We all know that swimming is a great exercise activity – it keeps you fit, helps you lose weight, and best of all, it’s heaps of fun. But swimming boasts other health benefits that you might not even be aware of.
From asthma avoidance to improving your immune system, here are seven healthy sides to swimming that just might surprise you.
Got a niggling injury you just can’t shift? Try swimming. Taking to the water is one of the most low-impact exercises you can possibly do, and will allow you to keep fit without aggravating an existing injury. Because of the full body utilisation of swimming, taking a dip gives injured areas a light workout no matter where they are on your body. Next time you are injured just head to your local pool for some relaxed swimming, and you’ll be back on the road to fitness before you know it.
If you suffer from asthma and find that exercise often causes it to flare up, swimming could be just the sport for you. Asthma attacks that occur when exercising are usually caused by a combination of shortness of breath and dry, cool air, so the warm, moist air found around swimming pools is perfect. The benefits won’t just be restricted to when you’re in the pool either. Research has shown that swimming increases lung capacity, helping asthma sufferers breathe more easily.
Boost your immune system
Open water swimming definitely isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially when the weather is less than favourable. However, you might just start to reconsider when you hear about the health benefits it provides. When you take the plunge into cold outdoor water your body reacts to the physical stimulation by increasing the production of white blood cells, which will improve circulation and boost your immune system. Cold water can also serve to soothe aching or injured joints, so open water swimming is the perfect activity for arthritis sufferers. Just be careful where you choose to swim, so you don’t put yourself in danger.
For those of you struggling with flexibility issues in other sports, swimming might well be the answer you’ve been looking for. The low impact nature of swimming combined with the effort you’ll have to put in to cut through the water resistance, means that muscles are lengthened as well as strengthened when you take a dip. Going through the motions of swimming will gradually develop the durability of your muscles, leading to increased flexibility and coordination. Start swimming a few lengths of the pool every week and you’ll be touching your toes in no time.
Because swimming isn’t a weight-bearing activity, most people assume that it can’t do anything to strengthen bones. This simply isn’t true. Although heavy impact exercise like running will do more for bone strength, swimming can still play a big part. Researchers in Taiwan undertook studies into bone density in swimmers and runners, and found that whilst it’s not as effective as running, swimming did actually serve to increase bone mass density. They also found that water-based activities are a great way of developing the mechanical properties of bones, which means they are able to withstand and exert more force.
Many of us are unhappy with our lacklustre posture, especially office workers who have to spend the day hunched over a desk. If you get involved with swimming you can kiss that slumped stance goodbye, as you’ll find that your posture improves alongside your swimming skills. Cutting through the water at speed requires you to swim as straight as possible, and as you gradually learn to do this you’ll see your posture getting better at the same time. Follow up your swimming session with some light stretches and you’ll be rewarded with even more noticeable improvements.
Increased life expectancy
As if all these surprising health benefits weren’t reason enough already, you’ll be happy to hear that getting involved in swimming could very well save your life. A study conducted at the University of South Carolina examined 40,000 men between the ages of 20 and 90 for over 30 years, and kept track of which exercises they were doing. The results were astonishing. Swimmers were found to have a 50 per cent lower mortality rate than men who didn’t exercise, and even those who jogged regularly.
Not bad, huh? We’ll race you to the pool.