Question: What’s the perfect form of exercise with minimal risk of injury that’s suitable for all levels of fitness? Answer: Swimming
According to Swimming.org - the home for everything you need to know about swimming, surveys reveal that swimming is the sport most of us want to take up. It’s certainly hard to think of another sport as accessible as swimming with such an incredible range of health and wellbeing benefits.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ross Davenport and member of the Team GB Olympic swimming team says: “Swimming is fantastic for the heart and lungs and exercises every muscle in your body, plus there’s no pressure on your joints – it’s the complete package.
Health benefits of swimming
If you need even more incentives to take the plunge, take a look at the many reasons why swimming boosts your health:
Swimming burns body fat
Swimming just 30 minutes burns 200-350 calories depending on intensity. A fast front crawl can burn as many calories as an 8.5 mph run. Check out Swimming.org’s calorie cruncher to find out just how much you could burn off.
Swimming increases your metabolism
Swimming can boost your metabolism more than land-based exercise. According to experts, 30 minutes in the pool is worth 45-60 minutes of land-based exercise. Because water is 800 times denser than air, you can work harder and burn more calories in the pool than out of it.
Anyone can swim
Because swimming supports 90 per cent of your bodyweight in the water, it’s suitable for people with disabilities, injuries or illnesses such as arthritis and it’s wonderful exercise for pregnant women.
Swimming helps you live longer
Become a ’30 minute Convert’ as research has shown that regular swimming of 30 minutes at least once a week can cut your risk of early death.
Swimming is a mood booster
Research has revealed that swimming has psychological benefits. Women in particular have been shown to suffer significantly less tension, depression and anger after swimming than before. One of the reasons for this is that exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s own ‘feel-good’ hormones.
Your heart and lungs get a workout
Swimming gets the blood pumping round your body and lowers your blood pressure and your cholesterol.
Swimming even improves liver and kidney function
Exercise strengthens your heart muscle and gets oxygen circulating more efficiently around the body to all the vital organs.
Boost your muscle strength and endurance
Swimming tones your muscles and helps build up strength.
There’s a band of hardy folk in the UK who are convinced that swimming in the great outdoors is good for their health (you’ve probably seen them on TV at Brighton beach or the Serpentine in London on New Year’s Day).
The likes of Charles Darwin and Florence Nightingale were advocates of cold water immersion and Wildswimming.co.uk claim NASA studies from the 1980’s have shown that, over a 12-week period, repeated cold swimming leads to substantial bodily changes, including a fall in blood pressure and cholesterol, reduced fat disposition, inhibition of blood clotting and an increase in fertility and libido in both men and women.
Another big advantage of swimming in ponds, lakes and the sea is that it’s free. It also helps you reconnect with the elements and it’s – what’s the word? – er – invigorating.
Check out the Outdoor Swimming Society for details of where you can take a free dip in a pond or lake near you.
What if I can’t swim?
If you’ve never got round to learning to swim or if you have a phobia about water, what about learning now? It’s never too late. Find out more from Swimming.org.
If you can’t swim, you can still benefit from the healing properties of hydrotherapy (aquatic physiotherapy) pools, sometimes prescribed for people suffering joint pain from arthritis. A water temperature of 34°C provides the therapeutic temperature for muscle relaxation, helping to ease pain and increase the range of muscle movement.
Set yourself short-term goals
If you’re an absolute beginner, there’s no point in aiming to swim the Channel straightaway. But even if you only swim a length a day three to four times a week, by the end of a month you should be able to manage ten lengths a day and, in six months, you’ll be swimming a mile a day.
Enter sponsored events/competitions
Committing to raising money or even entering a race can help motivate you to train regularly.
Started swimming late in life or are you an outdoor swimmer?
Swimming.org - www.swimming.org
Outdoor Swimming Society - www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com
Wild Swimming - www.wildswimming.co.uk
The Big Splash for Sport Relief - www.sportrelief.com
Marie Curie Cancer Care Swimathon - www.mariecurie.org.uk