Fit Tips: Mental and Physical Benefits of Swimming
“Believe in yourself, not only in swimming, but in life itself. You always have to have fun. You have to have an open mind. If you’re not enjoying it, don’t do it. Life’s too short.” ~Debbie Meyer
Whether it’s about losing weight, increasing fitness and endurance or just finding something to keep up busy during our spare time, we all have a reason to exercise and it is something that should be important to us.
Whatever your reason, you probably already know the many benefits for exercising, with the obvious weight loss and fitness being at the top of the list.
But the benefits are certainly not limited to physical well-being–mental and emotional health can also benefit from regular exercise. Swimming in particular has a whole host of benefits for the body, inside and out.
Those who struggle to lose weight for any reason may find that swimming is a great alternative to some forms of exercise, particularly if the reason you have trouble losing weight is related to joint pain, heart or lung problems or even just that you are intimidated by the thought of exercise methods such as running and swimming.
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Swimming allows you to do more with less, the water takes the stress off your joints by supporting your weight, and swimming also uses your whole body, which means that you get a more equal, full body workout rather than just concentrating on one area of the body.
Compared with most other aerobic exercises, swimming is probably the most effective way of increasing the strength of your muscles and toning them.
Of course this won’t build your muscles the way weight lifting or resistance training might, but it will steadily and comfortably increase the strength of your muscles and joints to tone your muscles more subtly.
This comes about as a result of pulling your body through water, rather than air, which is of course a much denser substances and thus forces the body to work much harder to accomplish the movement.
It is also shown that muscle strength is not the only thing improved, swimming can help you to improve your bone strength too.
Do you have sore joints, or occasional pains in your joints when performing normal actions? Do you want to improve the flexibility of your joints and body?
Swimming helps with this a great deal, the water supports your weight during the exercises, which allows your joints to strengthen the way they do during your regular exercises, but without having the pressure on them that causes pain and increases the chance of injury.
Swimming also puts your body into a variety of positions and uses a range of motions that allow your joints and muscles to stay flexible.
There are plenty of swimmers and swimming coaches, who have throughout history acknowledged the happiness and positivity of a swimmer in the water. William Wilson was among the first noted to do so, in 1883, he wrong in his book ‘the experienced swimmer, when in the water, may be classed among the happiest of mortals in the happiest of moods, and in the most complete enjoyment of the happiest of exercises’.
In a way, all exercise accomplishes this, however swimming is a little more advanced; the body releases endorphins when we exercise, these can be considered to be “feel-good chemicals” and cause a sort of natural high.
Swimming is more specifically considered a meditative exercise, the body constantly being stretched then relaxed and the concentration on very slow, steady and deep breathing are all similar to those seen in other meditative activities such as yoga.
The concentration on these activities can be very helpful in aiding you to drown out your surroundings and forget about the things that you find stressful.
Research has also indicated that swimming can change your brain; a processes known as hippocampal neurogenesis replaces the brain cells that are lost because of stress.
In general it is very good for the brain; boosting brainpower and reducing cognitive decline that can lead to problems like Alcheimer’s later in life, it can even help you to control addictions by giving you that exercise high with endorphins and dopamine and even sharpen your memory.
About the Author
Kate Critchlow is a freelance writer with a strong interest in keeping fit and healthy despite a very busy work schedule. As a result she is passionate about a number of activities from Martial Arts to Scuba Diving.