Swimming is an incredible activity. Looking at some swimming-related stories, it’s difficult not to notice how drastically it can affect a person. Thanks to swimming, Michael Phelps turned from an ordinary child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time. And Linne Cox’s swim between the United States and the Soviet Union appears to have had an impact not only on individuals but on the entire world. But maybe an Olympic record is not your goal and you simply want to improve your health and mental state, swimming can help you achieve that as well.
Making the swimming foundations
When it comes to swimming, many people have to start from scratch. When you start to learn to swim, you need to prioritize safety over everything else to avoid the possibility of drowning. It is best to start learning to swim in places like a swimming pool. There are always more experienced swimmers in the pool who will be near you. You’ll need to be more conscious of the motion of the water if you’re learning to swim in open water. If you don’t have access to a pool but still want to learn to swim, always take someone who can swim well to your swimming lessons and never go into open water by yourself. When first learning to swim, avoid going into water that is too deep for you to stand in. If things go wrong, you can just get up and breathe. This will help you feel more at ease in the water and avoid the fear of drowning. Use appropriate safety equipment until you have sufficient aquatic experience and are reasonably comfortable in the water. Consider using a swimming pillow that will support your body in the water and allow you to practice leg kicks and arm strokes separately.
When you feel comfortable in the water, you can then begin to master one (or possibly all) of the swimming styles.
1. Freestyle, sometimes known as the “front crawl,” is the fastest and most efficient competitive swimming stroke. To perform the front crawl, you must time your arm and shoulder rotation with a side breath while unilaterally kicking your feet for increased velocity and balance.
2. The breaststroke is ideal for beginners because it does not require burying the head in the water. This characteristic also makes it one of the most widespread and popular swimming styles among recreational swimmers. You must master the timing of the arm-pulling motion and the kick to perfect the breaststroke.
3. The backstroke is another swimming style that people usually use for leisure swimming. The backstroke is the only stroke that is not executed facing downward. The arm-pull motion generates the majority of propulsion, with the legs contributing some propulsion and balancing the body properly for minimized drag.
4. The butterfly stroke is the most difficult of the four, with an over-the-water double-arm recovery that necessitates exceptional shoulder mobility and synchronization. If you can keep it up, it is unquestionably the most calorie-burning stroke, because it requires a lot of power.
Benefits of swimming for your health
Swimming is a healthy activity that you can continue for a lifetime and gain a host of benefits from doing it regularly.
1Swimming is a full-body workout
There are different styles of swimming, but regardless of which one you choose, all of them will work on your entire body. Each stroke requires the engagement of a different set of muscles, and the more muscles you engage during a workout, the more effective it’s going to be. Of course, most of the work falls on your hands and shoulders when you’re swimming. However, in addition to arm work, you also must perform leg kicks and your back and core are naturally tense in the water to assist you in keeping the body in a stable position.
2Swimming is good for burning calories
Swimming is a good choice if you’re looking for an activity that can help you crush calories. For example, let’s use MET – Metabolic Equivalent of Task – to find out how effective it is at burning calories and compare swimming to other cardio exercises.
As an example, a 75 kg (165 lb) person can burn approximately 450 calories during the freestyle swim with a low or moderate effort. When compared to running, the numbers may not appear to be significant. But we need to consider that running is a high-impact exercise. When compared to other low-impact exercises like an elliptical trainer workout (393 calories per hour), power yoga (325 calories per hour), or walking (338 calories per hour), swimming surpasses them all.
3Swimming improves flexibility
In swimming, flexibility plays an important role. While you pull your way through the water your body is going to stretch, reach and twist a lot. There is a point in every stroke when we stretch our bodies like a chord. Swimming can thus be compared to classical stretching to some extent; though ordinary stretching is a rather boring activity that not everyone can tolerate, swimming is a far more exciting way to stretch your body. Some swimmers have improved their flexibility to the point where they can touch the ground with their toes while lying on their backs.
