Swimming is a wonderful activity that can cool you off on a summer day or be a great way to exercise. The benefits of swimming however, extend far beyond those two popular attributes. From an exercise perspective swimming is fantastic because it is zero impact. If you are heavy or have knee or ankle problems, swimming can be a great way to help rehab or continue your training.
Swimming Benefit 1- Zero Impact
Many a weekend warrior has succumbed to the tribulations of a bum knee. From playing tennis and racquet ball and in shape, to sitting on the couch and gaining weight can be a depressing road to travel. I know many people who have met this fate. If you are used to consistent physical activity such as skiing, basketball, tennis, or any other sport, the transition to couch potato can be brutal and depressing. Swimming can be a great way to maintain your activity level while you’re waiting for the injury to heal.
Swimming Benefit 2 – Great, All Over Exercise
Swimming works many different muscle groups throughout the body. In fact, depending on the stroke used, you can hit just about every muscle group except your calves.
Swimming Benefit 3 – Relaxing Exercise
If you want to get a relaxing form of exercise, it’s tough to beat swimming. Running does it for a few people, but swimming allows you to put your body on autopilot and let your mind drift away.
Swimming Benefit 4 – Cardio-Vascular Training
Swimming is great for your heart and lungs. You can get your heart rate to about any zone you need for your training, and hold it there for as long as you are able. Because it involves so many different muscles, swimming is very effective at increasing your heart rate.
Swimming Benefit 5 – Social Atmosphere
Like other sports such as basketball, tennis, and softball, swimming allows you to congregate with other people that share a common bond (the pool). You can make many friends at the pool. The obvious thing is that you can’t talk while actually swimming, but your opportunities for conversation during a tennis match or competitive hoop session are pretty limited as well.
Swimming Benefit 6 – Builds All Over Muscular Strength
Because swimming works so many different muscles, and because water provides progressive resistance, you can build substantial muscular strength with swimming. Because of the resistance characteristics of water, the faster and harder you push, the harder it pushes back, and the stronger your muscles become.
Swimming Benefit 7 – Weight Loss
Swimming can definitely help you lose weight, however it is not as effective for that as many other forms of exercise. Sure you burn calories when cutting through the water, but it is that very water that prevents swimming from hitting the same level as many land based exercises.
The water keeps your body relatively cool and allows you to regain your body temperature fairly quickly. So, while you’ll expend calories at roughly 3/cal/mile/lb of body weight, you wont keep your metabolic rate elevated for 4 – 24 hours as you would with biking, running, or weight training. For example, if you are a 200lb man, you’d burn about 600 calories by swimming a mile. For one thing, not too many people can swim a mile, at least until they have substantial training behind them. That limits the percentage of people that can use swimming as a good weight loss tool, unless they are willing to fully commit to it.
So, while swimming does have tremendous physical and social benefits, unless you have an injury or other body condition that prevents you from running, biking, playing basketball, tennis, or resistance training, swimming should not be your go to exercise for losing weight. You’ll simply get more weight loss benefits for the time spent by using other activities.
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