Swimming is the perfect sport to help you get fitter faster. It is also great for both physical and mental health, and anyone, regardless of experience, can access the sport regardless of their age or level of fitness and benefit from taking a dip. Given that you're exercising in water, you'll find that swimming is a low-impact sport and yet it provides excellent resistance work. Here's our 8 hidden health and fitness benefits of swimming.
1. Swimming Can Help Us To Reach Our Goals
Once you take up swimming regularly, you'll find that you're constantly wanting to improve. You might aim to do more laps than your previous session, or you may want to do faster laps. Swimming encourages you to be goal-oriented naturally. It's possible that you'll see this attitude transfer itself out of the pool and into other areas of your life too!
2. Swimming Actually Makes Us Smarter
You may think that regular exercise helps improve your physical fitness and that's all. However, research has shown that swimming can actually improve your memory function and cognitive thinking skills too. You'll see this transfer into the classroom or workplace, and it will benefit you as you age too. How does it work? Well regular exercise reduces inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, and this in turn nurtures new brain cell growth. Regular swimming reduces blood pressure, increases your muscle mass, improves the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, and increases your cardiovascular health so is perfect for all of us as we age.
In addition, swimming improves your mood and relieves anxiety and stress, and this allows the brain to think more clearly and efficiently.
3. Swimming Burns Calories
It is entirely feasible to burn more calories in the pool than running around a track or on a treadmill, although it depends on the stroke you choose and the intensity of your exercise. One hour of vigorous lap swimming will burn up to 715 calories, while running at 5 mph burns only 606 calories. If you want to do less, 10 minutes of swimming burns approximately 60 calories with the breast stroke, 80 calories with the backstroke, 100 calories with freestyle, and 150 with butterfly stroke, whereas a 10-minute mile run will burn around 100 calories. The key to burning calories is to swim as hard as you can so that you are slightly out of breath, that way you will elevate your heart rate and burn more calories.
4. Swimming Helps Build Confidence
If you're looking for a confidence boost, swimming is the sport for you. There is evidence in Australia that young swimmers tend to be more confident than others who don't swim. The same can be said for competitive and non-competitive adult swimmers. It seems that swimming boosts confidence in the pool and in open water, and this is then passed on to confidence on land as well.
5. Swimming Is Cheap
While this advantage is not directly related to health and fitness, swimming just happens to be one of the most accessible sports available, as well as the cheapest. You can usually purchase a monthly or annual swim pass which will reduce the cost significantly. You also need minimal gear – one swimsuit will get you started - and you can invest in goggles, ear plugs and a swimming hat if you really want to.
6. Can Help With Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Like all exercise, swimming will give you a good kick of endorphins – the feel good hormones. You get an exercise high, but also a similar euphoria to that you experience in yoga. You are stretching your body, and breathing rhythmically which aids relaxation. Swimming laps is calming and repetitive, which can help you focus on the now so that you let go of all other distractions. Put all these factors together and you have a package that can lower stress and depression naturally. If you're struggling with mental health issues, swimming can help you feel good again.
7. Improves Flexibility
The beauty of swimming is that you perform a number of exercises. You use the resistance of the water to reach, stretch, twist, and pull yourself forwards or backwards. The repetitive stretching helps with flexibility. You'll find also that a heated pool relaxes your muscles, which increases your flexibility and enables more stretching. If you swim after undertaking other intense lactic-acid-building endurance workouts, such as running or cycling, swimming will flush out toxins that can prevent your muscles being sore the next day.
8. Increases Muscle Definition and Strength
Swimming is a workout for the whole body, which effectively means that you can easily build muscle and strength with the one exercise, rather than running and weight training for example. Swimmers utilize more muscle groups than runners, by moving the whole body through the water using resistance. The legs kick and the arms pull and the stomach, your core muscles, are used to power the legs and stabilize you.
Swimming adds a number of health benefits to your life, which you may not have considered. So come on, don't live a sedentary lifestyle. Dive in and make a positive change today!
April 10, 2014