When the temperature starts to rise, a cool dip in the pool is always sweet relief. But, after a friend visited me from out of town looking slim and toned after months of working as a swim instructor, I began to ponder the many benefits of spending more time in the pool. Relaxation, relief from heat, health, stress relief…swimming is so much more than a summer refresher.
Think about it. Everyone from babies to the elderly loves to get in the pool. When you’re young, splashing around in the water with toys and friends is fun. For the elderly, water aerobics is a great way to stay active without the stress other forms of exercise can put on your joints. Swimming can be competitive or it can be recreational. You can do it in the gym, your own back yard or in the great outdoors. After all, about 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Why not swim in it?
In terms of exercise and health, swimming is a complete workout. It keeps your heart rate up while improving muscle strength, muscle tone, lung function, endurance, posture and flexibility. For the best total-body workout, freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke are ideal. If you’ve had a bad day or are feeling particularly stressed out, a relaxing dip in the pool can often improve mental health and clarity. Nothing blocks out all the unwanted noise of the world like diving under the water for a few seconds and letting all your stress float away.
While swimming is a total-body workout, it might not help you lose a ton of weight. Although, my swim instructor friend may beg to differ. Swimming will burn calories, but running and cycling are generally better for weight loss. Swimming is often recommended for general fitness, not weight loss, because your body does not have to work to cool down after a swim in the pool like it would after a long run. That cool-down period following land exercise is a period of increased calorie burning for your body. But the impact of running can put a lot of stress on the knee joints, which is why swimming is so great for anyone with arthritis or bad knees. Still, swimming does burn a lot of calories. Even a leisurely hour-long swim can burn between 300-500 calories.
So, in case you didn’t already know, swimming is great for you! And now that temperatures are reaching into the nineties from California to New York, there’s no better time than now to take advantage of all that swimming can do for your health. You don’t need fancy running shoes or expensive weights, just put on your swimsuit, grab a towel and let the water work its magic!
Photo: Virgin Media