Swimming is the fourth most popular activity in the United States. But why, exactly? There are a host of benefits you may gain from swimming laps regularly. Read on to learn about the benefits of swimming and how to incorporate swimming into your routine.
One of the biggest benefits of swimming is that it truly works your entire body, head to toe. Swimming:
- increases your heart rate without stressing your body
- tones muscles
- builds strength
- builds endurance
There are various strokes you can use to add variety to your swimming workout, including:
Each 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.
2. Works your insides, too
While your muscles are getting a good workout, your cardiovascular system is, too. Swimming makes your heart and lungs strong. Swimming is so good for you that researchers share 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.
3. Is appropriate for people with injuries, arthritis, and other conditions
Swimming can be a safe exercise option for people with:
- other issues that make high-impact exercises difficult
Swimming may even help reduce some of your pain or improve your recovery from an injury. One study showed that people with osteoarthritis reported significant reductions in joint pain and stiffness, and experienced less physical limitation after engaging in activities like swimming and cycling.
Even more interesting, there was little to no difference in the benefits between the two groups. So, swimming seems to have many of the same benefits as frequently prescribed land exercises. If you want non-swimming water activities, try these water excises for people with arthritis.
4. Good option for people with asthma
The humid environment of indoor pools makes swimming a great activity for people with asthma. Not only that, but breathing exercises associated with the sport, like holding your breath, may help you expand your lung capacity and gain control over your breathing.
Some studies suggest that swimming may increase your risk for asthma because of the chemicals used to treat pools. Talk to your doctor about the potential risks of swimming if you have asthma, and, if possible, look for a pool that uses salt water instead of chlorine.
5. Beneficial for people with MS, too
People with multiple sclerosis (MS) may also find swimming beneficial. Water makes the limbs buoyant, helping to support them during exercise. Water also provides a gentle resistance.
In one study, a 20-week swimming program resulted in significant reduction of pain for people with MS. These people also showed improvements with symptoms like fatigue, depression, and disability. Learn more about water therapy for MS.
6. Torches calories
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.
7. 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, 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. That can make swimming a good choice for older adults looking to improve their sleep.