Swimming is an activity that can be enjoyed for recreational or health purposes and can be easily accessible with public swimming pools found in most towns and cities across the UK. Swimming is a low impact form of exercise which makes it suitable for all age groups. According to Our Sporting Life, over four million people in the UK went swimming at least twice a month in 2021, making it one of the most popular ways to get fit and healthy in this country.
The NHS recommends doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, so why not take the plunge and make swimming a part of your weekly routine?
What are the health benefits of swimming?
Swimming could benefit your health in many ways. Below we explore ten reasons why swimming is great for your physical and mental health.
1. Swimming is a workout for the whole body
Although swimming is considered a low-impact exercise and feels less strenuous than running or walking on land, it makes your body work harder. When you swim, you are using all the muscles in the body to propel yourself against the resistance of the water. Whether you prefer a gentle breaststroke or full throttle butterfly, swimming will help you get a full body and core workout.
2. Swimming can be great for cardiovascular fitness
The heart is a muscle, and, like all muscles in the body, you can strengthen it through regular exercise. Swimming improves the health of your heart by making it more efficient in pumping blood throughout your body, lowering the risk of heart disease.
30 minutes of swimming three times a week can reduce blood pressure and can lower dangerous cholesterol level and boost good cholesterol.
3. Swimming helps you stay flexible
Whether you prefer a backstroke or a front crawl, swimming requires you to stretch and twist your body through the water. You are kicking with your legs and pushing with your arms, so every part of your body is used, helping you to stay flexible for longer.
4. Swimming aids weight loss
Swimming is a great activity if you’re looking to burn calories. A 150-pound person can burn around 400 calories during a moderate, one-hour of swimming and around 700 calories for a hight intensity swim. So, by incorporating swimming into your routine, you can expect to see some great results over time in achieving your healthy weight goals.
5. Swimming can improve your mental health
Swimming can lead to the release of endorphins which can help release tension, boost your mood, and give you a sense of happiness. Swimming can also be beneficial in people with depression, helping you manage emotions more effectively and improving self-worth. Moreover, it is thought that the colour blue, associated with water, has soothing effects and can improve mental wellbeing.
6. Swimming can reduce stress
Swimming can loosen up your body and mind. The soothing, rhythmic motion of a gentler stroke such as breaststroke can have a calming even meditative effect on your mind and can help lower stress level both short-term and long-term.
7. Swimming can improve quality of sleep
According to the NHS, swimming can help you achieve a better night’s sleep and help with conditions such as insomnia. The low impact, rhythmic nature of swimming allows your body to decompress, releasing tension and helping to calm your mind and prepare for rest in a natural way.
8. Swimming can be a great form of exercise during pregnancy
Swimming is considered one of the safest physical activities for parents-to-be during all stages of pregnancy because of its low impact nature. The buoyancy of the water helps to ease pressure on weight-bearing joints and relieves lower limb swelling while providing much needed relief from lower back pain.
9. Swimming is an asthma-friendly exercise
Swimming.org highlights that not only is swimming generally safe for children and adults with health conditions such as asthma, it can also help to alleviate symptoms by expanding your lung capacity, allowing you to breathe more effectively. The warm and moist air in indoor pools is less likely to trigger an asthma attack than the dry air found in places such as gyms.
10. Swimming can be beneficial for people with multiple sclerosis
Swimming can be beneficial to people with MS, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Trust. It is one of the few forms of exercise where you avoid overheating - something which can aggravate MS symptoms. The buoyancy of the water supports your body, putting less strain on tight muscles. The viscosity of the water means you move more slowly, allowing those with MS to work on aspects such as balance and coordination, while building up muscle strength.
What are the health benefits of cold water swimming?
Cold water swimming can also be referred to as open water swimming or wild swimming and it can take place in seas, lakes and rivers. Whilst it can raise a few eyebrows, the popularity of cold water swimming has been increasing.
There could be some health perks for anyone considering cold water swimming:
- It can prevent the potential over-production of hormones contributing to impaired immunity and therefore helping your immune system become stronger.
- It can significantly increase the production of thyroid-stimulating hormones which can help with weight loss, muscle strength and mood.
- It can boost the production of prolactin in the body, which is the hormone helping you sleep better.
Please be aware that open water swimming of any kind can be very dangerous, so beginners will need to plan their swim carefully and take all the necessary precautions.
For more information on the health benefits of regular exercise, why not take a look at our article 4 Less Obvious Health Benefits of Regular Exercise?
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.