For people of all ages and fitness levels, swimming may be a great hobby and workout. It has little impact, improves fitness and strength, and is enjoyable. Swimming is the fourth most popular sport in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Everything you need to know to get started and improve is provided here.
Why Do People Swim?
According to the definition in the Encyclopedia Britannica, swimming is a sport that includes coordinating arm and leg motions to propel your body through water. Because swimming requires a lot of work to overcome the water’s inherent resistance, it definitely tones your muscles. However, swimming is largely a cardiovascular activity, according to Kristopher Gagne, a regional head swim instructor at the Life Time Swim facilities in the Houston area.
Just because you’re splashing around in a lake, pool, or ocean doesn’t mean you’re swimming for exercise. According to Todd Buckingham, PhD, a competitive triathlete and head exercise physiologist at The Bucking Fit Life, an all-encompassing fitness, nutrition, and mental health coaching programme in East Lansing, Michigan, “what distinguishes a swimming workout from a leisurely swim is the structure and goal behind the swim.”
When you swim for exercise, the majority of your muscles are used, giving you a total-body workout. Large muscles in your back (latissimus dorsi and trapezius), chest (pectoralis major), shoulders (deltoids), hips (glutes), legs (quadriceps and hamstrings), and midsection are the main muscles involved, according to Dr. Buckingham (abdominals).
Swimming is mostly done with the backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, and freestyle strokes. Different muscles must be used to differing degrees for each style. According to Buckingham, “most stroke types engage similar muscle areas,” however the backstroke will use more back muscles than other strokes because of its name.
Swimming’s Health Benefits
There are numerous benefits to learning to swim. Here are a few advantages to your health that you might encounter:
Joint Pain is less
Swimming is an excellent low-impact workout choice for persons with joint issues, particularly for those who experience pain or discomfort when walking, jogging, cycling, or using an elliptical machine. According to Mark Slabaugh, MD, a board-certified sports medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, “the weight of the water helps create resistance to the joint and is a natural technique to help the muscles get the stimulation they cannot endure during regular exercises.”
Dr. Slabaugh explains that the production of synovial fluid, which is essential for reducing friction, requires mobility in the joints.
This is supported by research on elderly people with osteoarthritis: Participants in the study saw a significant reduction in joint pain, stiffness, and physical limitations after swimming for 45 minutes, three times per week for 12 weeks.
Enhancing Heart Health
Swimming strengthens your heart, like other forms of aerobic exercise, which may reduce your risk of heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), and stroke, according to Buckingham.
For instance, earlier research discovered that an eight-week swimming programme reduced the risk of heart disease in a small group of overweight men by reducing body fat percentage, carotid arterial stiffness, and systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
How quickly you see heart-health benefits will depend on how often you swim and how long your sessions typically last. More is definitely better, but even 10 minutes can have a positive impact, Buckingham says.
Better control over blood sugar
The American Diabetes Association claims that exercise increases insulin sensitivity, making it easier for your body to use insulin to absorb glucose (sugar) for energy both during and after a workout. These assertions are backed by research: In a group of inactive women, three times a week of high-intensity swimming enhanced insulin sensitivity and maintained blood glucose control. These results imply that swimming could be able to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Swimming may also assist those who have diabetes in controlling their blood sugar, which is a key aspect of illness management.
Does Swimming Help You Lose Weight?
Swimming is a total-body workout, which can be a good method to support weight loss objectives, according to Buckingham. Although weight loss depends on several things in addition to exercise, Buckingham notes. Generally speaking, the more muscles you use while exercising, the more work your body has to do and the more calories you’ll burn.
According to a study that compared the effects of swimming versus walking on body weight in 116 older women, the swimming group lost slightly more weight and inches off their waist than the walking group did after participating in three sessions of swimming or walking three times per week for a year. Nearly an inch more of their waists and 2.4 pounds were shed by the swimmers than the walkers.
Because swimming is not a weight-bearing activity (your body does not have to battle gravity), other weight-bearing exercises, like running, can be more effective at burning calories, according to Buckingham.
According to Harvard Medical School, if you weigh 150 pounds, you may burn around 216 calories by swimming leisurely for 30 minutes and 360 calories by running at a six-mile-per-hour pace. However, if you swim quickly, you can anticipate burning 360 calories in 30 minutes.
But keep in mind that the exercise you’ll undertake and continue with is the best and most efficient exercise (for weight loss or any other objective). The American Swimming Coaches Association president Mike Koleber, head coach at Nitro Swimming in Cedar Park, Texas, adds that if something is enjoyable, it is more likely to become a habit.
Additionally, swimming is a terrific method to get in your cardio if joint pain or another ailment prohibits you from running (or engaging in another weight-bearing activity), says Buckingham.
How to Begin a Swimming Exercise Program
There are a few things you should do before beginning to ensure a secure, enjoyable experience. Before starting a swimming routine, you should first think about speaking with your doctor. This is crucial if you suffer from a chronic heart or lung illness (such as asthma or heart disease) or any other problem that might prevent you from exercising safely. Your doctor might recommend cardio, but they might not want your heart rate to rise above a specific point, according to Gagne. Ask your doctor whether there are any restrictions or safety measures you should follow when swimming.
