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4 Surprising Benefits of Swimming

Updated on February 17, 2016
Lesser Known Benefits of Swimming
Lesser Known Benefits of Swimming
Physical Inactivity Levels in the US
Physical Inactivity Levels in the US

Physical Inactivity: As Harmful as Smoking

A lot has been written about the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Many of us are, however, unaware of how bad physical inactivity really is. A study found that lack of exercise is as harmful as smoking! The study, conducted by Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center’s Dr. I-Min Lee for the Brigham and Women's Hospital, revealed that more than 5 million of the 57 million deaths globally in 2008 could be attributed to physical inactivity.

Although there has been a great deal of focus on walking and running, an article published by Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publication quotes studies as showing that swimming as far greater health benefits than either walking or running. It goes on to saying that swimming is more appropriate for people of all ages, and constitutes an overall workout, since it exercises the lungs and the heart, controls the breath rate, works on the arms, legs and other muscle groups and improves flexibility.

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Health Benefits of Swimming

Widely Known Health Benefits of Swimming

Here’s a list of the most widely known health benefits of swimming:

  • Weight loss
  • Relieves back pain
  • Strengthens heart muscles
  • Improves lung capacity
  • Blood sugar control
  • Blood pressure control

Swimming has some benefits that you may not have known about. Read on to find out some unconventional benefits of swimming.

Health Benefits of Swimming
Health Benefits of Swimming

#1 Lesser Known Benefit of Swimming: Improves Asthma Symptoms

It may not seem as surprising that water-based exercises like swimming should alleviate asthma symptoms. This is because they help to increase cardiovascular capacity, as lungs have to work harder to send oxygen into the blood when it is in water. However, there are many other reasons why swimming is an asthma friendly activity, some of which may surprise you.

The air that one breathes while swimming is typically more humid which helps to reduce bronchial irritation and also carries less allergens, says a study published by National Institutes of Health. However, the chlorine content in the pool may be irritating to an asthma patient. Therefore, an asthma patient in New York, could find a saltwater pool in order to avoid the adverse effects of chlorinated water.

Swimming helps asthmatic patients by regulating the breathing rate
Swimming helps asthmatic patients by regulating the breathing rate
Swimming and Anti Aging
Swimming and Anti Aging

#2 Lesser Known Benefit of Swimming: Anti-Aging

Although swimming may not magically reduce external signs of aging, it does improve the body's internal health by actively fighting the slow-down that happens with age. A 2008 study published by the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Development shows that swimmers have the slowest death rate, as compare to runners, walkers and those who do not exercise. This may be because it helps to maintain healthy body weight and increases cardiovascular health.

It also helps to develop lean muscles and maintain flexibility which adds to the youthful appearance of a person. Yet another study published in 2008, shows that swimming has positive effects on the bone density of post-menopausal women. As it reduces stress on the joints, swimming may help prevent arthritis and other forms of bone degeneration.

#3 Lesser Known Benefit of Swimming: Good for Pregnant Women

Pregnant women are advised to avoid vigorous exercises that raise heart rate beyond 140bpm. Therefore, swimming is an ideal choice as it helps avoid overheating during exercise, according to an article in Breaking Moreover, a study conducted at the University of Maryland states that swimming face down promotes optimum blood flow to the fetus, which is essential for the neural development of the baby.

Swimming, especially in the butterfly stroke, helps strengthen the muscles of the pelvic region, preparing the mother-to-be for normal delivery. There are examples, like that of Kristi Lee who swam during the entire term of her pregnancy and even competed at the United States Masters Swimming Nationals in 2011. Not only did she win the silver medal in the 1650 yards freestyle, she gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl, weighing 8lbs 9 pounds. Women who maintain an exercise routine through their pregnancy by swimming regularly, tend to find it easier to lose post-partum weight and regain their pre-pregnancy shape.

Water Exercises for Pregnant Women

#4 Lesser Known Benefit of Swimming: Improves Mental Health

Swimming can improve mood in both men and women, says an article published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. People dealing with fibromyalgia may find that the activity can decrease anxiety and warm water can decrease depression and improve mood.

A study published by Ammons Scientific shows that the combination of Hatha yoga and swimming can help to decrease tension, fatigue and anger. Women too benefited from the mood-alleviating characteristics of water-based exercises, even when suffering from post-partum depression.

Moreover, participating in swimming competitions could also be beneficial as competition helps improve psychological well-being, thus enhancing mental health, according to a 2010 report by University of Valencia, Spain, researchers in the public health publication, Salud Pública de México.

As adapted swimming can circumvent physical disabilities, it is also beneficial for the mental health and quality of life of people with physical impairments.

Swimming strokes
Swimming strokes


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