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Benefits of Swimming

The Secret to a Long Life

A jellyfish swims all its life and is immortal! So if you swim a lot… No, swimming will not make you immortal. However it can ensure that you live to a ripe old age.

A study of over 40,000 men showed that if you swim regularly, your chances of having an early death go down by over 50%. But the best part is not that you will live long. You will also be living well, since you will be a fitter and healthier and better equipped to enjoy the joys that life has to offer.

Swim because you were meant to

Ancient man lived on the coastal areas. There he fished and he swam and evolved into what we are today. So swimming is not just a great workout, it is also one of the most natural activities of man.

There are many rational health reasons why you should take up swimming as an exercise. But there is one irrational reason which might turn out to be the most important of them all. It is fun. Sweating it out in the gym might build up your 6 pack, but swimming will develop your laugh lines as well

Laugh more often, relax more easily

Have you ever seen some children (and even adults) splashing in a pool? They tend to laugh more often, and look so happy and carefree. Just like dolphins frolicking in the waves. Well, there is a scientific explanation for this.

When you swim, your body generates endorphins. Also called  the feel good chemicals’, Endorphins cause euphoria, happiness and help us to connect better with our peers. So happiness and joy are one of the most underrated by products of swimming.

Swimming is also similar to Yoga in many ways and has the same effect. You breathe deeper, you stretch your body and generally feel more relaxed. Your respiration acquires a deep inhalation pattern and your muscles, your joints and your mind loosen up.

If you always wanted to meditate and did not know how, try swimming. The repetitive breathing and splashing sounds act as a mantra and soon you will be in a deep relaxed state.

And if you do not believe in eastern philosophy, here’s some western science instead. Swimming encourages hippocampal neurogenesis. A tongue twister of a word for a very simple process – brain cells that have been lost due to extreme stress are replaced by fresh new ones. Making your brain sharper and younger.

Get the perfect Cholesterol Balance

It is generally believed that all cholesterol is bad. However nothing could be more wrong or libelous. There are actually two kinds of cholesterol. First is the HDL or what is called good cholesterol. And the second being its evil twin, LDL or bad cholesterol. Good cholesterol actually reduces the chances of heart disease greatly. It also fights bad cholesterol (there’s sibling rivalry among cholesterol as well) and keeps its levels down.

Modern researchers tell us that when you swim your good cholesterol goes up and bad cholesterol goes down. And that’s just part of the story. Swimming also enhances the general health of capillaries keeping your blood circulation healthy.

So, go ahead, keep your blood fighting fit by swimming.

Keep Diabetes Away

No one really knows what causes diabetes. And once you get it, there is no permanent cure. However there are a few things that are known to reduce immensely the chance of getting diabetes. And one of them is swimming.

If you breaststroke for half an hour, thrice a week, you end up burning 900 calories, and reduce your risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes Melitus by over 10%! For women, the news is much better. They can reduce the probability of Type 2 Diabetes Melitus by over 16% with just one intense swimming workout every week.

If you already have Type 1 Diabetes, swimming can still be extremely helpful. It increases insulin sensitivity and goes a long way in controlling the symptoms of this metabolic disease. What’s more it goes a long way in helping glycemic control. In fact, the American Diabetes Association recommends moderate intensity swimming workouts, thrice a week for every diabetic.

Swim to a Leaner You

Nothing burns like water. Calories that is.

There was a time when it was believed that exercising in water was not so effective for losing weight. This was supposed to be because water is colder than the human body.

Modern research has proved that this is nothing but an old wive’s tale. Swimming is actually one of the best ways to burn calories and lose excess weight.

If you are swimming freestyle, you can burn up to 100 calories in ten minutes. When you do the butterfly stroke, the calorie burn rate is 150 per ten minutes, while the breast stroke burns 60 and calories respectively. This may however vary from person to person and depend on the individual metabolism and speed in which you are swimming.

Surprisingly enough expert swimmers tend to burn less calories per lap as compared to those who desperately stroke and flounder their way through. This is because as you become a better swimmer, your efficiency in the water increases.

You can greatly increase the rate of calorie burn when you swim. The trick is to have periods of hard short bursts followed by periods of recovery. For example you could sprint for 50 yards and let your body rest for about ten seconds. After this, sprint again for about 100 yards and then rest for ten seconds. Continue this for 150 yards, 200, 250 and finally 300 yards sprints. After this, start reducing your sprint length by 50 yards each time.

Breathe easy even with Asthma

If you have asthma, exercising can be fraught with danger. Gym air is usually air conditioned and extremely dry. This is to ensure that the people who exercise don’t sweat much. If you take a jog in the park, you can expose yourself to pollen and other seasonal allergens or the frigid winter cold.

