By Dr. G. John Mullen, Swimming World Contributor
With Olympic Trials finished and the Olympics around the corner, everyone wants to be an Olympic swimmer. Luckily, you don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer to benefit from the sport. People of all ages, from all backgrounds, and with various levels of experience can benefit from swimming. Swimming is one of the few sports you can do from a young age and all the way up into your 90s.
Why not jump in? It’s not too late to gain from the hidden benefits of swimming. Swimming is perfect for your mental health and physical health. Water is a low-impact sport that provides more resistance than dryland exercises and it has a therapeutic cooling effect on the body that contribute to its many benefits. It truly is the perfect sport. Here are 10 of the sport’s less obvious benefits:
- Swimming Improves Social Well Being
Swimming is very much a social sport. Swimmers of all ages can take classes together, train together, or work with a coach in the pool. Even if you have a pool at home, it is where you gather with your friends and family. A study revealed exercising and socializing together leads to improved mental health. Participants in the study had lower levels of anxiety and depression than their peers did.
- Swimming Teaches Goal Orientation
Swimmers become goal-oriented in their personal and professional lives. Swimming gives kids and adults something to strive for. Whether it is kicking a kickboard across the pool, improving a lap time, or recovering from an injury with water rehabilitation, setting goals and achieving them is the key. The skills swimmers learn in the pool to realize and achieve such goals are skills that can and will be used out of the pool as well.
- Kids Who Swim Become Active Adults
Swimming is an important activity to help combat the childhood obesity rates, and it is fun too. Swimming has all the three elements of physical activity recommended to keep kids healthy: endurance, strength, and flexibility. Swimming provides kids with the tools, skills, and dedication to maintain healthier lives as adults.
- Swimming Makes You Smarter
Regular exercise, such as swimming, improves memory function and thinking skills. This is good not only for the classroom and work, but it is beneficial for us as we age too. Regular exercise reduces inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, which fosters new brain cell growth. Swimming also improves mood, anxiety, and stress, which increases the brain’s ability to think more efficiently.
- Swimming Teaches Team-Building Skills
Swimmers on teams or in swim classes have better team-building skills. Swimmers learn to work together, to encourage each other, to communicate, and to become leaders. All of these skills translate into effective leaders in adulthood. Team-building skills encourage collaboration, goal orientation, inspiration, strategy development, and coordination, which all result in successful careers and professional relationships.
- Swimming Burns More Calories than Jogging
When you compare swimming to running, you can burn more calories swimming laps around the pool than you can running laps for an hour. One hour of vigorous lap swimming can burn as much as 715 calories. The same amount of time running at 5 mph burns only 606 calories.
- Swimming Slows Down Aging
There is no secret pill to living longer, but the pool is like the fountain of youth. Regular swimming can delay the effects of aging by reducing blood pressure, increasing muscle mass, improving oxygen and blood flow to the brain, and increasing cardiovascular health. Swimming can also improve physical strength and balance in seniors. Seniors who suffer from joint pains can hit the pool to increase flexibility and to reduce joint inflammation. Lastly, this low-impact sport is easier on the body.
- Swimming is Good for Asthma
Swimming is great for people who suffer from chronic lung conditions such as asthma. Asthma sufferers, especially those with sports-induced asthma, can experience trouble because the loss of heat and moisture in the bronchial tubes causes the tubes to contract. This happens when the air is dry and/or cold outside. Swimming is the best exercise for asthma patients because the moisture from the water replaces the moisture expelled during vigorous breathing.
- Swimmers are More Confident
Swimming is a confidence-building sport. Early evidence from an ongoing study out of Griffith University in Australia revealed that young swimmers are more confident than their non-swimming peers. This is also true for competitive and non-competitive adult swimmers. Swimming teaches confidence in the pool and in the open water, which translates to confidence on land as well.
- Minimal Gear
Swimming is one of the best sports, as it does require minimal gear! You can workout with only a swimsuit and goggles!
It’s never too early or too late to start swimming. Jump in and have fun. Your life, health, and well being depend on it.