You may have heard that experts recommend adults get 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Swimming is an excellent way to work your entire body and cardiovascular system. An hour of swimming burns almost as many calories as running, without all the impact on your bones and joints.
Swimming is the fourth most Trusted Source 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.
Swimming for recreation
Swimming is a great recreational activity for people of all ages. Recreational swimming can provide you with a low-impact workout and it’s also a good way to relax and feel good. Common swimming styles in recreational swimming are breaststroke, backstroke, side stroke and freestyle.
Health benefits of swimming
Swimming is a great workout because you need to move your whole body against the resistance of the water.
Swimming is a good all-round activity because it:
- keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off your body
- builds endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness
- helps maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs
- tones muscles and builds strength
- provides an all-over body workout, as nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming.
1. Swimming improves muscle definition and strength.
Swimmers gain muscle strength throughout the entire body. Where runners see muscle build in their legs, swimmers utilize more muscle groups to move through the water. While the legs kick, the arms pull. As the back reaches and rotates, the stomach tightens to power the legs and stabilize the core, making swimming one of the best aerobic exercises to give you a total body workout. Just look at Michel Phelps’ fit physique if you need inspiration!
2. Swimming builds up bone mass.
For years, researchers scoffed at the idea that swimming affected bone mass. After all, only weight-bearing exercises were able to achieve this benefit, right? Not according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Because there are ethical reasons to avoid in-depth bone examination on humans, the study put rats into three groups: running, swimming, and a control group with no exercise stimulation. While running still showed the highest increase in BMD (Bone Mineral Density), the swimming group also showed benefits over the control group in both BMD and femoral bone weight. While more studies are needed, these new findings show that previous research dismissing swimming’s bone benefits may need to be revisited.
3. Swimming helps you stay flexible.
Swimming requires you to reach, stretch, twist, and pull your way through the water. Your ankles become fins and are stretched with each kick as you push off against the liquid pressure. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still stretch on your own, but repetitive stretching found in your various strokes also helps with flexibility.
4. Swimming reduces inflammation.
While swimming’s cardiovascular benefits of strengthening the heart muscle are common knowledge, research also indicates aerobic activities, such as swimming, reduce inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis build-up in the heart.
Reducing system-wide inflammation leads to lessened disease progression in many other areas as well, so expect to hear of more benefits as the research progresses.
5. Swimming holds its own for calories burned.
Everyone knows that swimming is a great way to burn calories, but most don’t realize it can be just as efficient as jumping on the treadmill. Depending on the stroke you choose and your intensity, swimming can burn equal or greater calories than running.
Additionally, you don’t have to worry about sweat in your eyes. For example: for 10 minutes of swimming you burn 60 calories with the breast stroke, 80 calories with the backstroke, 100 calories with freestyle, and an impressive 150 with the butterfly stroke.
For perspective, running a 10-minute mile burns around 100 calories. Therefore, a strong 30-min butterfly speed session can burn 150 more calories than running a 5K in the same time frame.
To get started with swimming, you’ll first need to find a pool near you. Many gyms and community centers offer lap swimming times as well as water aerobics and aqua-jogging classes. You may want to make a list of the facilities in your area that have a pool, and visit to see which one works for your lifestyle and budget.
Prepare your muscles
From there, start slow. You may even want to start your journey in the gym with strength training that works your muscles before you hit the water. Try moves like assisted or unassisted pull-ups, up to double-digit reps. Squats and deadlifts of your bodyweight or overhead presses of half your bodyweight are also good practice. If you’re having trouble, consider asking a personal trainer for help with form.
Follow the pool rules
Once you’re in the water, be sure to observe pool etiquette. There are often slow, medium, and fast lanes. Ask the lifeguard which lane is which to find your right pace.
If you need to pass someone in front of you, do so on the left-hand side. When entering and exiting the pool, try to avoid actions that would creates waves or otherwise interfere with other swimmers, like jumping. You may also want to keep your nails and fingernails trimmed to avoid accidentally scratching other swimmers.
If you’re just getting started with an exercise program or if you’re looking to try something new, jump in the pool. Swimming has a host of benefits for your mind, body, and soul.
Once you get the basics down, try swimming laps for 20 to 40 minutes at a pace that keeps your heart rate elevated. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water and take breaks as necessary. Most of all, have fun!