The perfect workout solution for asthmatics could be swimming. The air around a swimming pool is quite moist and greatly reduces the chance of exercise-induced attacks.

But that’s not the end of it. Swimming greatly enhances lung function. Studies among kids with asthma have shown that regular swimming workouts can greatly reduce asthma symptoms. And the best part is, these benefits could be seen even more than a year after they had given up on their swimming workouts.

So if you have asthma and want to exercise, it is time to start shopping for a swimming costume.

Do your Heart Good

Swimming helps every single muscle in your body including the most important muscle in your body. No, we are not talking about your biceps or even your abs (no matter how many packs they are). We are talking about the heart.

Swimming as an exercise is aerobic in nature, which means that it uses the intake of free oxygen to generate energy. Aerobic exercises like these help the heart gains in mass and become bigger and stronger. It also helps to tone this all-important muscle and makes it more efficient in what it does – pump blood. As a result, the overall circulation throughout your body improves.

According to the American Heart Association Drum Tech, just 30 minutes of swimming every day can lessen the chances of heart diseases in women by about forty per cent. While the Annals of Internal Medicine says that regular swimming can also go a long way in reducing blood pressure.

So, give your heart the workout it deserves. Swim every day.

Get All Round Flexibility

Most of us tend to work out in a piecemeal way – the arms today, the legs tomorrow and the back the day after. We can only concentrate on a few body parts or set of muscles on a particular day. Giving the whole body a workout or even a stretch is extremely time-consuming and tiring.

Now picture yourself swimming. Your hands stroke the water, your chest helps along. Your legs paddle adding to the propulsion. While all this is happening, your back turns with every single stroke. Of course as you push forward against the water, your body is also given a very good stretch.

There is nothing like swimming to tone up every single muscle group and stretch every part. And the best thing – you do not have to spend hours doing it. A few laps will do the job just fine.

If you wish to further enhance your flexibility, do a few water stretches after your swimming is done. The support of the water will ensure that you do not tire out easily while allowing you to balance better.

Shape up your Muscles with Resistance

Google a picture of Olympic swimmers. Chances are, they are going to be the most proportionately shaped of all the athletes in the Games. Every single muscle toned, every inch perfectly formed. The secret to this is resistance.

When you run on the ground or jump through the air, the only resistance you are meeting is air. Which, frankly, is like nothing at all. On the other hand, if you even try wading knee deep in water, you will soon realize how tiring it is. This is because water is a dense medium (12 times as much as air) and resists your every movement. This makes swimming one of the best and most well rounded resistance workouts known to man (and Dolphins). When you swim, you can therefore greatly enhance your muscle strength and tone. After all, every movement you make in water creates resistance. No wonder professional swimmers tend to have extremely streamlined and well shaped bodies, with tremendous strength and endurance.

Note: Women, as they grow older tend to get brittle bones. This often leads to a lot of injuries and fractures among the elderly. Medical experts say that swimming can go a long way in increasing the strength of the bones among post menopausal women.

Don’t Let Exercise Weigh You Down

Have you ever thought of carrying an extra thirty kilos when you do your aerobic exercises? How about strapping on sixty kilos for a jog around the park?

The truth is, when you exercise, you carry far more – your whole weight. This would be alright for most of us but can raise some serious challenges for some.

Arthritic people are unable to bear the impact that most forms of exercise can have on the skeletal system especially the joints. As a result, they tend to avoid exercise altogether. This however can cause further harm as lack of exercise makes their joints stiff and reduces flexibility. In the long term, it can lead to loss of muscle strength and endurance.

It is a commonly known fact that people who are overweight tend to avoid exercise. This is not because they are lazy, but because any kind of physical activity is so much more difficult for them as they have to carry excess weight. This starts a vicious cycle – they stop exercising and gain more weight.

Swimming: Workout without the Hard Work

It is known as the Archimedes principle (yes, the same guy who ran naked from his bath shouting Eureka). When we immerse our body or part of our body in water, we weigh less. So, if you are neck deep in water, you just weigh one tenth of your total weight!

This means that swimming provides the best workout for people who find it otherwise difficult to exercise.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends exercises that stretch and strengthen muscles and provides aerobic workout. Swimming can help you do all this and more.

To make the workout better, use a heated pool. The heat in the water can help further loosen stiff and inflexible joints. This has been proven to be especially beneficial to people suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Let go of your burden

For those who are otherwise forced to avoid exercise, swimming offers an easy and enjoyable alternative. Just a few laps around the pool can exercise your muscles while loosening and stretching most of the joints.