Becoming more physically active is one of the most popular new year’s resolutions, but many find difficult to maintain. Other than being physically demanding and time- consuming, exercise can be incredibly boring. Half the job is finding a workout routine that engages your brain as well as your body and is actually enjoyable. Recreational swimming may just be perfect for those searching for a fun and fit form of exercise.
Swimming is a form of cardiovascular exercise and, through repetitive and intense movement of muscles, causes the heart rate to increase. The Mayo Clinic outlines a multitude of benefits for completing cardio workouts, such as the release of endorphins, or “feel good chemicals,” in the brain; control of appetite; better sleep; reduction of arthritic pain and joint movement stiffness as well as management of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Cardio workouts are notorious for calorie burning and fat loss, and swimming is no exception, but the resistance of water gives the added bonus of building lean muscle. The natural push-back of the water allows the athlete to push his or her body without taking on too much weight, a danger that exists when dealing with weight training and lifting.
Also due to the resistance of water, swimming is a low-impact activity. Where activities like running or biking put pressure on concentrated areas of the body, swimming spreads the pressure evenly throughout the body. The buoyancy of the water reduces stress on joints, making it a great therapy option for arthritis and injury sufferers.
Swimming is considered a full body workout because muscles throughout the body are required to propel the swimmer through the water. Certain muscles can be targeted by swimming particular swimming strokes, which include butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle. The athlete can also isolate targeted points of the body, such as using a kickboard to focus on leg strengthening or by placing a pull buoy between his or her legs to immobilize leg use and focus on arm strengthening.
Despite the relaxing feeling that comes from floating in a pool or a bath tub, swimming through water can be one of the hardest workouts out there. The combination of water resistance, cardiovascular training and oxygen deprivation makes the workout tougher than most. Like other demanding exercises, warming up and stretching is a vital part for getting the most out of the workout.
Swimming is an activity that comes in many forms: lap swimming, competition teams, technique lessons, water aerobics, Zumba and more. The athlete is able to maintain control over the speed in which he or she pushes through the water, and therefor his or her effort throughout the workout. Competitive swimming relies on interval training and stop clocks, making it an easy exercise to track progress in.
Most importantly, swimming can be a fun and exciting way to stay in shape and to enjoy exercise this new year.