You can be 9 or 99 and still reap the benefits of daily swimming. Most sports, absent from swimming and sometimes running, seem to become more difficult for people as the years march on: tendons get torn, muscles pulled, and the physical jarring contact in football and hockey might be enough to sideline a player forever. Not the case with swimming. Unless you are practicing 4 hours a day like a die-hard Olympian, swimming daily actually stretches the muscles and has a beneficial impact on joints.
Heated pools, often available at our local fitness clubs, are especially beneficial to sufferers of arthritis, as the warm water loosens stiff joints. Various studies by the CDC have shown that people with rheumatoid arthritis receive greater health benefits after participating in hydrotherapy than any other activities. It has also been proven that water activities improve the use of joints and decrease pain for sufferers of osteoporosis.
Swimming is also a great way to increase muscle tone and bone strength which is lost as people age. As opposed to jogging, where the participant only improves the muscles in their legs, swimming is full-body activity. Also, a jogger is only moving their body through air, whereas a swimmer is propelling themselves through water, a substance that’s 12 times as dense as air.
Swimming is not just great for muscle tone. It improves flexibility by putting the body through a wide range of motions that ultimately help joints and ligaments stay flexible. Arms move in arms, while the legs kick through the water and the spine twists with every stroke. As you reach forward with your arms, you lengthen the body and in effect stretch it from head to toe.
A healthy heart is one of the key benefits of swimming, which can be appreciated by anyone of any age. The heart is the most important muscle in our bodies, so it only makes sense that we should train it as diligently as we train our biceps and quads. Swimming causes the heart to expand, making it more efficient at pumping blood, and increasing blood flow throughout the body.
Weight control is another benefit, especially for anyone with Diabetes. Swimming is among the greatest calorie burning exercises. The general rule is that swimming freestyle for 10 minutes burns an average of an impressive 100 calories, while doing butterfly, the most intensive stroke, can burn up to 150 calories. Swimming, or simply treading water, effortlessly tones the waistline.
Lower cholesterol is another huge consideration of choosing to begin your swimming journey. Swimming is proven to keep the endothelium, the thin layer of cells lining the blood vessels that loses flexibility as we age, in better condition. Swimming can lower LDL, the bad cholesterol, while increasing HDL, the good cholesterol.
Finally, the great news for asthma sufferers is that swimming can actually help asthma. Since swimming is a workout performed in moist air, asthma symptoms are greatly reduced. According to studies published in the journal Respirology, children saw improvements in symptom severity that continued a year after the six-week program they completed was over. Swimming improves asthma by increasing lung volume.
There is really no reason to avoid the pool, with benefits for the heart, weight control, arthritis symptoms, and overall health improvement. Swimming is truly one of the best activities to stay in shape as we age and for pure enjoyment.
Brianne Kaufman serves our firm’s clients as an assistant paralegal.