Swimming, whether in a pool or open water, is a great way of keeping fit and healthy and making sure you get exercise in whichever way suits you. Swimming is one of the most popular activities for exercise in the United Kingdom and there are so many pools, lidos and lakes that offer swimming; it’s easy to find something that will suit you. With even more adults taking up swimming lessons than ever before, it’s obviously something that we’re more interested in than ever before.
Swimming is often more affordable than other sports, if you’re doing it purely for exercise and not racing or taking part in galas then all you need is a swimming costume and access to a pool. Most public pools have cheap memberships for swimming, and you can get your swim in at the times that suit you.
So how good is swimming for you? Well, we have done the hard work for you and thought of just how swimming can help you both mentally and physically to improve your health.
Increased Muscle Strength and Endurance
Swimming is an excellent all-over-body workout and exercises all the major muscle groups across your body. Regardless of which stroke you choose to swim, one of the major benefits of swimming is that it is likely to help you train muscles across your whole body simultaneously.
Swimming for just half an hour will give your body such a great workout – it will help you work muscles you didn’t even know would work during a swim. Not only does it increase your heart rate, but it also helps keep your muscle tone up, builds up your strength and stamina and you’ll build up your endurance.
By using different strokes, you’ll also work out different parts of the body so you can do different ‘days’ to get the most out of your swim. Don’t forget that the water naturally gives you some resistance so you’re using more muscles to move through the water than you would for running, for example.
However, different strokes can be slightly more effective at training certain muscle groups in your swimming workout. For example, breaststroke is great for toning your thigh and chest muscles, whereas butterfly works more on your upper back arms and shoulders.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Swimming is a great form of cardiovascular exercise. Swimming regularly can help improve your overall cardiovascular fitness levels, and improve your lung capacity. Swimming works your heart as well without putting too much stress on it like other cardiovascular exercises. It will help your heart get stronger and will work your lungs without you getting as out of breath.
One benefit of swimming workouts is that they are a perfect complementary exercise to alternate against run or cycling training days, as it allows you to train with little or no impact on your joints.
Regardless of your abilities, there are often classes tailored for certain age groups, abilities and confidence level. Being able to get out with friends in the pool and take part in a water aerobics exercise will help boost your confidence even more and you’ll have so much fun.
Likewise, if you start out as a beginner swimmer, being able to join a class where you get to meet other swimmers in your swimming ability category and get better as the weeks go on will give you a great sense of achievement and you’ll want to keep going!
So whether you’re an experienced swimmer interested in swimming laps each morning before work, or someone that is interested in more leisurely water-based exercise twice each week, your local swimming pool is likely to have a class that is suitable for you.
A Low-impact Exercise that is Gentle on the Joints
Swimming has long been a great option for those who need injury rehabilitation as it gently works the muscles in such a way that can reduce joint stiffness or pain. Using swimming as a way of getting back into or starting an exercise regime will help improve your recovery from injury.
Water therapy is also a great way of helping those who have certain disabilities to get them exercising in a way that doesn’t pressure them or their muscles. Physical therapists use water therapy to help move the joints of those who maybe cannot move themselves or have trouble moving.
It’s estimated that the buoyancy of the water whilst swimming can reduce your body weight by up to 90 percent. In broad terms, this means that means your joints only have to deal with 10 percent of their usual weight load during aquatic exercise, which can drastically reduce your chance of suffering from joint and muscle pain after exercise.
Boosts Your Mood to Help with Anxiety and Stress
With all the above health benefits we’ve discussed, it’s no surprise that it can help with your mental health as well as your physical health. Similar to yoga, the deep breathing and extended muscle movements required in swimming can release endorphins and other stress-reducing hormones.
It’s widely accepted that any regular form of exercise can help relieve stress and promote improvements in mental health. However, swimming can be more effective than other sports for a variety of reasons.
Anxiety UK claims that simply having contact with the water can be helpful in loosening up your body and mind, and that being immersed in water and concentrating on your strokes can have a meditative effect.
There are more studies still being done on this, but exercise is proven to help boost your mood, so grab your swimming costume and get in the pool!
Improved flexibility and balance
Swimming helps your body move through an extensive range of motion, which can increase the flexibility in your joints, hips, back, ankles, and knees.
With this increased range of motion, comes increased flexibility and this can reduce the risk of injury. It can also help improve your posture and therefore your balance will ultimately get better.
Effective Weight Management
Want a more efficient way of burning calories and maintaining weight? Well, get in the pool! On average, swimming for an hour will burn over 400 calories at a low pace.
Swimming is an amazing aerobic exercise that is brilliant for burning calories. As with all forms of exercise, the number of calories burned by swimming will depend on several factors, including how hard you swim and your body weight.
As a broad generalisation, it is estimated that swimming breaststroke can help you burn between 300-560 calories per hour, whereas swimming with a more vigorous butterfly stroke can help you burn up to 700 calories per hour. Swimming at a faster pace or using front crawl will burn around 700 calories an hour.
Doing other low-impact activities will on average burn between 160 calories for yoga to 300 calories for walking. Swimming as part of your exercise regime will help you burn more calories than you think so it’s worth getting in a couple of swims a week to boost any weight loss programme or fitness regime. If you’re interested in finding out more about how many calories can be burned from swimming, and how you can use swimming to help you lose weight, look at our article on the calories burned through swimming for more information.
Improves Sleep Quality
Regular exercise can help boost your sleep and can increase your chance of having REM sleep. Any aerobic exercise can help decrease insomnia and as this affects over 50% of the population, this is great news, especially for the older generation.
Swimming is an accessible and affordable hobby for many people which is great news for those who want a swim to help relax them before getting a great night’s sleep and helping them relax enough to fight the insomnia.
A 2010 study in the Sleep Med Journal, found that aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. The outcome of the study was that regular aerobic activity, such as regular swimming, could help improve sleep quality, mood and quality of life.
Enhanced Focus and Concentration
Swimming is one of the best aerobic activities that can give your brain a boost through blood flow. This increase in blood flow can lead to many different positive benefits. These benefits include better memory, more clarity on certain situations and increased focus. It is why some people enjoy a swim first thing in the morning, so they get their increased focus to get them through a busy day.
However, you don’t have to do a long or extensive workout to increase your focus and concentration; just submerging yourself in the water will help increase blood flow to the brain by up to 14 percent.
Swimming has so many great benefits, it’s no wonder that more and more people are getting involved in both pool swimming and open water swimming. To get you started, we’ve added some useful resources below.
How do I get started?
If you’re excited about the benefits of swimming and want to get started, we’ve got some useful resources for you below:
Find swimming pools close to you
If you want to find a local pool close to you, the directory at Swimming.org is really useful, and includes most of the indoor pools in the UK.
Open water swimming locations
To search for locations where open water swimming is available, then definitely check out Swim England, which has a very comprehensive list of available venues across the UK.
Want to join a swimming club?
If you think the social and competitive edge is perfect for you, then the club page of Swim England is where you need to be. Take a look and see which club in your local area is the perfect one for you.
If you’re at the start of your swimming journey, and want to take swimming lessons, there are a variety of options open to you. Most local councils in the UK offer group swimming lessons for adults, and for younger swimmers, franchises such as Puddleducks are available across the UK.
We have lots more great advice, tips and tricks for you and any other swimmers you know. Check out our swimming page here and if you like running, walking or cycling we have you covered there too.