Swimming is a such a fantastic low impact exercise choice, and one that I sometimes feel is under rated and over looked.
I spend quite a lot of time discussing exercise programs with my clients in relation to their injury and rehabilitation. It seems that for the majority exercise seems to encompass activities such as running, weights, boot camp or gym based classes.
I have certainly been guilty in the past of not considering the many incredible benefits that swimming provides. Thanks to pregnancy I have recently found myself back in the pool and re-discovered just how good a swimming session can make you feel.
Why is swimming so good for you?
Well for starters its a full body workout. Think about freestyle; you’re working your arms, shoulders, upper back, glutes, calves, hamstrings, and even your abdominals. The other strokes will work slightly different muscle groups but no matter which you choose you’re assured to get an all over body conditioning session that can burn some serious calories. Like most types of training a higher intensity session which might include shorter faster efforts that get your heart rate up will likely result in more calories burnt when compared to back and forth laps where you’re just cruising.
It’s not only the muscles that get a workout; so does the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Some studies have shown that swimming can contribute to lowering blood pressure, improving lung capacity and assisting with better breathing control. Take your swimming session into the salt water and you can add ‘great for your skin’ onto the growing list of pros.
There are of course also benefits that can extend to our mental health. Just like the phenomenon of a ‘runners high’ swimming too can provide an endorphin hit that leaves you feeling pretty fantastic. For me, swimming is one of the easiest ways to disconnect; no podcast, no music just me and my thoughts. In todays busy, loud world 30-45 minutes of silence is actually rather rare and trust me it’s extremely therapeutic.
Working as a physiotherapist in the musculoskeletal / sports space means I see a wide range of injury presentations across many ages and I do find myself encouraging swimming as an alternative form of exercise.
Because it’s low impact. The buoyancy of water can reduce body weight by up to 90% making it the perfect fit for those suffering osteoarthritis of the weight bearing joints (namely hips and knees). It’s also a really great rehabilitation tool in the post operative period. Those having spinal surgery or procedures on their hips, knees or ankles can benefit greatly from water based activities as it allows conditioning of important muscle groups without added pressure at the surgical site.
Swimming is also a really powerful active recovery tool. If you engage in higher impact training or sport, whether its elite level or amateur level, you may actually find that introducing a swimming session into your regular program can have crossover benefits to your overall performance.