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10 Reasons Why Swimming is a Good Cardio Exercise For You

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calendar-iconJune 25, 2020

Cardiovascular

Training

Are you looking for a new way to workout? One that works your entire body?

Some folks ask the question “Does swimming build muscle”? There is a common misconception that swimming is just a simple cardio exercise, one that doesn’t do too much in terms of building actual strength. And this turns a lot of people away from it. Some people who play other sports have even claimed that swimming isn’t a real sport.

This could not be further from the truth. Swimming is a form of exercise that has a wide range of benefits, and is one of the most effective sports for people looking to get into better shape.

Which brings me to my first point...

Reason 1 – It’s a Full-Body Workout

One of the best things about swimming? It’s a full-body workout.

What does that mean exactly? In other words: it is a sport that exercises your whole body. 

Think about it:

  • You’re using your legs to kick to help propel you forward. 
  • You’re using your arms to pull yourself through the water. 
  • You’re using your core and back to keep yourself balanced as you swim, so you don’t wobble around too much, as well as to help keep yourself afloat. 

There are very few sports that require you to utilize the whole body like swimming does, so it is an excellent way to achieve better overall health.

Reason 2: It Burns a Lot of Calories

Diving a bit deeper...

Since swimming is forcing you to use practically every muscle in your body (even more than running or biking) it is a very effective way to burn lots of calories in a short amount of time

According to Healthline, “A 160-pound person burns approximately 423 calories an hour while swimming laps at a low or moderate pace. That same person may burn up to 715 calories an hour swimming at a more vigorous pace….that same 160-pound person would only burn around 314 calories walking at 3.5 miles per hour for 60 minutes”. 

That is quite the difference. 

Since we now know that swimming works the entire body, it makes sense that a person can burn so many calories in such a short amount of time. This proves that swimming is a helpful way for those who are looking to lose weight to get started on their weight loss journey. 

Swimming can also be used to help you lose a bit of extra fat for another sport in order to improve your performance.

Reason 3: Plenty of Different Aquatic Exercises

But what if you are unable to just hop in the pool and start swimming a couple thousand yards right away, perhaps because of a chronic illness or you’re recovering from an injury? 

Have no fear, as there are several other options for you to explore in the water besides lap swimming. According to Mayo Clinic and Everyday Health, some good aquatic exercises include:

  • Walking – Simply walking around in the shallow end of the pool with your arms swinging at your sides is an effective cardiovascular exercise, especially for older people. 
  • Resistance bands –  According to swimoutlet.com, “resistance band exercises are a great way to prevent and rehabilitate shoulder injuries. Bands can help you slowly build strength in your shoulders, arms, and back without overexerting yourself”. These bands also come in many different levels of flexibility, so those who are relatively new to using them can use a stretchier one as they start to build up strength.
  • Aerobics classes – They can offer a variety of exercises such as “leg lifts, kickboarding, lunges and jumping jacks”, according to Mayo Clinic
  • Kicking with a board – Kicking with the assistance of a board keeps your torso and head on the surface of the water, while your legs have to do all of the work to move you forward. It’s great for if you are trying to build more muscle in your legs, as there are a variety of drills that can be done with the use of a kickboard.
  • Running or jogging – Doing this is great for both rehabilitating after an injury and improving your cardiovascular health, as the water makes running or jogging put much less pressure on your joints.
  • Water weights strapped onto your wrists or ankles – These can help improve the strength of your arms and legs if they are strapped on to you in the water, as they will add more resistance to your movements.
  • Balancing on one leg – This can help “strengthen your leg and core muscles, the ones responsible for balance, without the risk of falling and hurting yourself”, says Everyday Health
  • Foam dumbbells – Using lightweight foam dumbbells to do bicep curls, chest presses, or lateral raises, for example, can help you build up strength, especially if you use them underwater, as they add more resistance. 
  • Hand paddles or resistance gloves – Both of these objects can add further resistance to your arms and hands as you swim, which will require you to use more strength to pull yourself through the water,

All of these are safe and effective alternatives to simply swimming laps if you are unable to do so. Most gyms have the equipment listed above in their indoor pools (such as dumbbells or boards), so you will most likely not have to worry about buying the items listed above.

Reason 4: Easy on the Joints 

For those of you with weak joints or physical conditions, you might be wondering:

Wouldn’t walking or running make my joints hurt? 

Well, it has been clinically proven that swimming is actually much easier on the joints for individuals with arthritis or other chronic conditions

This is because water naturally makes you more buoyant, allowing you to float at the pool’s surface. 

