Why is swimming so good for us?
1. Swimming burns calories
If you are trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight, swimming is one of the many effective ways to burn calories.
According to Swim England, 30 minutes exercising in the water is worth 45 minutes of the same activity on land. Swimming breaststroke for just 20 minutes burns 200-300 calories depending on intensity2.
This is equivalent to a jog and 4-5 times that of going for a walk. And because it’s gentler on your body you’re likely to be able to keep going for longer, so the overall benefit can be greater.
2. Swimming makes getting active accessible for all
Swimming is suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Crucially, because water helps to support your bodyweight, it’s suitable for people living with pain, disability, injury, or illnesses that make it difficult for them to get active in other ways.
In short, when it comes to exercise, swimming is the ultimate leveller.
3. It improves cardiovascular fitness
Swimming is an effective and accessible way to improve your overall fitness and boost heart health and lung function.
This means your body is able to use oxygen more efficiently, which can help you feel more energised and improve cognitive function. And because swimming requires you to control your breathing, it can be beneficial for people with asthma, and people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).3
Note that there is evidence that long-term exposure to some chemicals found in swimming pools could increase asthma risk in swimmers.4
4. It’s also a form of strength training
Not only does swimming provide a cardiovascular workout, it’s also a form of strength training. It helps to keep your muscles healthy and improve bone strength as you move against the natural resistance of the water.
This makes it a great way to achieve the government recommended physical activity levels5 which now include targets for both aerobic and muscle-building exercise.
Resistance exercise also improves balance, helping to prevent falls and fractures in older adults.
5. Swimming helps relieve joint pain
When you’re in pain, working out may well be the last thing you want to do, however exercise is a key factor in the relief of existing joint pain and the prevention of further deterioration and immobility in the future. Swimming is the ideal solution for several reasons.
First, as we’ve seen, because the water supports your body weight, it allows you to tone up the supporting muscles and maintain the structure of the joints, without the discomfort of other forms of exercise.
Second, it provides a wide range of motion, increasing your ability to move your joints to the fullest degree, depending on the stroke or combination of strokes you choose.
Front crawl or “free style” stroke allows you to stretch your arms above your head and rotate them, which is great for strengthening shoulders.
Breast stroke can be therapeutic for knee pain resulting from injury, but what’s best for you will depend on your particular circumstances.
It’s important to check with your GP, physiotherapist or other suitably qualified clinicians before embarking on a new exercise regime to ensure it’s safe.
6. It’s recommended during pregnancy
Working out while you’re pregnant offers lots of benefits for you and your baby. Swimming and aquatic exercise get top billing for pregnant women due to the decreased risk of falling and injury, as well as the buoyancy factor that really comes to the fore as you head towards your due date.
Not only can exercise help boost your mood, but swimming can also reduce some of the more unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea, sciatic pain and puffy ankles, and because baby’s floating along with you, it’s gentle on your loosening joints and ligaments (your body’s natural response to pregnancy hormones).
Keeping active during pregnancy has been shown to help prevent gestational diabetes as well as reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia6.
7. Swimming is great for your mental health
Regular swimming can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve your sleep patterns7.
Swimming can also be a great way to meet people and build relationships, either by joining a swim class or attending your local pool.
Swim England’s Value of Swimming report, found swimmers to be more socially connected and engaged in their community compared to non-swimmers and less likely to be lonely; they are also more likely to spend time with friends and family, have more close friends and meet with friends regularly.8