The Benefits of Introducing Swimming Into Any Workout

Steven Hamilton's picture

Heading to the pool may not be the first place on the list for anyone looking to shed a few extra pounds but maybe it should be. There isn't another total body workout that can firm muscles without putting undue stress on the body better than swimming. Swimming is an effective way to boost the metabolism and burn calories for swimmers of any age and fitness level.

Anyone can understand the fitness benefits that swimming offers just by observing recent Olympic competitors such as Michael Phelps or Natalie Coughlin, who at nearly 30 has just won her 12th Olympic medal. Science backs up these observations, as studies conducted by Indiana University have proven that swimmers in all age groups have more lean muscle and better physiques than non-swimmers.

Fitness Benefits

Swimming provides an effective, low-impact workout that burns plenty of calories and shapes muscles. Swimmers engaging in an easy swim generally burn approximately 500 calories an hour, while an intensive workout can burn about 700 calories an hour, all without damaging joints as is possible with activities such as jogging. No other exercise can boast such benefits while exercising the entire body and being possible for even elderly participants.

Since water is 800 times the density of air, every push, pull, and kick is akin to a micro resistance workout for the whole body. The body's core, shoulders, arms, hips, and glutes are targeted with precision during each swimming session. Additionally, swimming ignites the metabolism and results in swimmers continuing to burn calories after the exercise session is completed.

Swimming is also an ideal fitness activity for individuals who are just beginning a fitness regimen. Water neutralizes the effects of gravity, allowing a fuller range of motion and being kinder to then feet and knees. You can swim daily without risking traditional exercise injuries or experiencing the same degree of soreness that accompanies an intensive workout.

Another benefit is that swimming seemingly keeps you younger. Biologically, swimmers share characteristics with those up to 20 years younger, according to a study performed by the American College of Sports Medicine. Apparently, swimming has positive benefits for cardiovascular performance as well as the central nervous system. Blood pressure readings and cholesterol levels are much lower in individuals who regularly swim. Cognitive function is also greatly improved for swimmers.

Getting Started

Many novice swimmers dive into swimming with great expectations. Too many swimmers don't look before they leap, and expect to start an intensive swimming session. A few minutes into the workout they find that they can't keep the pace, and suffer cramps or shortness of breath, especially if swimming in open bodies of water, such as the ocean.

Swimming requires that the cardiovascular system and the body's muscles work differently. The lungs must compensate and acclimate to a new method of breathing which faces resistance from water pressure, and the exercise requires the participation of all of the muscles in the body instead of just a select group. New swimmers need to wade in before attempting a strenuous workout.

The best method for beginning swimmers is to develop shorter routines that mix in periods of activity with regular rest sessions. It's best to use different strokes and intensity levels throughout each workout, and to use a pool under some form of supervision just in case.

Once swimming in a pool has been mastered, longer swims in open water can be explored. This can be a much tougher activity, especially in rough waters such as the Pacific Ocean. Many swimmers find this to be not only exercise, but also a relaxing, or even spiritual experience, as they are working out surrounded by the beauty of nature. Swimming in open water can be a lot of fun, and participants are less likely to quit on workouts that feel like recreation.

As we have explored, swimming can be an excellent, year-round fitness activity to help you reach your weight-loss goals. If you do not have a pool or live close to open water, many health clubs and fitness centers offer access to Olympic-sized indoor pools which are heated to comfortable temperatures. Additionally, most YMCAs not only have pools available for use, but also offer swimming lessons for novices.

About the author: When Steven Hamilton isn’t writing articles related to his vast knowledge of professional swimming, he is usually covering products like racing lanes for swimming pools for companies like Kiefer.

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