5 Health Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is the fourth most popular form of exercise in the United States, with more than 27 million people over the age of six participating.

But there are also many barriers to participating in swimming. For example, many people do not learn to swim until later in life, and some may feel discomfort or even fear of the water because it is an unfamiliar environment.

Despite these obstacles, swimming offers a variety of unique health benefits. Some people describe the feeling of being immersed in water as transformative or healing, and many like the anti-gravity aspect of floating.

There are also many documented health benefits associated with swimming that may inspire you to develop your own pool or open water exercise program.

Health Benefits of Swimming

Participation in any physical activity, especially on a regular basis, can provide a wide range of health benefits. Regular exercise improves your heart health, can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and may even lower your risk of certain cancers.

Exercise can also help you have better thinking, learning, and judging skills as you age, lower your risk of depression, and may even promote better sleep.

And a single session of exercise can provide immediate benefits, including short-term reduction in anxiety.

The researchers investigated the many ways that participating in different types of swimming can affect the body. However, it is important to note that, as with any physical activity, there are significant differences between levels of participation.

For example, lifelong competitive swimmers may experience different health benefits than swimming for fun just a few times a month. Here are some of the conclusions about the health benefits of swimming.

May improve body composition

Swimming can help you reduce body fat. A small study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found that middle-aged women who swam regularly (60-minute sessions, three times a week for 12 weeks) showed an average drop in body fat of almost 3%, while a control group (women who did not swim) did not show significant changes.

The swimmers also showed greater flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and better blood lipids.

However, another study examined changes in body composition in younger women who participated in a 12-week swimming program.

The study involved 34 women in their 20s who were assigned to either a swimming group or a no-swimming group (sedentary). The swim group participated in three 60-minute swim sessions per week for 12 weeks.

At the end of the study, the researchers found that the group that swam experienced a decrease in hip circumference, but did not show significant changes in body composition compared to the group that did not swim.

Finally, in 2015, researchers evaluated the psychological, social and physical health status of competitive swimmers involved in long-term training.

The study was carried out during a four-day French Masters Championship in 2011. All swimmers selected for the event were invited to participate in the study, but only 490 participated.

May Lower Blood Pressure

Several studies have suggested that swimming can help lower blood pressure. One study involved women diagnosed with mild hypertension. The researchers evaluated the effects of different swimming protocols on blood pressure.

For the study, 62 women were randomly assigned to participate in high intensity swimming (6 to 10 repetitions of total effort of 30 seconds interspersed with 2 minutes of recovery), moderate swimming (one hour of moderate intensity), or a control group (no training or lifestyle changes).

After 15 weeks, the researchers saw no change in the control group. But both the high-intensity and moderate-intensity swimming groups saw a decrease in systolic blood pressure. Both groups also decreased resting heart rate and body fat.

Several other studies have also found associations between swimming for exercise and lowering blood pressure, especially in people with hypertension.

Reduced Risk of Musculoskeletal Injury

Exercise physiologists have observed that many popular sports and leisure activities require a certain level of technique and can involve impact with the ground, causing bruises, bruises, bone fractures and more serious injuries.

This can make the high risk of injury a weakness for many traditional sports and athletic activities.

However, in at least one published review, the researchers note that the likelihood of these types of injuries occurring in a low-impact swimming environment is minimized due to the fact that weight is reduced by the buoyancy of the water.

Less Respiratory Infections

If you like swimming in cold weather, participating in this extreme sport can help you avoid upper respiratory infections and gain other health benefits.

Also called "winter swimming" or "ice swimming," the sport involves swimming in cold or icy waters, most often in waters below 5 ° C (41 degrees Fahrenheit). Ice swimming used to be practiced only by extreme athletes, but it has gained popularity and recreational swimmers now compete regularly in local and international events.

Scientists who published a 2020 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reviewed studies related to ice swimming.

They found that regular participation was associated with improvements in hematologic and endocrine function (including lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, and better insulin sensitivity), fewer upper respiratory tract infections, relief from state disorders. mood and a general sense of well-being.

However, the researchers note that only experienced swimmers in good health should participate in this sport.

They affirm that "there is a risk of death in unknown persons, either due to the initial neurogenic response to cold shock or due to a progressive decrease in the efficiency of swimming or hypothermia".

If swimming in cold weather seems too extreme, you can still improve respiratory health with traditional pool swimming.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Yoga compared the health effects of swimming with yoga.

Improved Health Perception

In 2015, a group of researchers investigated how different levels of participation in swimming can affect the health perception of middle-aged women.

In their report, the study authors write that perception of health is important in how we manage our overall health because our behavior and choices are based on what we perceive about health in the first place.

They note that this relationship is important now more than ever, as stress and fatigue levels are increasing in many areas.

Research suggested that perceived health is a key motivating factor related to promoting behavior, lifestyle, and life satisfaction.

By promoting a better perception of health, we can promote better health and well-being. Some research suggests that swimming can improve some people's overall perception of health.

In the 2015 study involving French Masters participants, researchers measured swimmers' perceptions of health.

All female swimmers and older age groups of male swimmers reported significantly higher values ​​regarding perceptions of vitality compared to baseline values.

All swimmers who participated in this study also reported significantly lower scores for the perception of body pain.

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