Updated: Mar 3
“The water is your friend… you don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move.” – Alexandr Popov- Russian Multi Olympic Gold Medalist (Swimming)
Trying to get your fitness groove on, or need some variation in your workout schedule? Why not consider swimming and water based exercises?
There are several reasons which makes this a viable option. Not only does the water offer an ideal medium to stay in shape, but you can also ignite your competitive spirit by entering swimming events.
At CoolBlue Adventures, we encourage our regular clients to swim, as quite a few of our tour options draw on this type of fitness and skill set. On a broader level, let us take a closer look at some of the direct benefits derived from regular swimming and water based workouts.
Heart and Lung Capacity
Even at a low intensity level, regular swimming can quickly increase heart and lung capacity. As your intensity increases, so too will your overall cardiovascular fitness and good cholesterol (High-density lipoprotein – HDL) levels. Experts in the medical field have stated that for every 1% increase in HDL cholesterol, the risk of dying from heart disease drops by 3.5%.
Studies have also shown that aerobic exercise, like swimming, can keep the layer of cells lining your arteries flexible and in good shape. Such findings easily puts swimming on par with other aerobic exercises such as jogging… but with less stress on your joints!
Doing you exercise in damp air can be a bonus in itself, for it can reduce the risk of exercise induced asthma. If you are susceptible to this condition, then, the increased lung volume gained and the efficient breathing techniques learnt by regular swimming, will make the effort even more worthwhile.
For the average person, these highlighted benefits can be achieved by swimming laps in a 25m pool anywhere between 25 to 45 minutes at a pace just enough to continuously keep your heart rate up.
For those new to this form of exercise, you should start slowly, resting as needed between laps until your body adapts. As you get more proficient, your workouts can gradually become longer, incorporate different strokes and vary the intensities.
Diabetes, Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure
Field research indicates that men are likely to minimize the risk of type 2 diabetes by 6% for every 500 calories burnt during aerobic exercise. By swimming three, 25-minute sessions per week, this target can be easily achieved. Similar studies have shown that women engaging in regular exercise can lower their risk over inactive women by as much as 16%.
Swimming fosters better blood sugar management. If you suffer from type 1 diabetes, the aerobic benefits gained by swimming can be particularly helpful. This is so, because this form of exercise can increase insulin sensitivity. On this point, the American Diabetes Association recommends that diabetics engage in moderately intense physical activity such to help manage their glycemic levels. This could be achieved by swimming 150 minutes per week, spread over three sessions.
The resistance offered by the water when swimming contributes to building muscle. This in turn, also assists with blood sugar management. Swimming is also helps to manage and regulate blood pressure levels.
Musculoskeletal Issues and Arthritis
The Sport Therapy/rehabilitation field is pro swimming and water based workouts, for persons with arthritis and musculoskeletal issues. A critical factor here, is that water supports 90% of our bodyweight.
Such exercise is particularly effective, if the patients being rehabilitated are overweight. Another point to note here, is that water based workouts can be adapted to suit differing circumstances. One such example is exercising in warm water. With this variation, joint stiffness, pain and flexibility can be more effectively targeted.
Back pains can also be alleviated by exercising in water, as opposed to land based routines. These benefits can be particularly helpful for pregnant women experiencing such discomforts. Research conducted in this field indicates that reduced stress on the spine, overall muscle relaxation and joint flexibility were all significant advantages.
Lower Stress Levels
Exercise generally fosters lower stress levels and puts you in better spirits. This in turn leads to enhanced brain functionality. This is so because your body releases more endorphins making you generally more relaxed. Swimming is a great way to achieve this.
For The More Adventurous
Fortunately in Trinidad and Tobago, we are blessed with warm tropical beaches. When the seas aren’t turbulent, swimming and other water based exercises can be done here.
This option brings variety and could deflect the monotony of some exercise routines. This change of environment can go a long way toward keeping you motivated and hence more realistically adhering to your fitness goals and objectives. With regular open water swimming, you can now perhaps consider increasing the stakes a bit and set targets such as the annual Gasparee Swim or the Maracas Open Water Swim. You can even switch it up a bit by incorporating activities such as snorkeling.
The Grey Area between Swimming and Weight Control
Swimming is recognized as a great calorie burner which keeps your weight under control. Like all exercise, the number of calories you burn is dependent on your own physiology and workout intensity. As a general gauge, for every 10 minutes of swimming, the average calories burnt for the various strokes will be:
Breast - 60
Freestyle – 100
Butterfly – 150
This is approximately 600 calories per hour, depending on stroke and intensity. With this being said, studies which have looked into the relationship between exercise and weight loss, have varied perspectives as it pertains to the effectiveness of swimming. Some results indicate that persons who swim as their main form of exercise, seem to lose less weight when compared to persons opting for other disciplines such as running or cycling.
One argument put forward here, is that cold water dissipates more body heat than air. This leads to swimmers having increased appetites during the immediate hours after swimming.
Nonetheless, swimming will certainly reduce body fat and trim the waistline. It will also tone all major muscle groups. This includes legs, pectorals, shoulders and arms. As it incorporates so many muscle groups, swimming provides an excellent cross training channel for most sporting disciplines.
Although swimming and water based exercises are excellent paths to fitness and good health, a major critique by industry professionals is that they are not weight- bearing by nature. It is therefore argued that on its own, swimming will do little to strengthen your bones as compared to activities such as running or weight lifting. Others however argue that swimming does in fact improve bone strength — especially in post-menopausal women.
It light of this, if swimming is/becomes your go to form of exercise, you should perhaps consider including some gym work and jogging to cover all bases.
The Bottom Line
Swimming puts the body through a broad range of motion that helps joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible. It’s a great way to increase muscle strength and tone. With water being 12 times denser than air, propelling through it provides desirable resistance during your routines. All in all, it is an effective and enjoyable way to attain overall good health and fitness.