Swimmers live longer, study says

Swim for a long healthy life  Credit: Todd Warshaw/Allsport

Swim into your future
The more you swim, eat right and avoid tobacco, the longer youll live, according to two studies of more than 355,000 people. You may add as many as 10 years to your life, says heart disease researcher Jeremiah Stamler, M.D., of Northwestern University in Chicago.

Although the super-healthy (defined as nonsmokers who have normal blood pressure and low cholesterol levels) constituted only 10 percent of those surveyed, their results made a big impact.

The death rate from heart disease was nearly 80 percent lower for these people, who were mostly middle-aged when both studies began, than it was for the rest of the group. Overall, only six to eight percent of the low-risk men died of heart attacks, compared with a heart disease death rate of nearly 30 percent in the whole group.


Less is more
When it comes to swim training less is more, says exercise researcher David Costill, Ph.D., who retired a few years ago from the department of exercise physiology at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

He contends that improvement in performance is not directly related to the amount of time or distance you swim. Costills studies at Ball State showed that male swimmers who trained once a day performed at the same level as those who trained twice a day.

He also found that the once-a-day swimmers kept a steady performance level, while those who trained harder lost arm power and their performances suffered over a season. And most convincing, Costill says, was the finding that both groups of swimmers performed at the same level after a taper.

The two-a-day guys may have been better conditioned, but they werent better swimmers, he says. Tons of yardage doesnt make better sprinters. Sprinting makes sprinters.

So far, Costills less-is-more theory has had little impact on elite swim training in the United States. Dave Salo, coach of Olympian Amanda Beard, is one of the few prominent coaches who subscribes to it.

Costills ideas run contrary to 60 years worth of evidence, says John Leonard, executive director of the American Swim Coaches Association. The record of elite swimming shows that it takes intensive training to succeed at the highest levels of swimming.

Nonetheless, Costills theory can work with swimmers who are not at the elite level, according to Leonard.

Costills findings apply to swimmers who are very good, but not the very best, he says. That describes the team he worked with at Ball State and many college, high school, and Masters teams. Those swimmers get more out of less training.

For the Ball State team, being Costills guinea pigs has had mixed results.

When we cut back on training, we didnt lose any appreciable edge, says mens head coach Bob Thomas.

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