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10 reasons why swimming is a great exercise

Why spend hour after hour every day toiling at the gym when you can take a refreshing and rejuvenating dive into the water and have a great time while staying fit? By Satyaki Sarkar

1. It’s a low impact exercise
Apart from being an excellent whole-body, cross-training and aerobic exercise, swimming can be done by anyone of any weight, age or physical ability, even those with arthritis, musculoskeletal, or weight limitations, owing to its low impact. Unlike high-impact activities like basketball, running, and weightlifting, swimming creates a balanced workout routine that not only boosts cardiovascular capacity and increases muscle strength, but also prevents injuries and lets the body heal.

2. It develops core strength and endurance
Swimming is the only exercise that constantly utilises all the muscles in your body simultaneously. Although it’s true that the majority of the effort comes from the swimmer’s upper body, fin and kickboard swimming provide a brilliant workout for the leg muscles. Swimming greatly increases the body’s endurance and core strength. If you use the right technique you can push yourself for much longer than while doing other activities like running or weightlifting, thereby burning more calories. Swimming also helps to flush out the high amounts of toxins and lactic-acid built up by endurance workouts like running, cycling, and lifting weights, thereby counteracting the tightening of muscles and the eventual soreness that follows.

3. It improves flexibility and balances body build
Water is one of the best mediums to increase flexibility, so swimming not only increases your range of motion but also helps you increase your physical activities without damaging the joints in your body. It helps build long, lean muscles known as ‘swimmer’s muscles’, which help boost metabolism while burning calories for longer. This makes it the perfect accompaniment to weight training and other high impact exercises that develop shorter, denser muscles. Furthermore, the warm water of a swimming pool, along with the stretching involved, helps relax muscles and improves flexibility.

4. It helps keep asthma at bay
Swimming also greatly increases your lung capacity by forcing the body to work overtime. The reason behind this is that since water is denser than air, the lungs are forced to work extra hard to supply enough oxygen to the blood. And the intense workout they go through to achieve that greatly helps prevent symptoms of asthma.

5. Lowers risk of diabetes
It’s well known that regular exercise helps decrease the glucose levels in one’s blood. Thus, swimming, being an excellent aerobic exercise, when combined with regular resistance training, works very well in improving blood sugar control in those who have type 2 diabetes.

6. It improves mental health
Swimming, or any other water-based exercise, also helps improve your mental health. Apart from being a natural mood-lifter, swimming can help lower anxiety levels in those with fibromyalgia, while exercising in warm water can also combat depression.

7. It helps you lose weight
Swimming is an intense workout for your entire body and is extremely helpful in burning fat and losing weight. Just an hour of swimming can burn more than 500 calories, as it exercises each muscle and every part of the body without causing much strain. Unlike other exercises like running or strength training, you can swim almost every day without any risk of injury. Regular swimming that is intensive enough to raise the heart rate and cause you to be out of breath when you’re done is extremely effective in burning calories.

8. Keeps the heart healthy
Swimming provides unparalleled cardiovascular conditioning, provided you practice consistently and with good technique. While other forms of exercise may be more effective at elite levels (such as running or cycling), incorporating swimming into a cross-training routine and pushing yourself in practice will result in overall improved fitness.

9. It’s good for pregnant women
Water-based exercises are very helpful in improving the health of pregnant women, as well as their unborn child. Since it involves no impact, it eliminates the risk of overheating, and swimming face down also improves blood flow to the uterus, thereby making it a great exercise women who are pregnant.

10 It’s also an opportunity for social Interaction
Last but not the least, apart from the various health benefits, swimming is also an excellent activity for social interaction. While indoor pools are absolutely brilliant for parties, swimming in a natural water body like a pond or lake is great. Open-water swimming, along with other water activities like snorkelling and diving are thrilling and especially enjoyable with friends. In addition, the shared mutual interests automatically serve as an ice breaker. When done as a part of corporate team programs swimming also offers improved peer motivation along with higher performance results.

Photograph: Australian Paralympic Committee/Australian Sports Commission/Wikimedia

Categories:   Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

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