As a kid at the beach, you probably spent hours playing in the water without ever getting tired. At the time, swimming was just a fun activity. Now that you’ve grown older, you are looking for ways to stay fit that don’t always involve running on the track. It’s time to revert back to those days of childhood fun.
Swimming is an excellent workout for your whole body, and is particularly good for those people who suffer from joint problems because it is easier on your joints, but still offers all the benefits of other cardiovascular workouts.
The Overall Benefits of Swimming
Swimming is one of those often forgotten physical activities that can provide you with an excellent overall workout. In addition to being fun, swimming will improve your overall fitness by increasing your strength, coordination and endurance. Because of the water resistance, swimming can provide you with the same benefits as running and weight lifting combined.
Your constant movement in the water will strengthen your legs, arms, stomach and back and is an excellent cardiovascular activity for anyone looking to better their lungs and heart. Many older people enjoy swimming immensely because it is easier on their bodies than land activities, and yet it provides the same health benefits. And because swimming is an individual activity, you do not have to worry about finding a partner or a team. No matter what your fitness level, you can swim at your own pace, which will particularly benefit those just starting a new fitness regime.
The Front Crawl
There are a variety of swimming strokes available to you, all of which offer different health and fitness benefits. The front crawl is the fastest swimming stroke, and it is also the most strenuous and tiring. If you are just starting to learn how to swim, the front crawl is one of the strokes you will learn early on; however, don’t think that you will be able to swim laps of the front crawl right away. You will have to build up your endurance first, master your breathing and learn how to kick most efficiently before you’ll be doing lap after lap.
In addition to working your arms, legs, stomach and back muscles, the front crawl is also an excellent calorie burner. At a steady pace, you can burn about between 400-600 calories/hour, and when you are done, your whole body will feel like you’ve had a workout.
With the backstroke, you are working your back, buttocks and upper thighs, in addition to your shoulders. While your arms are doing much of the work in the backstroke, your legs are also kicking, but this is mostly to keep your body balanced and stable on the water. Like the front crawl, you can burn a significant number of calories doing the backstroke—between 400-500/hour.
The breaststroke is the slowest swimming stroke, but that doesn’t mean that is won’t provide you with a good workout. On the contrary, you can burn over 600 calories/hour doing the breaststroke at a general pace. Plus, the breaststroke uses all of the major muscles in your body, including your arms, legs, stomach, and buttock muscles. This stroke is favored by many recreational swimmers because it is less exhausting than the front crawl, but still offers an excellent workout.
Weight Loss Benefits?
Because swimming works all of the major muscle groups and is an excellent cardiovascular workout, many people assume that it is also an excellent weight loss exercise. While swimming tones and targets muscles, it isn’t the most effective way to lose weight. In fact, some swimmers will find that they weigh more after taking up swimming because they have toned their bodies and have more muscle content in their bodies.
One of the other reasons that people may find that swimming is not an effective weight loss strategy is because swimming tends to increase people’s appetites dramatically. After swimming for an hour, for example, people may eat more than they would normally because they feel so famished.
Additional Benefits of Swimming
If you include swimming in your regular routine of exercise and weight training, you will quickly notice the benefits. In addition to being an excellent workout for your large muscles, lungs and heart, swimming will also improve your posture, flexibility and balance. Plus, after time you will be able to notice a difference in your physical appearance—not necessary because of weight loss, but through the toning and strengthening of your muscles.
If you are recovering from an injury, swimming is also an excellent way to reintroduce exercise into your life. In the water, fitness activities are less harsh on your joints and muscles than if you were trying to recover through land-based fitness activities only.
And, as many recreational and fitness swimmers note, swimming is an excellent way to de-stress. Your mental health will improve through swimming because it provides an excellent way to relax, regroup and let go of daily worries.
Getting started in swimming is easy—if you know how to swim, then all you need to do is buy a membership at a local swimming pool. Recreational swim hours are usually offered daily, so that you can swim at your own pace on your own time. If it has been quite a while since you were last in the water, you should consider signing up for an adult swimming class. They vary from beginner classes to advanced fitness classes, and will help you get back into the pool and reintroduce you to strokes you thought you’d forgotten.
Swimming is a fun way to get back into shape, and it’s the kind of exercise you don’t need a lot of equipment for. Just grab your Speedo and towel and head to the swimming pool. You will be surprised at how fast your endurance progresses in the pool. No matter what your swimming ability, there is always a swimming class to suit your needs.