We all know that swimming is a great form of exercise, but why? It has long been reported, by governments and health experts around the globe, that we should exercise more. In the United Kingdom, adults are advised to aim for 150 minutes of a moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise per week. Swimming takes more forms and can be a sedate gentle exercise or high intensity depending on the stroke and how hard you work. However, the benefit of swimming goes beyond fulfilling the exercise guidelines; regular sessions in the pool will have a positive impact on both physical and mental health.

Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Swimming

Whether you feel physical weak, unfit, exhausted or run-down or mentally unable to gather the motivation to go out and exercise; taking that first difficult step to get out there really is worth it. Exercise, of any form, is known to help alleviate many physical and mental health complaints despite seeming to be counterintuitive. If you’re in pain how will forcing your body to exercise help? Obviously, if you are in pain you should consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine, however, you may find that long-term pain can be alleviated by exercise such as swimming. Below we look in detail at the following top 10 benefits of swimming.

  1. Full-body workout
  2. Builds cardiovascular strength
  3. Burns calories
  4. Suitable for most people
  5. Low impact for people with injuries
  6. Can help several health conditions
  7. Mood boosting
  8. Stress management
  9. Helps to improve sleep
  10. An important life skill

Swimming is a Full Body Workout

Very fit man swimming

From your arms to your legs and everything in between swimming works out most of the major muscle groups in the body. When swimming you use your arms and legs to help propel you through the water; in addition to that you use the muscles in your core to hold your body in position. There is no better workout than swimming for effectively working and strengthening muscles throughout the body.

Whether you choose to swim as your only form of exercise or in addition to other things such as running or cycling it will help to tone and strengthen your body. Water provides the natural resistance that works your muscles. You can increase the full-body benefits by alternating strokes, doing some days for speed and others for distance, you can even train with specially designed swim weights.

Increasing Cardiovascular Strength Through Swimming

Drawing of the cardiovascular system

Cardio is any exercise that involves the heart and lungs. By increasing your heart and respiration rate blood is pumped through your circulatory system faster. Whether your aim is to get fitter or to lose weight cardiovascular exercise should be an important part of your regime. Swimming is a fantastic cardiovascular workout.

Doing three or four cardio workouts per week can have a whole host of positive benefits for your body; such as:

  • Strengthen the heart
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Weight loss or long-term healthy weight maintenance
  • Boosts mood

Hitting the pool for a regular swim can help to reduce your risk of heart disease, as well as reducing your personal risk level for having a heart attack or stroke.  If you have a history of heart problems do contact your GP for expert advice before starting any new exercise regime.

Burning Calories Through Swimming

Lady in swimsuit with tape measure round her waist

Fad diets are not the way to lose weight; healthy eating and exercise have long been promoted as the most effective weight loss tools. Burn more calories than you ingest, and weight loss will follow – it’s that simple. Swimming is a fantastic form of exercise for burning calories. Actual calorie burn will depend on your weight, the stroke and speed of swimming. There are lots of online calculators to give you a guide, or you could invest in a swim-proof fitness tracker to get accurate calories burned for every swim you do.

Swimming is a Suitable Exercise for Everyone

Family in a swimming pool

For kids and adults, as a solo, group or family activity swimming can be enjoyed by most people. Hitting the pool with the kids can be a great way to encourage your children to do more exercise, as well as being a fun family activity. Not forgetting, that teaching your child water-confidence and the life-saving skill of swimming is essential.

Alternatively, take some ‘me’ time and swim alone. Length after length swimming is fantastic for de-stressing, zone out, burn calories and enjoy the freedom of being in the water. Swimming is also a great activity for older adults. With the water to support you it is less stressful on joints than other types of exercise.

Swimming is Low-Impact

Older lady swimming

For rehabilitation following an injury there is no better exercise than swimming. Water supports the body and muscles making it a low impact form of exercise; for this reason, it is the perfect exercise for older adults as well as those with injuries. From professional athletes and sports people, to runners or cyclists with an injury, swimming is the ideal low-impact way to reintroduce exercise to your body during the rehab process.

Always consult with your doctor or physiotherapist before exercising after an injury; however, swimming is generally considered a good option to re-build muscle strength, stamina and cardiovascular fitness.  As your strength in the pool improves you can move onto building up your training in your chosen sport. However, you should consider continuing regular pool sessions for variety and better overall fitness.

