Making Waves: Swimming for Your Health

No matter what you’re looking for in an exercise, swimming can probably provide it. Want to strengthen your core? Check. Want to burn off calories? Check. Want to manage the pain of arthritis? Check.

In addition to allowing you to exercise without pain, swimming can help just as much as walking or cycling in reducing high blood pressure. An added benefit is that water is a coolant; you don’t have to worry about hot temperatures, too much sweating or passing out while you’re doing laps. For people with diabetes, swimming can be a key activity in managing the condition as it helps you burn calories and manage weight.

Swimming is a unique exercise in all of the benefits it can provide to you. One reason is that your body is not fighting gravity. In other words, your bones and muscles are not taking the pounding they would normally get in other forms of a workout. Allow us to get technical for a moment? The buoyancy of your body in water negates the effects of gravity.

No matter what shape you’re in, when you start doing laps you’ll be working out almost every part of your body. Your core, arms, legs, glutes and back. And you get all these benefits with a relatively gentle impact on your joints. Let’s face it Olympians are  always ripped!

As if all of the above isn’t enough, swimming may prolong your life. Swimmers have lower mortality rates than joggers, walkers and people with sedentary lifestyles, according to Nancy L. Chase, lead author for a 2008 study published by the “International Journal of Aquatic Research and Development.” 

Where to start

If you haven’t been exercising be sure to talk with your doctor. Depending on where you live, you can join a local YMCA, YWCA or fitness club or use a community pool (though some of those get crowded). You can also head to a nearby ocean or lake, but be sure you know how to be safe in those locations.

What to do

If you think the only activity you can do is laps, think again! In fact, even if you can’t swim there are plenty of benefits from getting in the water! For instance, you can put on a flotation belt, go to the deep end of the pool and tread water with your legs while moving your arms through the water. Or try water walking, where you stand chest-deep in the pool and walking forwards and backwards just as you would on land.

If that doesn’t interest you, you can try water aerobics, which is exactly what it sounds like. Water aerobics is basically a form of resistance training in shallow water.

Finally, for those of you who need a strong beat when they exercise, there’s always Aqua Zumba. Dance AND swimming. What are you waiting for? Jump in!

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