There are many different habits and workouts you can do to improve your life. What about swimming, what benefits can you expect?
Swimming is a very popular activity that can certainly increase your movement intensity to levels considered to be exercise.
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding swimming sessions to your routine can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.
1. Stronger muscles
While swimming is mainly a cardio exercise, which means that it mostly focuses on your cardiovascular system, this workout also helps you build some muscle in other areas. Which muscles to which extent vary between types of swimming moves but there are some commonalities.
Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
Some of the muscles you work out with swimming include:
- Upper body
You can basically expect to work muscles over your entire body with swimming. The extra resistance from water compared to air can also benefit muscle building.
If you like the idea of building muscle while swimming you can wear weighted wristbands, weighted ankle bands, or a weighted vest suited for the swimming pool to increase the amount of muscle mass you gain. Make sure your skill level is up for these.
If you are serious about building muscle you do generally want to choose weight lifting exercises over swimming.
2. Stronger immune system
Your immune system is a collection of biological processes that protects you from diseases.
You do have to keep in mind that at some point working out can turn into overtraining which can weaken immune function. However, most people don’t come close to this point.
3. Can help with losing weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Swimming can help with weight loss since doing a workout like it generally requires more energy than most of your usual daily activities.
30 minutes of swimming crawl can help you burn around 236-406+ calories depending on weight, intensity, and much more. If you want to learn how to burn more calories while swimming and how many calories you burn with different swimming styles make sure you read the article on how many calories swimming burns.
Doing a workout at high intensity can also cause something called “afterburn”. This is basically having an increased metabolism for a while after you stop doing the exercise.
The number of calories you can burn with swimming is relatively high compared to most other workouts. However vs an exercise like running, swimming does lose in terms of calorie burning. So if you’re serious about burning a lot of extra calories other workouts can be a better choice but swimming is still generally a great exercise option for this goal.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
4. Improved mood
Most people are not always completely aware of it but the physical health of the human body has a big influence on the mood and thoughts of the individual.
Swimming doesn’t just help with this by improving general health. There are inevitably many different reasons involved but one reason why exercises like swimming benefit mental health is that they promote the release of endorphins, “feel-good” hormones (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
Besides the actual physiological changes swimming will cause, you will likely also have positive feelings about having done something challenging that’s good for you.
5. Improved cardiovascular health
Your cardiovascular system is the circulatory system inside of your body and includes heart and blood vessels. These transport many types of important nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout your body.
When you move more intensely your body needs to transport these things, which means using your heart, at a higher rate.
Your heart is a muscle that can be trained by using it more intensely. By doing workouts like a swimming session you can strengthen your cardiovascular system which in turn leads to a wide variety of other benefits (12, 13, 14, 15, 16).
Do keep in mind that muscles can get injured. If you have not done any physical activity in a long time you may want to start out with low-intensity movements and build up from there.
6. Low-impact workout
If you exercise a lot, or you plan to, potential injuries are a very relevant concern.
Consistency is a big part of working out. The effectiveness of your workout plan will go down drastically if you can’t exercise for 2 weeks every month because of injuries.
Some exercises like running can be rough on body parts like knees and back. Especially if it is the case that you’re carrying around a few extra pounds.
Luckily swimming is generally a low-impact workout, the shocks your body will experience are relatively soft. This is a huge benefit of swimming, particularly if you are generally injury-sensitive.
So much so that in a survey of the European Knee Associates swimming was one of the five recommended forms of exercise to do within the first 6 weeks after a knee replacement (together with walking, stair climbing, water aerobics, and static cycling) (17).
7. Improved bone density
This is helpful for avoiding broken bones. Depending on your age you may not be that worried about something like this right now. However, exercising right now can help you avoid broken bones in 40 years. The things you do today have an impact on the future.
The way many parts of your body work is that by challenging them you set in motion processes that strengthen these body parts. The same goes for your bones, by putting pressure on them you make them stronger in the long-term.
Land exercises like walking running where the water doesn’t carry your weight can improve bone density even more than swimming. With land-based exercises you put more pressure on your bones than with swimming.
8. Improved cognitive function
Another benefit of exercises like swimming is that they can help you improve your cognitive function in a few ways. First of all, they can help with the prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (24).
Another way working out benefits cognitive function is by improving brain plasticity (25, 26, 27). Better brain plasticity basically means that you are able to learn things faster, see the connection between things faster, and remember things better.
That means that adding a swimming workout to your routine can benefit you by improving areas like your academic performance, job performance, and much more.
9. Lowers LDL
LDL, also known as low-density lipoproteins, is considered to be “bad” cholesterol since there are negative side effects associated with having high levels of LDL in your blood.
10. Healthier lungs
To move around your body needs oxygen, the more intensely the more oxygen. Your body absorbs oxygen from the air through your lungs.
By using your lungs more, thanks to workouts like swimming, you can improve how well they work (32, 33, 34, 35, 36). Generally the more intense your swimming workout the more it benefits your lung capacity.
Improving how well your lungs function leads to benefits like improved exercise performance and getting tired slower.
11. Can improve flexibility
Flexibility is the range of motion specific joints or joint groups can do.
By doing an exercise like swimming where you regularly push these boundaries you are able to increase this range (37). This in turn can help reduce the likelihood of accidents, especially falls, and improve exercise performance.
12. Slows down aging
Most people think of age as the number of days, months, and years that have passed since the day they were born, this is usually referred to as their chronological age. There are also many other ways to measure “age” based on physiological factors (38).
Exercises like swimming obviously won’t have an influence on the number of days that have passed since you were born. However, physical activity can slow down the aging in terms of how fast other measurement methods progress (39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44).
In general these other age measurements are more accurate methods than chronological age for assessing risk on age-related diseases. Slowing these down can be a huge benefit for your health.
13. Helps against type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that involves consequences like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and lack of insulin. These things in turn can have really bad consequences so type 2 diabetes is definitely something you want to avoid.
14. Improves sleep
Good quality and duration sleep are extremely important for your physical health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people can do a lot better with both quality and duration.
A lot of the things you do throughout the day influence the quality and duration in some way. One of the things that can benefit sleep a relatively high amount is doing a workout like swimming (50, 51, 52).
You do want to keep in mind that exercising too close to bedtime can have the reverse effect and mess with your sleep. Make sure you give your body time enough time to calm down after a workout. For most people this comes down to avoiding exercises at least an hour or two before going to sleep.
15. Regulates blood pressure
Your blood pressure is how much pressure the blood circulating in your blood vessels pushes against the walls of these vessels. This measurement is a popular way to determine how healthy your heart is.
Another benefit of working out, and thus swimming, is that it can help you regulate blood pressure (53, 54, 55). This happens because of the influence of a variety of consequences you get from swimming including a stronger heart, less stress, expected weight loss, and more.
16. Improves coordination
When swimming you will definitely challenge your coordination skills. By doing this frequently you get better at it like with most skills.
The benefits of improved coordination don’t just show up in other technical sports. Daily activities as simple as walking the stairs require coordination.
While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than swimming, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If swimming is a workout you love, great. If not there are plenty of other exercises to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.