4Swimming can help to overcome chronic pains
If you have chronic pain, it can be difficult to overcome it, especially with exercise, because putting extra strain on already injured joints can worsen the symptoms. Swimming can help in this situation. A study published in the Arthritis & Rheumatology journal suggests that staying in water can decrease pain symptoms in people with arthritis. Moreover, because water supports our bodies, it is sometimes the only environment that allows pain-free movement for people with arthritic conditions. Another study that looked into the therapeutic effect of hydrotherapy (a combination of warm water immersion and exercise) discovered that it is one of the best treatment options for people with chronic rheumatoid arthritis.
5Swimming can enhance your sleep
Improved sleep is a benefit of almost any physical activity. Swimming is no exception. According to the 2013 Sleep in America poll, people who participated in aerobic exercise reported sleeping better. Furthermore, people who engaged in vigorous physical activity had the best sleep quality. The term “vigorous” was defined in this self-report as activities such as running, cycling, swimming, and competitive sports because these are activities that demand a lot of physical effort. According to this poll, 69% of people who participate in vigorous sports say they never or almost never have trouble falling asleep. In addition, 46% said they never or almost never wake up tired.
6Low impact and suits people of any age
Swimming is a steady-state exercise which means it raises your heart rate, like running or cycling. However, it has one big advantage compared to other similar exercises. As water naturally holds you up, it can reduce the stresses and impacts on your joints, muscles, and bones. Perhaps exactly because of its low impact, swimming may be recommended to people of any age. According to scientists, education in swimming between the ages of four and six years old allows for the most rapid acquisition of traditional swimming skills. As for the upper limit, Mieko Nagaoka is a good example. She began swimming at the age of 80 to recover from a knee injury and was Japan’s oldest active swimmer at the age of 106! So it’s never too early or too late to start swimming.
Drawbacks of swimming
Swimming does more good than harm if you do it properly, but spending too much time in the water carries certain downsides that you need to consider.
Sounds strange, doesn’t it? How can you be dehydrated when there is so much water around you? But it is what it is. There is a common misconception that we don’t sweat during swimming. Sweating is our bodies’ natural response to exercise. So we still sweat in the water, and sweating causes us to lose a lot of body fluid. However, no matter how hard you work, you’ll never feel sweaty in the water since the water around you always masks this process. This makes the loss of fluids less evident, so we may fail to recognize the need to replenish the lost liquid in the body, exacerbating dehydration. So don’t neglect to drink water after swimming.
The majority of us have probably heard of runner’s knee. While running puts a lot of pressure on your knees, swimmers have a similar problem with their shoulders. As you perform a stroke and overcome water resistance, your shoulders are under a lot of stress. Repetitive usage of the shoulder joints during a stroke might result in shoulder pain and reduced shoulder range of motion. If you swim, you should pay special attention to your shoulders because excessive pressure on your shoulders can result in serious consequences such as a rotator cuff tear, which can make moving your arm nearly impossible and use of the injured arm extremely difficult.
Fun & curious facts about swimming
To date, the world’s youngest competitive swimmer is only ten years old. Alzain Tareq competed in the 2015 World Championships against adults and late adolescent swimmers twice her age.
Veliko Rogošić holds the world record for swimming the longest distance in open water without flippers. Rogošić swam 225 kilometers (139.8 miles) across the Adriatic Sea in 50 hours and 10 minutes during his epic swim from Grado to Riccione.
Shaving is a swimmer’s hidden weapon when it comes to gaining a competitive advantage. Many swimmers shave their legs in order to improve their performance in the water.
Let’s sum swimming up
Because of its low-impact nature, swimming is an excellent workout regardless of age or fitness level. With swimming, you can train your whole body and in particular, it can help you burn calories, improve flexibility, get better sleep, and reduce muscle and joint pain.
So, if you want to improve your health, consider swimming.
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more!
Take a look at what would happen if you swam for at least 30 minutes every day.
And also, if you are a complete beginner, look at some practical advice on how to start swimming and gain confidence in the water.
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