I was recently asked about the overall fitness benefits of swimming in compared to other activities or sports. This got me thinking. I know what the benefits are of swimming. I see them every day in my physique and mental health, but there isn't a lot of information available to people outside of the competitive swimming circuit who know about these benefits.
Actually there is a perception around swimming that it's not actually physically demanding on your body because you don't feel yourself sweat. In reality, you are sweating as much if not more in the water than in any other sport. This is partially why it's so beneficial to have a water bottle with you while you swim. I want to share a few of the other reasons why you should get into the pool and start swimming.
Over the years, I've heard the myth that swimming can't help with weight loss. This is another false myth. Depending on your weight and speed, you can burn more calories swimming than any other activity. Here are some examples of how many calories you would be burning if you swam for an hour. These numbers are based on research conducted by NutriStrategy. They focused their research on the ability to swim for an hour and a swimmer's weight, rather than their distance covered.
- A 130-pound person swimming freestyle for one hour will burn 590 calories swimming fast, and 413 calories swimming slower.
- A 155-pound person swimming freestyle for one hour will burn 704 calories swimming fast, and 493 calories swimming slower.
- A 180-pound person swimming freestyle for one hour will burn 817 calories swimming fast, and 572 calories swimming slower.
- A 205-pound person swimming freestyle for one hour will burn 931 calories swimming fast, and 651 calories swimming slower.
These numbers are staggering and can't be ignored.
We can take this calorie burn step further by looking at competitive swimmers. Competitive swimmers can burn even more calories based around elevating their heart rates for longer periods of time. Some researchers have concluded that swimmers can burn up to 10,000 calories in a single day. This is why most swimmers tend to eat the portion sizes of 3 or 4 people, rather than the recommended amounts for a single individual and never seem to gain any weight. Their metabolisms are so high. So if you have a growing teenager who is also swimmer, get ready for your grocery bill to grow exponentially.
Swimming provides incredible cardiovascular conditioning. Of course, this providing that you are consistent with your training and you've put the effort in as well. Just swimming with your head up because you don't want to get your hair wet won't help you. You actually need to put the effort in. You should feel like your heart is going to pop out of your chest...to an extent. By pushing yourself, you'll truly gain the health benefits of swimming. This helps build up your heart muscle by pumping more oxygenated blood through your body. If you always keep your heart low by sitting on the couch or just walking around, you never make your heart work. It too will get lazy and eventually just give up.
Balanced To The Core
All the movements in swimming help build muscles that are longer and leaner than most other activities. By swimming, you will not get bulky like you would lifting weights. However, lifting weights or doing body conditioning can help complement these leaner muscles by adding the denser muscles you need for additional strength. These swimmer muscles can help you boost your metabolism which in turn helps with burning more calories for a longer period of time and greater potential for weight loss. Due to the constant, rotations and equal movements, you will also balance out your muscle groups like your lower back muscles that will then support your abs and core.
In fact, swimming helps build core body strength as your movements through the water continuously utilize all your muscle groups simultaneously. Everything from a flip turn or a Freestyle stroke uses your core muscles to propel you through the water.
Since over 70% of a swimmer's strength and speed come from their cores, mainly hips, abs and back, working to improve these areas through streamline dolphin kick sets and other body positioning drills can really help your overall fitness. Having a strong core is crucial for overall health especially as you get older for posture and mobility.
Along with building strength, swimming can also help increase your flexibility. Since you need to have full rotation through your joints and movement of your hip muscles having a loose and flexible muscles is extremely beneficial. Stretching and doing dynamic warm-ups can help prepare your muscles for these movements so you can maximize their benefits once you get into the water.
As you build up lactic acid from other activities or from hard swimming, you are helping create a recovery cycle in your muscles. Once you've built up that lactic acid, getting into the water for a long easy swim can help flush out your muscles so that you reduce soreness and set your muscles up for recovery which leads to growth.
Showing up in a small speedo can be quite terrifying to non-swimmers. Most people don't have a good self image of themselves. By starting to swim, you will start building up self-confidence. You will start to feel better about yourself as you continue to improve on your endurance, strength and overall physique.
If you have the opportunity to swim with a masters group or even a friend, having the social outlet will help keep you motivated and help you push through the hard parts as your own personal cheerleader. I highly recommend having a partner during your workouts. It can make a world of difference to swim with others.
As you can see there are lot of overall benefits from getting into the water. The next time you think that swimming is just for summer fun with your friends or won't help you reach your fitness goals, think again. The list of reasons above to illuminate many of the reasons why you should definitely jump in the pool. Research community pools, clubs or private coaches in your area that can help craft a swim plan for you and keep you on track.
Make a positive change in your life and improve the overall quality of the life you are able to live.