Swimming for Health

Swimming has long been a summer activity favored by the young and the young at heart.  Getting out into the water on a hot summer day is a fantastic way to relax.  Many of us also know that regular swimming can be great for your health.  Here are just a few of the benefits of choosing to swim as part of your fitness regime.

Swimming is low impact exercise.  When you are in a pool with waist-deep water, your body only has to work to support about half of your weight.  If you are in water up to your neck, your body only needs to support about a tenth of its weight.  This means that a pool is a great place to work stiff muscles and sore joints, especially if you are overweight.

Recovery from many surgeries also require this low impact and weight reduction in physical therapy.  If the pool is heated, it’s even better for arthritis sufferers, as the warm water can help loosen stiff joints. In fact, people with rheumatoid arthritis receive greater benefits to their health after participating in hydrotherapy than with other activities. It’s also been proven that water-based exercise improves the use of affected joints and decreases pain from osteoarthritis

Increase muscle tone and strength.  Being in water has more constant resistance than other activities.  For example, a jogger running around the track only has to move air around their body.  A swimmer is propelling themselves through water. That means that every kick and every arm stroke becomes a resistance exercise, and resistance exercises are the best way to build muscle tone and strength.  Swimming has also been shown to improve bone strength, especially in post-menopausal women.

Control your weight.  Swimming is one of the biggest calorie burning exercises there is, and it’s great for keeping weight under control.  The exact number of calories you burn, of course, depends on your own physiology and the intensity with which you exercise, but generally for every 10 minutes of swimming: the breaststroke will burn about 60 calories; the backstroke 80; the freestyle 100; and the butterfly stroke about 150 calories every 10 minutes!

Manage asthma symptoms.  Exercising in the dry air in a  gym, or with seasonal allergies, is not an easy thing to do.  Swimming allows you to workout in moist air, which can help reduce exercise-induced asthma symptoms, and may be soothing to the lungs and sinuses. Even if you don’t have asthma, swimming can still help your lungs.  Swimming can increase lung volume and teach proper breathing techniques.

Improve flexibility.  Using exercise machines in a gym tends to isolate and work only one body part.  With swimming, muscles and joints can move freely in their full range of motion.  This helps joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible.  Plus, with every deep stroke, the body is stretched even further.

Keep your heart healthy.  In addition to working and toning large muscle groups, swimming also works out the heart muscle.  Swimming has shown to increase the strength and efficiency of the heart.  This type of aerobic exercise can help to balance your cholesterol and maintain healthy levels, and decrease the risk of diabetes.

It’s the exercise of a lifetime. Because of the low impact of swimming, it can be done at almost any age.  The master of fitness, Jack LaLanne, who died in 2011, still swam one hour every day at age 93!

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