Spring is all about fresh starts, healthy eating and new fitness goals – we are spoilt for choice with so many options available to us. Swimming is often only something we do whilst on holiday or haven’t really thought about since swim club or school days. However, swimming really is one of the most beneficial activities for your whole body, mind and soul.
Whatever your goals may be, to maintain or develop existing fitness, improve health and wellbeing or embark on a new regime then taking the plunge is a perfect way to start the New Year.
The facts and figures
There are numerous health and fitness benefits of swimming, namely the fact that water based exercise enables a maximum range of motion using your whole body and as water is 800 times denser than air you are already working at least 12 to 14 times harder than on land. Respiration and lung capacity is improved and increased in a very short space of time; breathing skills learnt also aid and assist not just in the pool but across all areas of life. Protection from injury is another big plus for swimming as you are supported by the water eliminating any impact damage to joints, ideal for anyone suffering from past injuries or post-natal. Working out in water lowers the heart rate and also keeps the body cool so you are able to work for longer without over-heating. Swimming also burns more calories than many other sports, for example, swimming 30 minutes of breaststroke burns 367.5 calories whereas running for 30 minutes at 6pmh would burn 300 calories.
Scientifically proven to make you happier
We are all living busy, stressful lives so finding some mental release is just as important as our physical fitness, according to a Department of Health report[i] swimming has been proven to increase and enhance mental well-being. Studies[ii] show that people reported less tension, depression, anger, confusion and more vigour after swimming. So what is it about swimming that makes us feel this way? Swimming, just like yoga, is all about rhythmical breathing, making it a very relaxing, peaceful exercise to perform. Water is an incredibly calming element and by slowing down your strokes, feeling supported by the water and concentrating on breathing this enables your mind to focus solely on your body. Escapism at its best!
Get your hair wet
As with all sports, good technique and form are very important. Small changes in your strokes can make a significant difference from feeling like you are thrashing around in the water to gliding effortlessly!
Firstly good body position is essential, this means face in the water rather than holding it above the surface. Swimming with your head up not only creates body drag, meaning it is harder to glide forwards, but significant pressure on your neck and spine. If you are unsure about putting your face into the water, invest in a pair of goggles and practice some breathing exercises in the shallow end (or bath!). Aim for three to five rhythmical breathing cycles of taking a breath, then expelling all the air from your lungs into the water by blowing out bubbles. Slow the breathing down and the rest will come!
There are many websites you can visit to help with swim techniques and tips. Speedo.com is a good place to watch accurate videos that break down the strokes part by part and provides useful tips and information. It is also well worth having a few swimming lessons to improve strokes and enlist the help of a professional to put together an effective training plan. Joining swim clubs or attending swim sessions are a great way to meet like-minded people, follow a professional swim plan and have some fun!
Butterfly to body boarding
Swimming is not only a great exercise option but an essential life skill. With improved basic swim skills many other activities also become available to us such as triathlon, sailing, scuba diving, rowing, surfing, snorkelling even swimming teaching or life saving!
Make this the season to swim your way to a happy and healthy life!
“At least five a week, the evidence of physical activity and it’s relationship to health” by Chief Medical Office, Department of Health.
“Mood alteration with swimming – swimmers really “do feel better”, Berger & Owen, 1983.