Swimming is a sport that we seem to do often when we’re young and then slack off on as we age. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in fact, 36 percent of children aged 7–17 years old swim at least six times a year, compared to only 15 percent of adults.
But if you haven’t hit the pool in some time or find yourself swimming only during warmer months, you’re missing out. That’s because swim workouts are one of the best activities you can do for your body year-round. Read on to discover why it might be time to grab your goggles and swim cap.
Benefits of Swimming
There’s no such thing as a miracle workout but, if there was, swimming would be pretty high on the list. With both physical and mental benefits, swimming workouts can really improve your overall health in a short amount of time. And, luckily, you don’t need to be the next Michael Phelps to reap the effects either.
- Your brain will work better. You’ll get more than just a swimmer’s body when you take up swim workouts; your brain will get a boost, too. Swimming has been found to increase blood flow to the brain, which leads to more oxygen. That means you’ll experience more alertness, better memory and cognitive function.
One interesting study found that just being in a pool of warm water that’s at least chest-level can have a positive effect on blood flow to the brain; participants increased blood flow to their cerebral arteries by 14 percent.
- Swimming helps kids achieve. It turn out that getting little ones in the water early is a good idea as well. A study of 7,000 children under 5 years old found that children who participated in swimming at a young age achieved skills and reached physical milestones earlier than their non-swimming peers, regardless of socio-economic background. Their literacy and numeric skills were better, too.
- You’ll get a mood boost. If you only swim during the summer months, it’s time to break out your swimsuit during the winter. That’s because, despite the lower temperatures, one study found that swimmers who hit the pool regularly between October and January reported less fatigue, tension and memory loss.
Not only that, but the swimmers who suffered from ailments like rheumatism or asthma found that wintertime swimming eased their aches and pains.
- You’ll lower blood pressure. If you suffer from hypertension, swim workouts are an excellent way to lower resting blood pressure. One study found that, over a 10-week period, men and women who had previously been sedentary but had hypertension decreased their resting heart rate significantly. This is particularly useful for people who struggle with other exercises because of their weight, asthma or injuries.
Another study found that after a year of swimming regularly, patients with hypertension lowered their blood pressure while also improving their insulin sensitivity, which is key to avoiding type 2 diabetes.
- You’ll live longer. If you’ve been comparing life extenders swimming is another one to add to your list. One study of more than 40,000 men between 20–90 years old found that those participants who swam or did other pool exercises like water jogging or aqua aerobics lowered their risk of dying from any cause by nearly 50 percent than those men who were sedentary, walked regularly or were runners.
- You can reduce your risk of heart disease In a study of patients with osteoarthritis, researchers found that swimming just as effective — and sometimes more so — as cycling in increasing cardiovascular function and reducing inflammation.
- You’ll reduce lower back pain. Skip the painkillers and hit the pool instead. One study found that patients with lower back pain who did aquatic exercises at least twice a week showed significant improvement in pain. And after 6 months, 90 percent of the study’s participants felt they’d improved after their time in the program, no matter what their swimming ability was at the start of the study.
- It serves as an ideal alternative to high-impact exercise. Swimming uses muscles you don’t normally engage, is easy on the joints, making it a great alternative to high-impact activities and allows you to zone out without the fear of tripping on something like running.
In short, swimming is pretty awesome. Check the science here