This effectively limits the amount of pressure that gravity places on your joints as you walk or run, which in turn greatly reduces the pain that would be felt on land. “With added buoyancy in the water, athletes are much more protected from joint and muscle injury than on land. 

As such, athletes battling chronic injuries on land may find respite from that pain in the water, and be able to bring greater intensity to their exercise”, said BridgeAthletic in 2017. 

For example, someone with arthritis in their right knee may experience immense pain when trying to run on land, since the high impact from their foot hitting the concrete can place a huge amount of stress on the knee. 

Repeated stress from running on land can result in a lot of wear and tear on your joints over time, and can eventually lead to serious injury. On the other hand running or jogging in the pool,  can have significantly less discomfort because the water has resistance but lightens the impact of your feet hitting the ground. If you do feel pain when doing certain land exercises because of a chronic condition, try doing the same exercise in the water, and it may end up being both more effective and more comfortable to your body.

Reason 5: Helps You Build More Muscle

Are you trying to build more muscle? Or are you trying to figure out how to build muscle while swimming? Well here are a few tips on how Swimming can help you to build muscle!

One of the best ways to build muscle is to combine a traditional weight training program with a swimming workout program. 

According to WebMD, since water is 12 times more resistant than air, a swimming program can be an incredibly effective way to build more muscle

In other words, when you are in the pool, your muscles have to work 12 times harder to allow your body to push and pull through the water than they would on land. 

Over the span of a few months, your muscles will grow much stronger and become more endurable by training in that higher level of resistance.

If you’re looking to build huge lat muscles, for example, doing a weight lifting routine with a lot of deadlifts and dumbbell rows is certainly a crucial step. However, incorporating one or two thirty-minute sessions of swimming a week in between those weight lifting sessions can enhance your muscle growth even more. 

Taking strokes to propel yourself through the pool requires a lot of usage from your back muscles, leading them to grow and become stronger as you swim. Cross-training with swimming is one of the most popular programs that athletes use to improve in other sports, as it can be used to improve fitness, enhance physical recovery, prevent injuries, or serve as rehab if you are already injured, according to Integrated Rehab Services.

So even if swimming is not one of your favorite activities, it is definitely a helpful means to develop more muscle for another sport. 

Reason 6 – It Helps Reduce Dangerous Inflammation

An important but often ignored advantage of swimming is that it can reduce harmful inflammation in and around your heart. 

Cardio exercises, such as swimming, are already popular for the improved heart strength that it provides. However, they also serve to diminish the amount of inflammation that occurs in the arteries of the heart, thanks to a recent study done at the Columbia University Medical Center. The study showed that over a 12-week period, the young, healthy adults who participated in moderate aerobic activity had a significantly lower level of harmful bacteria and fat buildup in their arteries. Aerobic exercise helps to keep your blood circulating in an efficient way throughout your whole body, which prevents plague and other harmful bacteria from accumulating in your arteries. The heart is pumping blood properly and keeping its pathways clear, thus greatly reducing your risk of experiencing inflammation.    

This is critical information for anyone who has a history of diabetes and/or heart disease in their family, as a buildup of inflammation in your heart can eventually lead to atherosclerosis, according to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. Atherosclerosis is a disease where the heart’s arteries are narrowed due to a buildup of fats and plaque. Eventually, this can severely disrupt your blood flow throughout the rest of your body and heart, which may result in the progression of serious heart diseases and even strokes. 

Therefore, swimming is an effective exercise for everyone to try, as it is proven to lessen the chance of ruining your health and putting yourself at risk for deadly illnesses.

Reason 7 – It Can Help You Sleep Better

Swimming can help you both get a good workout in and relieve some stress within yourself, which may improve the quality of your sleep at night

Swimming along with other aerobic exercises cause your brain to release more endorphins. 

In case you are unfamiliar with endorphins, they are a group of hormones that are made from the brain and the nervous system, and have a wide variety of physiological effects on your body. They can trigger a “euphoric” outlook on life, diminish your perception of pain, and even act as a sedative to help you sleep better, according to WebMD.

Another blog post from myworkouts.io, which goes over nine effective ways to fall asleep, strongly supports this, as it claims “exercise allows for a release of any built-up energy... exercise raises endorphins levels, which also reduce pain, relax muscles, suppress appetite, and produce an overall feeling of well-being”. 

According to the National Health Service, moderate exercise during the day has the potential to help you get a better night’s rest later on, which is great news for those with insomnia. 

A moderate swim workout as cardiovascular exercise can easily get your blood flowing and help you be more productive during the day, leading you to be more tired at night. It also clears your mind and enables you to relax more once it’s time for bed, a benefit that I will discuss more later.

