Swimming is one of the most versatile and diverse exercises that is available for nearly everyone. It is a whole body workout.
As you teach children to swim correctly, they learn that an efficient and beautiful stroke is one that uses their whole body to propel you through the water. You can focus on particular areas by changing your stroke or using swimming aids but in general, every time you swim from one end of the pool to the other, you are making changes in every part of your body.
Swimming is low-impact. There is no hitting the ground running here. This low-impact exercise can still be high intensity without the jarring and sometimes dangerous high-impact of running or contact sports. It protects joints from damage and is a good fitness option for those who have joint pain.
Swimming can be a good alternative to other sports while injured. It’s particularly important for those who play high-impact, high-level sports. When injured, professional and semi-professional players in teams can’t afford to lose their high fitness levels. For the rest of us, it’s just as important to be able to stay in shape, even if our usual running, cycling or a visit to the gym is not an option.
Swimming improves and maintains muscle tone. The resistance of water is so much greater than air. When you’re exercising on land, the force you are working against is yourself and your body weight. When swimming, you use the strokes to force against the resistance of the water, creating the perfect situation to improve the tone of your muscles. Depending on the distance and time you spend in the water, you may not bulk them up, but swimming will create a sleeker tone and shape to your muscles.
Swimming improves cardiovascular fitness. This is particularly true of those who like to ‘mix it up’. By changing the pace and time of your workouts, you train your body to breathe and pump blood more efficiently. By varying style, speed and timing within your workouts, you can do this even more quickly, and swimming can become an effective weight loss workout.
Swimming can be calming. When done properly, swimming is a combination of measured deep breathing and the stretching and contracting of muscles over time. This can have a similar effect to a session of yoga.
Swimming can be freeing. For some people, a disability, or a degeneration of the physical body can leave them feeling trapped. Swimming can be an incredible opportunity to break away from a body that is limiting on land to an environment of aquatic freedom.
Swimming is suitable for people of all ages. Babies as young as six months old can be taught to float, and the FINA world championship swimming competitions have categories with swimmers up 104 years of age. These are professional competitive swimmers who are competing on the world stage!
What makes swimming the most versatile and best sport for fitness is not necessarily the amount of weight you can lose, or how quickly you can look like a supermodel, it’s the way that it unifies people. Families, friends and strangers, people of all ages and abilities can swim for fitness and benefit from it.
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