After receiving the all-clear to work out in the water, you should purchase (or investigate) the following equipment:
- the swimsuit. Koleber advises against wearing a baggy style because it will make you feel heavier in the water. Instead, choose one that you feel comfortable wearing.
- Obtain swimming glasses. They will make it possible for you to see more clearly in the water and stop salt water or irritant pool chemicals from getting in your eyes. In order to locate a pair that fits snugly but pleasantly, try on various types. Koleber advises against experiencing eye-popping sensations.
- Think about getting a swim cap. A swim cap is a wonderful option if you’re concerned about hair damage from the chemicals in the pool or need something to keep your hair out of your eyes.
- View further swimwear accessories. Some useful items are fins, waterproof headphones, and a safety buoy. According to U.S. Masters Swimming, fins can improve your ability to use your legs and give your strokes more propulsion. If you like to listen to music while you work out, waterproof headphones are a terrific option.
Make a swim schedule.
You must regularly swim if you want to get the greatest advantages from it. If you want to see changes, Gagne advises aiming for three to four 30-minute sessions per week.
But before going it alone, it could be a good idea to spend some time with a learn-to-swim instructor if it’s been a while since your last swim. “The first step is to get in a few times a week with an instructor,” Gagne adds.
Decide on a Swimming Location
Water will be necessary so that you can complete your laps. Depending on your inclination and what is available in your area, you can swim either indoors or outdoors. Examine swimming lessons, community centers, and health clubs. A nationwide organization called U.S. Masters Swimming plans adult swimming group workouts, championships, and starting classes. Location-specific fees apply for pool membership and access.
You might be able to exercise in open water, such as lakes, rivers, and oceans, depending on the weather. Kolber advises always swimming in open water with a partner, though. Use the CDC’s online search engine to look up water quality in natural bodies of water by state.
How to Improve Your Swimming Exercise
There are various ways to make a swimming workout more difficult if you’re an experienced swimmer or you’re already physically fit. Try these things:
- Move ahead. Increased distance is one of the simplest methods to advance your swimming training. For instance, Buckingham advises trying 1,500 yards of swimming instead of your usual 1,000..
- Hurry up. Start by keeping a baseline time log for various swimming distances. Next, try to travel those distances a little bit faster each week. Your level of fitness and amount of swimming experience will determine how much faster you go, according to Buckingham. To avoid being hurt or overdoing it, go slowly. Try to cut 10 seconds off each interval, for instance, if your regular workout consists of three 100-yard sessions in 90 seconds with 20 seconds of recovery between each. Even though you’re working out faster during the intervals, you’re still getting the same amount of rest, according to Buckingham.
- Sleep less. By cutting the break times in half, you can increase the difficulty of your workout. For example, instead of taking 20 seconds of rest in between 100-yard bouts, take 10 seconds of rest. “You’re not swimming the 100 yards any faster, but you’re giving yourself less rest, which makes it harder,” Buckingham says.
- Add resistance. You can add resistance to your swim workouts with hand paddles, aqua weights, and specialized “drag suits” that weigh you down. However, Buckingham only recommends these measures if you’re an advanced swimmer. “Swimming is hard enough already,” he says. Plus, many of these tools put extra stress on the joints, increasing your risk of injury.
If you’re a newbie, Buckingham advises adjusting just one of the aforementioned factors during each session. If you up the intensity too much, you run the risk of becoming injured or exhausting yourself before the activity is finished.
Tips for Swimming Nutrition
What you eat for swimming will depend on a lot of things, such as how long or strenuous your swim will be, whether or not you have a sensitive stomach, and when you’re exercising. To ensure you have enough energy to support the activity,
Similar to this, you must choose the optimal strategy for replenishing before, during, and after your swim (if necessary) (to help with exercise recovery).
- Swim If Eating 1 to 2 Hours Ahead Have a low-fat, high-carb, high-protein dinner. Most people must limit their fat intake since it takes longer to digest and can cause bloating and pain in the abdomen, according to Wirtz. Here are some meal suggestions: tuna salad on whole-grain crackers; turkey sandwich on wheat bread; peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread; large fruit smoothie with granola and fresh fruit; cottage cheese with a side of whole-grain crackers and fruit.
- If Dining 30- to 60-Minutes Prior to Swimming The best snack is one that is heavy in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat. A banana with a spoonful of peanut butter, a small fruit smoothie, wheat bread with peanut butter and berries, low-fat Greek yogurt with sliced banana, or a trail mix of dried fruit with some pretzels and almonds are all good options.
- If Your Swim Session Will Last More Than 60 to 75 Minutes For speedy replenishing during the workout, keep an electrolyte drink and an easily digestible carbohydrate snack (such as an energy gel, energy bits, or dried fruit) close by. Most novices won’t be swimming for very long, though, so they won’t require a mid-workout snack.
- 15 to 30 minutes after you finish your swim To hasten your recovery, take into account a protein- and carbohydrate-rich snack. Examples of snacks are: A protein shake made with fresh fruit; a protein bar and a piece of fruit; a handmade trail mix comprised of dried fruit, pretzels, pumpkin seeds, and edamame; or Greek yogurt with granola are some other options. You might not require a post-workout snack if you swim for 30 minutes or less or eat within an hour after finishing. Pay attention to how hungry you feel and your body.