A few years back, United States Masters Swimming issued a press release reminding those with active lifestyles that swimming can be a "rigorous, effective fitness workout—and be fun in the process."
While this may seem obvious to habitual swimmers, there are athletes out there who think pools are strictly child's play or summer fun. There is also a widely circulated fallacy that swimming is not an effective form of weight loss.
Throughout the year, many American Red Cross, YMCA, and Jewish Community Centers offer classes and organized workouts for the uninitiated.
Therefore, it seems appropriate to offer a brief recap of the reasons why everyone can benefit from swimming as a primary, secondary or alternative form of physical fitness to complement their existing routine.
1. Heart Helper
Swimming provides unparalleled cardiovascular conditioning, provided you practice consistently and with good technique. While other forms of exercise may be more effective at elite levels (such as running or cycling), incorporating swimming into a cross-training routine and pushing yourself in practice will result in overall improved fitness.
2. Balance Your Build
Swimming builds longer, leaner muscles that complement the shorter denser muscles that develop from weight training. These "swimmer's muscles" also help boost metabolism to keep calories burning longer.
Swimming not only boosts cardiovascular capacity while increasing muscle strength, but it also gives your body a break from higher-impact activities like basketball, running, and weightlifting. By creating a balanced workout routine, athletes avoid injury by allowing their body time to heal, while not forgoing daily training sessions.
4. Increased Flexibility
A heated pool relaxes muscles, increasing flexibility and enabling important stretching. Also, after intense lactic-acid-building endurance workouts (running, cycling, weights), an easy swim helps flush out toxins preventing muscle tightness and soreness the following day.
5. Strengthen Your Core
Swimming develops core body strength because it utilizes all the body's muscles simultaneously. Although 70 percent of a swimmer's effort comes from the upper body, kickboard and fin workouts can provide an excellent leg workout.
Swimmers are able to swim longer than they can what they could sustain doing other activities. With the right technique, a swimmer will be able to train for longer periods of time than if he/she were running and, as a result, more calories are burned.
Swimming has branched out from the darkened, indoor community pools of yesteryear. Many new health club chains offer clean lap pools, and local communities are finding renewed interest in outdoor facilities during the summer months. Seek out available natatoriums in your area (swimmersguide.com) and if you are able, locate a natural body of water (lake, ocean, pond, or quarry) and explore the joys of open-water swimming.
8. Social Outlet
Imagine meeting the man/woman of your dreams, and seeing what they look like without their clothes on for your first date! That's one benefit, at least, of joining a Masters team or triathlon training group. In addition to the possibility of romance fueled by mutual interests, team programs offer peer motivation and professional coaching to provide you with increased performance results.
9. Weight Loss
"People who consistently swim strenuously enough to be out of breath when they finish and elevate their heart rate do burn calories and lose weight," says Jane Moore, M.D., a physician and active swimmer from Tacoma, Washington. "The key is to push yourself a bit."
"Putting on a swimsuit and appearing in public should also motivate one to shed a few pounds," says Kris Houchens, head coach of the YMCA Indianapolis SwimFit Masters.
Whatever your reason, or whatever the excuse of a friend or partner, that swimming has not been incorporated into a consistent fitness routine, the list above should illuminate the ways in which the sport can add to your quality of life.
Consider making a positive change and research the swimming opportunities in your community today!
A former swimmer at Stanford University, Alex Kostich has stayed strong in the sport at the elite level even while maintaining a day job. The three-time Pan-American Games gold medalist still competes in—and wins—numerous open-water races around the world each year, as well as competing in the occasional triathlon and running race.