Swimming is an excellent cardio workout, but unlike running or walking, it’s a little less accessible for most people. After all, it requires a pool manned by a lifeguard and mastering a few different swimming styles for a dynamic (and safe) workout with lifeguard course.
While swimming requires a little more preparation than other sports, it offers unique benefits that other activities like walking or cycling can’t match.
Five potential health benefits of swimming
While a swim workout doesn’t produce the same sensations as hiking, biking, or running, that doesn’t mean swimming can’t induce euphoria, too. In fact, swimming offers many mental and physical benefits over other sports.
1 . Swimming is a full body workout
Unlike other endurance sports, swimming is a full-body cardio workout. You use the muscles in your arms (biceps and triceps) to pull your body through the water. The muscles in your shoulders (deltoids) and back (latissimus dorsa) add power and speed to your pull. Your core ensures that your body stays straight and moves hydrodynamically.
If you’re looking for more strength training exercises, just download the Nike Training Club app.
2 . Swimming can be meditative
A repetitive, rhythmic activity in the water can be meditative for many people. Some even call it mindful swimming.
In an interview with The New York Times , Terry Laughlin, founder of Total Immersion Swimming, states that “Through mindful swimming, we can achieve an immersive form of movement meditation.”
He further suggests that swimmers should make a point of being fully present in the water. You should focus on your breathing and your arm stroke. He also adds that focusing on water sounds and practicing gratitude can provide additional mental health benefits.
According to an article in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) News in Health, such mindfulness practices can help people manage stress, deal with serious illness, and combat anxiety and depression. People who practice mindfulness also report that they can relax better, feel more joy in life and have better self-esteem.
3 . Swimming could reduce body fat percentage
Regular swimming training, combined with a healthy diet, can help improve body composition (the ratio of muscle to fat).
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation found that middle-aged women who engaged in 60-minute vigorous swim training three times a week for 12 weeks reduced their body fat by nearly 3 percent. Aside from that, the swimmers also showed improvements in flexibility, cardiovascular endurance and blood lipid levels.
4 . Swimming is generally a safe, low-impact workout
Many popular contact and individual sports carry some risk of musculoskeletal injuries from impact. This can be caused by the road, other players or equipment and can lead to bruises, broken bones and even more serious injuries. Swimming, on the other hand, is considered a safer workout because it’s practiced in a relatively safe environment.
The above injuries are less likely to occur while swimming because exercise in water is considered a low-impact activity. The load of your own body weight is even reduced by the buoyancy. That’s according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation .
However, swimming is not a risk-free sport. Depending on the intensity of training, this can lead to tendonitis in the biceps or a tear in the rotator cuff. But apart from injuries, there is another risk of swimming in a pool.
But the good news? However, the authors added that strict safety regulations for swimming pools and wellness facilities can significantly reduce these risks.
5 . Swimming can lower blood pressure Swimming
can help reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).
The researchers found that the participants who exercised at high and moderate intensity were able to reduce their systolic blood pressure (upper value when measured), their resting heart rate and their body fat percentage.
Aside from lowering blood pressure, swimming can offer a number of other health benefits. In the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , researchers published a study in 2020 showing that swimmers who swam in cold water had lower triglycerides, better insulin sensitivity, less mental illness and a reduced risk of upper respiratory tract infections.