Summer is officially underway and it’s feeling pretty hot out there right now; it’s also prime time for travel now that the schools are out and everyone is heading out on their summer getaways. Whether I am home or abroad, I find that swimming is a really great option for a spot of exercise – whether I’m looking for high intensity, or something more relaxed. Because it’s a low-impact form of cardio, swimming makes for a good supplement to more high intensity fitness, letting your muscles stretch out and take a bit of a breather after an intensive workout – so it’s good for rest days and a bit of muscle recuperation, and it’s obviously a great way to cool down, escape the summer heat and just relax a little.
Here are 5 reasons to take up swimming:
1. It’s good for the soul. Swimming is a great way to de-stress and completely absorb yourself in the activity — the motion and submersion, not to mention sound cancellation creates this atmosphere in the water that you just become a part of. The activity of swimming is known for its endorphin-releasing effects, producing a natural sense of wellbeing, and studies have also shown swimming to produce the same relaxation effects as yoga, so a similar experience to the practice of meditation and mindfulness. That’s what I personally love about swimming – it’s the perfect mix of active meditation, so I always feel refreshed and re-energised after a few lengths of the pool.
2. It’s an all-rounder. Swimming is a sport that gives you a full-body workout. It works muscles you didn’t even know you had, and it doesn’t put stress on the skeletal system, which is why it can be adopted for many different forms of fitness – whether you take it on as a competitive sport, a supplement to your existing workouts, or even a rehabilitation practice when you take it nice and slow. The reason that swimming can help with rehabilitation is because the water serves to support your bodyweight, so it’s a great exercise for people recovering from injuries, as you don’t exert too much pressure on weakened muscles or bones.
3. Hello toned muscles. For those of you looking to tone up, swimming is a great way to do it. Because water is much denser than air – about 12 times more dense, it provides resistance to the body’s movements. This has a similar effect as using light weights in the gym, whereas in the pool it’s all about the relative forces between your body and the water. So while you’re propelling your body through the water, there is a constant battle (it’s only a small battle) between your muscles and the surrounding water particles, which is what creates the resistance, and there’s a consistent level of resistance from head to toe, which is what helps to tone your muscles in the process.
4. It builds stamina. The natural resistance created by the water means that your workout will depend completely on the force that you give it, because the forces are all relative. This allows you to control how hard you are working – and be sure to focus on your breath pattern, as this will keep your stroke systematic and effective. The more accustomed you become, the more stamina you will build, and you’ll be able to keep going for longer each time – or with greater intensity. Swimming doesn’t have to be a subtle form of exercise – just as you sprint when you run, you can mix up your session with faster paced strokes and you will indeed feel the burn.
5. It gets you breathing… hard. We often forget to focus on our breathing during exercise — I mean it happens naturally anyway, so why should exercise be any different, right? Wrong. Breathing technique is essential to exercise because it will regulate and increase our lung capacity and the performance of our breathing when we need it most – maximising the efficiency of our breathing and the delivery of oxygen to all those cells hard at work. Working on our breathing technique while swimming then pushes us to breathe more effectively when we are doing our out-of-water fitness such as running, lifting weights, spinning – which again, will make the process far more productive and the benefits more achievable.
Swimming is the perfect sport to take up for summer – because it keeps you cool, fit and relaxed, and it’s not too hard to find a pool or a small spot of ocean in which to practice your laps. If you’re a beachy type like me, and love the water, then you may also want to give wake surfing a go, or try stand up paddle boarding, and inject some action into your summer holiday!