Swim Your Way to Good Health

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Swim Your Way to Good Health

Here are five reasons you should be in the pool

It’s conventional wisdom that exercise is good for you, but swimming offers some special benefits that other forms of exercise simply cannot. Many people dismiss swimming as a serious challenge, but they shouldn’t. Swimming is healthy for your mind, your heart, and just about every other body part. And while other exercises pound your joints, swimming helps preserve them. If you’ve never been a swimmer, or have been hesitant that pool cost could be an obstacle, don’t let that stop you; there are plenty of ways into the water that don’t cost an arm and a leg or require you to train like a triathlete.

Here are five reasons you should be in the pool:

1) Swimming calls upon every muscle

Swimming combines the muscular effort of both running and weight training. Water is several hundred times more dense than air, so the amount of force required to move through such a viscous medium is much higher. Unlike running or cycling, which tend to utilize gravity and apply muscular force in limited directions, swimming provides resistance from every direction, forcing your body to use every muscle to propel you along.

The muscle groups that benefit most from swimming are the deltoid and shoulder muscles, from water propulsion, the latissimus dorsi of the upper back, from stabilizing the shoulder blades, and the core muscles of the abdomen and spine. No muscle is left behind, though, and a regular swimming routine will shape your arms, legs, and gluteal muscles before you know it.

2) Your joints will thank you

All that resistance training sounds like quite a strain, doesn’t it? The real beauty of swimming is that despite the workout, you become almost weightless in water, making swimming a joy for joints. On land, muscle training is a high-impact endeavor, causing our joints to counter the extra forces we apply. Swimming takes joint strain out of the equation, making it not only a great sport for young athletes trying to preserve their joints, but especially for older people for whom joint pain is a prohibitive barrier to exercise.

3) It’s good for your heart

Swimming is considered the ultimate cardiovascular workout. The American Heart Association recommends lap routines or water aerobics to keep your heart rate elevated for ten to thirty minutes two to three times per week. Studies that have followed swimmers of different ages have found that swimmers consistently exhibit lower body mass index, blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol. That, all together, is a formula for significantly lowered cardiovascular risk.

If the idea of swimming the lap lanes for hours is not appealing, get creative with your water routine. Many gyms offer classes that incorporate running, dancing, and even underwater cycling into their water aerobics. When possible, utilize an outdoor swimming area such as a beach or local lake, just to keep it interesting (at a safe location, of course).

4) It’s the best way to burn calories

Swimming eats up a ton of calories. The utilization of so many muscle groups really calls for a burst of energy. What’s more, your body has to generate more heat in cool water to keep the core temperature where it should be, resulting in a faster burn rate. Just forty-five minutes of leisurely swimming, something that could be achieved just hanging out in the pool with the kids, burns 330 calories. A breaststroke routine of the same length chews up a whopping 600 calories! The energy output combined with the lack of joint strain makes swimming far superior to any other form of exercise for weight management.

5) It’s better for your back

Back pain is one of the most common complaints from athletes to the aged. The musculature that surrounds our spine and connects it to our pelvic girdle and abdominal core is subjected to extraordinary stressors from virtually every daily activity. Traditional exercises like weight lifting or cycling, while certainly edifying, tend to exacerbate back pain symptoms even as they strengthen the rest of the body.

Swimming is your back pain solution. Swimming negates the gravitational forces that wear down intervertebral joints and strain spinal muscles, instead allowing them to become stronger and more flexible as you move.