Swimming is a whole-body workout and reaches the mind, body and soul. Water-based exercises are great for anyone wanting to be more active, from a serious athlete to the person who has debilitating arthritis. You are able to exercise longer in the water without increased effort or joint or muscle pain.
Exercising in the water has many options and reaches people of all fitness levels. You can walk, run, take an arthritis class or a boot camp. Going deep lessens the impact on your body by 90 percent, or staying shallow still lessens the impact by 50 percent. Remember you cannot just doggy paddle slowly back and forth to get the results, but as with anything, putting a little effort into your workout you will see great results.
Water causes every workout to be a toning workout. The resistance of the water is 12-15 percent more than the resistance of the air. So every time you kick or perform an arm stroke you are doing resistance training which is how we tone and strengthen our muscles.
Most of us need to improve our flexibility, and with the water that is as easy as performing a few strokes. Swimming uses your whole body and moves you through a full range of motion, which keeps joints flexible. As you reach forward in the front or back crawl, you receive a great full-body stretch, as well as the turning motion as you swim releasing your spine.
Swimming is an aerobic sport and therefore strengthens your heart. Do not be surprised if it does not feel like it does on land to get your heart rate up. The hydrostatic pressure in the water allows you to work harder without putting more stress on your heart. We need at least 30 minutes most days of the week of aerobic exercise according to American College of Sports Medicine.
Swimming has now been recognized as a great calorie burner. As a general rule, for every 10 minutes of swimming the breast stroke you will burn 60 calories; the back stroke 80; front crawl 100; and the top stroke, butterfly burns 150 calories. To add to the calorie burn, you can do intervals in the water as well.
Doing any exercise release endorphins, which make us happier. It also has the added benefit of a meditative relaxation. With the stretching of the limbs and rhythmic breathing that you are forced into when swimming the body naturally relaxes. So when you are having a hard day, try to make some time to come get in the water and swim.
Can’t swim? Come join a swim lesson or a class in the shallow end of the pool.
Candace Davidson is the wellness director for the McPherson Family YMCA. She has a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and is an AFAA certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor.