Why is swimming so beneficial?
Let’s be real here, not everyone enjoys swimming. Take my brother, for example – he wouldn’t dare venture anywhere near a swimming pool for the sheer grossness factor of sharing the same water with members of the public *hygiene freaks cringe*. I feel swimming can often get a bad rep because of the soggy palaver that can come along with a trip to the pool.
But if you’ve read one of my latest articles – ‘SWIMMING. THE NEW RUNNING?’ – you’ll know that I’ve dusted off those toddler swim school lessons and am taking to the pool more often. Why swim? Let’s hope by the end of this I’ve convinced you.
SWIMMING PUTS LESS STRAIN ON YOUR MUSCLES
Main reason why swimming is so beneficial: it’s non-weight bearing; the water supports all your muscles, bones, joints, ligaments and so on, whilst you clock up the laps in the pool. Compare this to the constant pounding of running, where with every step your muscles receive quite the battering, and the difference is stark. Swimming: brilliant for anyone, injured or not.
SWIMMING IS BOTH A STRENGTH & CARDIO EXERCISE
No longer do you have to choose between strength or cardio; swimming counts as both. Constant movement to keep yourself afloat, else you sink, provides the cardio element. As for strength, the fact that water is roughly 800 times denser than air means your muscles are under constant resistance. Imagine cycling up a very steep hill in a high gear. Can’t stop peddling and each turn of the pedal is extremely tough. That’s swimming.
SWIMMING INCREASES YOUR AEROBIC CAPACITY
When underwater, oxygen is limited. Your body has to be more clever when it comes to delivering sufficient levels of O2 to the working muscle cells. So it adapts, learning to extract more oxygen and expel more CO2 with every precious breath. Swimmers, along with other endurance athletes, have bigger lungs and in turn a greater aerobic capacity – PE term measuring how efficiently lungs and heart deliver oxygen to muscles (larger aerobic capacity equals better performance).
SWIMMING MAKES YOU A BETTER ENDURANCE ATHLETE
The aim of the game in endurance sports is to survive long periods of exercise. Following on from the previous point, as swimming increases the body’s efficiency to deliver oxygen to the muscles, you are able to keep going at a higher intensity for a longer duration. You can endure better. Runners, cyclists – you name it, this is going to beneficial for your performance.
SWIMMING WORKS DIFFERENT MUSCLE GROUPS
It’s highly unlikely you’re sat reading this with your arms above your head. The repetitive reaching with your arms in swimming works otherwise underused muscles. Whilst in the pool your latissimus dorsi, deltoids and trapezius are all working as your arms propel you through the water.
SWIMMING BUSTS STRESS BETTER THAN OTHER SPORTS
With any sport comes the release of mood-boosting endorphins, that’s a given. However swimming boasts its own super-powered stress busting expertise. When I enter the water I feel like I’m entering my own little bubble (pardon the pun). Being submerged in water has the effect of dialling down your senses, meaning less sensory info is bombarding your system, so you can entirely focus on swimming. No stress-inducing distractions. Just chill.
SWIMMING IS A KEY LIFE SKILL
Being a strong swimmer is an incredibly valuable skill. Undeniable. Everyone should be able to swim, and more people should swim regularly as there are just so many benefits to gain.
Many, including myself, turn to swimming because of an injury from another sport. Doctors love it, regularly recommending it for those endorphin junkies who just can’t face no sport for the healing period (AKA me). Best prescription? A good few lengths in the pool.
Injured or not, swim. The benefits are multitudinous. Swimming is undoubtedly a sport we should ALL be doing. So grab your goggles and go.