Reason 8 – Safe For Almost Everyone

Swimming is a valuable and practical activity for virtually anyone, no matter your age. Alternative exercises like weightlifting or cardiovascular exercise like running are much more rigorous and place an immense amount of physical stress on the body; this is not suitable for everyone. 

Swimming is both safe and effective for children and pregnant women, unlike more strenuous sports like running or cycling. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists claims that swimming is one of the safest exercises to do during pregnancy, as the water can help support your weight and prevent muscle strain. Healthline also says that “By focusing on exercises that build core strength and don’t twist the abdomen, it’s possible to get in a safe swimming workout even late in your pregnancy”. As stated before, swimming is a very low-impact sport, so the risk of any injury is minimal. 

Children can stay in the shallow end of the pool and become gradually more comfortable with the pool at their own pace, while pregnant women have a wide variety of pool exercises that they can do safely (like the ones mentioned earlier). 

Older individuals also can enjoy a good swim, since the water is not hard on their joints.

Reason 9 – Lets You Focus on Just Yourself

One special advantage swimming has is that it can be a highly individualized cardio fitness activity. You can simply show up, hop in the pool and swim to your heart’s content, with little or no interaction with others. 

Of course...this is not always the case, especially if you are on a competitive team, where you must work together with your teammates in some instances. When you are actually swimming, though, it is just you and your thoughts – no one else can interrupt you. This makes swimming an excellent way to reduce stress – you can clear your mind of any negative thoughts while you glide through the water. 

This is definitely not the case for everyone, as there are plenty of individuals who do not enjoy being alone with their thoughts for an extended period of time, especially if they suffer from depression or other conditions that predispose them to negative thoughts. However, there is evidence to suggest that swimming can be an effective mechanism in reducing anxiety and depression.

According to swimming.org, “swimming has significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety or depression for 1.4 million adults in Britain. Almost half a million British adults with mental health problems have stated that the number of visits to a medical professional regarding their mental health has reduced as a result of swimming”. 

Therefore, swimming is a proven way to improve your mental health and feel less stressed during the rest of your day. Unlike an intense weight lifting routine, which places a heavy amount of stress on your mind and body, swimming allows you to relax and alleviate pent-up tension within yourself. 

Reason 10 – Good For Your Insides

Not only is swimming great for building muscles and losing fat, but it’s also effective in keeping your insides healthy

According to the CDC, swimming can lead to “improved health for people with diabetes and heart disease”, as well as “half the risk of death compared with inactive people”. Being active in the pool helps to keep your blood pumping throughout your body, allowing your heart to get the blood it needs to function properly. This keeps your blood pressure stable and stops it from getting too high from inactivity and unhealthy habits, which in turns prevents diabetes and heart disease from progressing as quickly.

It’s also helpful for those with asthma, says Healthline. They claim that the warm environment of an indoor pool can make it easier for people to breathe, and that certain breathing exercises are a possible way to improve lung capacity. The humidity of indoor pools can help alleviate the dryness of the airways in individuals with asthma, thus making it not as difficult to take a proper breath. Children with asthma also benefit greatly from holding their breath underwater, as they “not only help to expand their lung capacity, but also gain a greater ability to control their breathing”.

In other words, swimming is good for you and makes you much healthier, inside and out.

Takeaways

Whether you’re unable to work out with weights due to an injury or medical condition, or if you’re simply looking to find a new and safe way to get in better shape, swimming is definitely a highly recommended activity to try. 

  • Athletes of all levels can get a good workout in the pool since it is a full-body sport 
  • It can help  clear your mind from the stress 
  • It’s great for fat loss
  • It helps you to build muscle
  • Swimming can help improve your fitness in relation to nutrition and weight training
  • For more information on these topics, be sure to check out some of the other great blog posts on myworkouts.io/edu.

Resources:

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-swimming#benefits

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/swimming-for-fitness

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-tips-to-beat-insomnia/

https://www.swimming.org/justswim/swimming-improves-mental-health/

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/health_benefits_water_exercise.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/ready-to-get-in-on-the-aquatic-fitness-movement/art-20390059

https://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/fitness/8-pool-exercises-burn-fat-fast/

https://integrehab.com/health-tips/cross-train-with-swimming/

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070320073101.htm

https://www.myworkouts.io/edu/9-ways-how-to-fall-asleep/314

https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/swimming-for-children-with-asthma#Indoor-pools-an-option

https://www.swimoutlet.com/guides/resistance-band-exercises-for-swimming

https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/exercise-during-pregnancy

https://blog.bridgeathletic.com/4-ways-swimming-helps-athletes-in-other-sports



Date Created: June 25, 2020

Last Updated: July 2, 2020

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