Fitness & Health: Swimming Exercise
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise, as it is suitable for people of nearly all fitness levels. It does not require any special training or equipment, and is relatively inexpensive, especially if you have access to a public swimming pool. Swimming is also a great exercise for people who are limited to the type of exercise they can do, as well as those who find other types of activities strenuous or painful.
Health Benefits of Swimming
One of the main reasons swimming is such a great exercise is because of our natural physiological response to being in the water. Because the human body is 90% water, its density is very similar to that of water, which is what gives you that feeling of weightlessness when you’re swimming. More importantly, however, this weightless feeling is what makes swimming a low-impact exercise suitable for almost anyone – pregnant women, people with disabilities, those recovering from injury, the elderly, and those with weight limitations.
In terms of its benefits to your body, swimming is a great cardiovascular workout as well as an endurance and muscle strength enhancer. For maximum benefit, gradually and continually increase your effort so that you can also increase your heart rate and build muscle.
Another thing to keep in mind while you’re swimming is which body part you are trying to target. When we swim, we naturally exercise all of the muscles in our bodies. However, we tend to put more emphasis on our upper body and arms. If you are trying to target your lower body, try doing the breaststroke, which generates greater leg movements. If, on the other hand, you participate in other lower-body exercises out of the water, you might consider doing the front crawl to give your arms an additional workout.
Does Swimming Help You Lose Weight?
Despite all of its health benefits, swimming may not be the most effective exercise for weight loss. Swimming does burn calories – normally at a rate of about 3 calories per mile per pound of bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs and it takes you 30 minutes to swim one mile, then you will be using about 900 calories in one hour. The problem, however, is that many people cannot swim that quickly, and those that do will generally not do so for that amount of distance or duration.
There are other existing theories as to why swimming does not normally result in significant weight loss, such as:
- Some researchers claim that, for some reason, being surrounded by cold water for a certain period of time seems to increase the appetite, causing swimmers to eat more once they get out of the water.
- Swimming fast requires a high output of energy, which burns glycogen instead of fat. Prolonged exercise at a lower intensity is better for fat burning.
- It is believed that the body’s metabolism increases at higher body temperatures. Since the body is cooled while swimming, this could reduce the body’s metabolism and therefore the amount of calories burned.
Improve Your Swimming Routine
To maximize your swimming experience, experts recommend you do interval training. In other words, swim at a low-intensity for several minutes and then push yourself as hard as you can for a short spurt.
It is also a good idea to complete your swimming workout with land exercises. Specifically, it’s best to try exercises that target the lower body, as this is often neglected while swimming, such as running, speed walking, or cycling.
If you're a beginner, don’t overdo it. You may consider joining an instructional class to help you learn the proper technique. Once you’re feeling more comfortable, try to swim for 10 minutes. Build up to a 30-minute workout, three to five times a week. Be sure to include a warm-up and a cool-down, and challenge yourself by working on endurance, stroke efficiency, or speed.