves your sex life. So what are you waiting for? Grab your goggles and take the plunge today!