Swimming is the fourth most popular form of exercise in the United States, with more than 27 million people over the age of six participating in it.
But there are also many barriers to participation in swimming. For example, many people only learn to swim later in life, and some may experience discomfort or even fear of the water because it is an unfamiliar environment with lifeguard course.
Despite these obstacles, swimming provides some unique health benefits. Some people describe the feeling of being submerged in water as transformative or healing, and many enjoy the anti-gravity aspect of swimming.
There are also many documented health benefits associated with swimming that may inspire you to develop your own pool or open water exercise program.
Health benefits of swimming
Participating in any physical activity, especially on a regular basis, can provide health benefits. Regular exercise improves heart health, helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and may even reduce your risk of some cancers.
Exercise can also help you develop sharper thinking, learning and judgment as you age, lower your risk of depression and may even help you sleep better.
Researchers have explored the many ways in which participation in various types of swimming can affect the body. However, it is important to note that, as with any physical activity, there are significant differences between levels of participation.
For example, lifelong swimmers may experience different health benefits than those who swim for pleasure only a few times a month. Here are some of the health benefits of swimming.
Can improve body composition
Swimming can help you reduce body fat. A small study published in the Journal of Physical Rehabilitation found that middle-aged women who swam regularly (60-minute sessions, three times a week for 12 weeks) showed an average reduction in fat content of almost 3%, while the control group (women who did not swim) showed no significant changes Swimmers also showed improvements in flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and increased blood lipid levels.
However, another study looked at changes in body composition in young women who participated in a 12-week swimming program. The study involved 34 women aged 20 to 60 who were assigned to a swimming group or a non-swimming group (sedentary lifestyle). The swimming group participated in three 12-minute sessions per week for XNUMX weeks.
At the end of the study, the researchers found that the swimming group experienced a reduction in hip circumference, but no significant changes in body composition compared to the non-swimming group.
Finally, in 2015, researchers assessed the psychological, social and physical health of swimmers engaged in long training sessions. The study was conducted during four days of the French Masters Championship in 2011. All swimmers selected for the event were invited to participate in the study, but only 490 participated.
The data collected during the study showed that experienced swimmers in most age groups had lower rates of obesity and used less medication compared to reference data from various sources.
May lower blood pressure
Several studies have shown that swimming can help lower blood pressure. One study involved women who had been diagnosed with mild hypertension. The researchers evaluated the effects of various swimming protocols on blood pressure.
For the study, 62 women were randomly assigned to participate in high-intensity swimming (6-10 repetitions of 30-second full effort interspersed with 2-minute rest), moderate swimming (one hour at moderate intensity), or a control group. . group (without training and lifestyle changes).
After 15 weeks, the researchers saw no change in the control group. But both the high-intensity and moderate swimming groups saw a decrease in systolic blood pressure. Both groups also reduced resting heart rate and body fat.
Several other studies have also found an association between swimming for exercise and lower blood pressure, especially in people with hypertension.
Reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injury
Physiologists point out that many popular sports and leisure activities require some level of technique, and can involve hitting the ground resulting in bruises, contusions, broken bones and more serious injuries. This can make a high risk of injury a weak point for many traditional sports and activities.
However, in at least one published review, researchers note that the likelihood of such injuries occurring in low-efficiency swimming conditions is minimized due to the fact that weight is reduced by exploiting the buoyancy of the water.
Because of the reduced risk of musculoskeletal injuries, researchers say the biggest benefit of swimming is that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages.
Fewer respiratory infections
If you enjoy swimming in cold weather, participating in this extreme sport can help you avoid upper respiratory infections and reap other health benefits.