Swimming with Health Conditions

Pregnant lady swimming

Whether you have a long-term disability or health condition such as asthma or multiple sclerosis swimming could be the ideal exercise for you. It may sound counterintuitive to exercise for pain relief but has been scientifically proven that regular exercise really can lessen pain from long-term health conditions. The cardio effects of swimming help the lungs as well as the heart; and can therefore be beneficial to those with asthma – although do consult your GP first as the chemicals in a swimming pool could make the condition worse.

Swimming is also the perfect exercise for pregnant women. The buoyancy of the water will help support the expanding body and put less strain on muscles and ligaments. There’s no need to swim for speed or endurance with tough targets for every session. Simply getting in the water on a regular basis and having a gentle swim can make all the difference; over time your fitness and ability will gradually increase, and hopefully you will come to look forward to your time in the pool.

Swimming for Mental Health

Relaxed looking lady floating in a pool

It is well documented that regular exercise has a positive effect not only on physical health but also mental health; and swimming is no exception. Heading to the pool for a swim releases endorphin - the feel-good hormone. Regular swimming, or any exercise, can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and also reduce the amount of medication required to treat these symptoms. Obviously, do not just stop taking your medication, speak with your health care provider and they can help you devise a regime that includes swimming and gradually reducing your meds when deemed appropriate. Regular swimming has been shown to have the following mental health benefits:

  • Improved mood
  • Better self-esteem
  • Lower risk of developing depression
  • Slower rate of cognitive decline & development of dementia

Stress Management and Swimming

Stressed looking male in an office

If you lead an already busy and stressful life it may seem absurd to suggest that fitting in the time to exercise on-top of everything else could actually help you feel less stressed; but, it actually could. Studies have shown that as little as twenty minutes a week of exercise can help you to feel more relaxed and better able to cope the stressors of daily life.

Water is well known for its calming effect; many people choose to sit by a canal or lake enjoying the soothing effect of watching the gentle movement of the water.  Combining the rhythmic motion of swimming with the serenity of being immersed in water creates an effect of relaxation that cannot be met by any other form of exercise. While all exercise can help relax you, swimming is the most effective form of exercise if your main goal is stress relief – give it a try and let us know if it works for you by looking us up on our social media pages.

Swimming and Improved Sleep

woman sleeping peacefully

Insomnia is common in modern day life; many people struggle to switch off with never ending to do lists and constant connectivity through the use of smart phones and tablets. In a similar way to swimming helping with mental health and stress relief, regular sessions in the pool can also help you to sleep longer as well as improving the quality of your sleep.

Obviously, the physical act of swimming will help to make your body more tired. Ever sat at a desk all day then got into bed to find you have restless legs and just can’t sleep? Swimming could be the solution; with your body and muscles tired from the exercise sleep may come more easily.

Additionally, if you struggle to sleep because your brain is still busy processing your day and creating the next days to do list, swimming will also be of benefit. The hormones released during swimming help to make you feel more relaxed and happier; this in turn can help you to better plan for and cope with the everyday challenges of life allowing you sleep more easily.

Learning to Swim is a Life-Skill

Lady learning to swim

We mentioned above that swimming can be enjoyed as a family activity, and that teaching your children to swim is an important skill to learn. However, many adults cannot swim. A 2019 study found that one-third of adults in the UK cannot swim; and an American study found that nearly half of the population couldn’t swim well enough to save themselves if they became stuck.

If you don’t think your swimming skills are good enough to be a regular swimmer don’t let that put you off. Most local leisure centres offer adult swim lessons, where you can either learn from scratch or improve your technique for improved efficiency as well as safety. Local authority run pools in the UK all have lifeguards on duty, so once you’ve got the hang of the basics you can head to the pool and practice knowing that professionals are on hand should you need any help while in the water.

Swimming Benefits Both Physical & Mental Health

Hopefully we have illustrated the benefits of swimming for both physical and mental health. The important thing is to give it a go, swimming isn’t for everyone and you may find the same benefits from running or cycling; the takeaway is that exercise has so many benefits incorporating some into your everyday life would be hugely beneficial.  

Swimming is cost effective, local leisure centres can be reasonably priced and usually offer reduced rates for children and senior citizens. To swim you require minimal kit that can be bought reasonably inexpensively; check out the great range of swimwear and accessories that we have available at Sports Fitness. Go on, take the first step to a healthier you and give swimming a go.