Can you remember the last time you jumped into a swimming pool? For many, swimming is mainly a bystander sport that is inspired by media favorites such as Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres and, most recently, Missy Franklin. While few will reach the peak performance of these Olympian athletes, the overall benefits of swimming cannot be dismissed.
Here are 8 reasons why you should add aquatic exercise to your weekly schedule:
- Increase Longevity. Researchers at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas and the University of South Carolina were part of the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study that followed over 40,000 adults for more than 3 decades (1970-2003). Results from “Swimming and All-Cause Risk compared with Running, Walking, and Sedentary Habits in Men” showed that swimmers were approximately 50% less likely to die than walkers, runners and their sedentary peers.
- Become More Physically Fit. Sports experts have continually shown that swimming improves flexibility, muscle tone, muscular balance, endurance, and the body’s circulation. A consistent swimming regiment helps the heart muscle to become stronger and aids in the ability to maintain an appropriate weight.
- Joint Friendly Aerobic Activity. In waist deep water, the body handles only 50 percent of its weight. At chest height, the number is reduced to approximately 25-35 percent. Only 10 percent of one’s weight is being used when a person is submerged to their neck. These buoyancy factors allow a person to engage in activities that may not be possible on land. Aquatic exercises can be performed for a longer period of time since there is less stress on joints and muscles.
- Rehabbing From Injury and Illness. The buoyancy factors and the warmth of a therapeutic pool provide a great environment for an exercise program geared toward people recovering from an injury or illness. The water offers a 12-14% resistance factor compared to land based exercises. This level of resistance prevents sudden body movements that could cause an additional injury.
- Decrease risk of illness. Exercising aerobically for 2 ½ hours or more a week has been proven to lower the risk of chronic medical issues such as diabetes and heart disease. Regular exercise will lower cholesterol levels and also effect endothelium, a thin layer of cells that line the arteries. As people age, these cells lose their flexibility. Research indicates that regular aerobic exercise will improve the endothelium function in older adults who exercise.
- Prevents Overheating. Water disperses heat more efficiently than air. The pool water continuously cools the body. Exercise in the water is cooler and more comfortable than being on land.
- Fun Individual or Group Sport. A person can do a solo workout or join a class. When swimming solo, a person can identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop a program that meets their needs. Classes are an excellent way to socialize and meet new people Exercising in a pool is a delightful diversion from a routine exercise program.
- Improves Psychological Wellbeing. Invigorating aquatic workouts release endorphins that naturally make a person feel better. The rhythmic breathing associated with swimming causes a meditative state that is similar to the effects of yoga. Swimming can be calming and at the same time lower stress levels.
If you are recovering from an injury, trying to get in better shape, or looking for the Fountain of Youth, the advantages of an aquatic routine should not be dismissed. Some may argue that swimming is more time consuming than other activities. This is a meaningless excuse. No one wears their daytime clothes to exercise and then doesn’t shower afterwards. Unless you are allergic to chlorine, take the plunge. Have a great time enjoying your aquatic exercises.
Watch for future articles that provide suggestions for aquatic equipment, aquatic exercises, and routines.