We all have memories of that first ever swimming lesson, our small vulnerable feet gingerly walking across the slimy tiles of poolside, while the essence of chlorine engulfs your nostrils. Just like walking, swimming is a life skill you will never forget. During these cold winter months going outside to exercise could be quite daunting and pushing weights and running on the spot on the running machine isn’t for everyone. So, if you’re not already, why not dig out those costumes, jump in a pool and get serious about swimming.
As water is 12 times as dense as air, swimming is a far more effective way of toning your muscles than any other form of cardiovascular exercise that you can do on land. When you swim you get the cardio part of the workout while also working on an even body tone. Working out in water provides a certain amount of water resistance, which has a similar effect to using a light weight on a resistance machine at the gym. However, submersion in water creates a more even, controlled resistance on the body so there’s no concern about having to count or equalise repetitions when it’s time for lifting. The amount of resistance involved will be relative to the force you are pushing the water with, which allows you to control how hard you’re working with ease.
Works on your breathing.
There is a higher level of moisture present in the air when you’re at a swimming pool in comparison to the dry air in a gym. The moisture in the air makes it far easier to breath; perfect for those who suffer with asthma and find cardio in the gym or the forest that bit too hard on their lungs. Studies have shown that swimming can vastly improve asthma symptoms, even a whole year after your swimming routines stops. Swimming is not only beneficial to asthma sufferers however, it can also help to increase your lung capacity and force you to learn better breathing techniques that can aid you when lifting weights or running.
Most people instinctively hold their breath when their face is underwater. This will make the stroke much tougher. When you are swimming all exhalation should be into the water so when you turn your head to breathe you only need to inhale. Holding your breath adds to feelings of anxiety and makes you more stressed. Two ways to practise this are humming whilst you’re breathing out, or think ‘bubble, bubble, breathe’ as you swim.
Workout for longer with less stress on your body.
As water has the handy habit of supporting your bodyweight, it serves as a great way for people with injuries or those suffering from obesity to get a good workout without risk of over doing it and causing further physical issues. Swimming is also one in few sports that doesn’t cause any stress to the skeletal system. When you workout in a pool you are far less likely to make contact with any hard surfaces that may put strain on your body as all of your motions will be cushioned by the protective barrier of the water. Furthermore, if you’re swimming in a heated pool the heat will loosen joints and muscles that will help prevent injuries during your workout.
When you’re at the gym you’ll tend to use isolation machines that work specific areas of the body, whereas swimming allows you to use a lot of the bodies muscles at the same time. The strokes that utilise a wide arc, such as front crawl, target a lot of the arm muscles that are missed in basic exercises, while the scissoring movement made with your legs forces your body to use more of your leg muscles in a plethora of fluid motions. Swimming is also really helpful as a way to elongate and stretch out your whole body as you keep reaching further out with your strokes.
Unsurprisingly the idea of endlessly running around a track or cycling on a stationary bike doesn’t appeal to a lot of people and can actually prove to be quite stressful. Swimming actually boosts endorphins in the body that increase feelings of wellbeing. Developing a new habit of exhaling into the water will relax you. Studies have shown that swimming produces the same “relaxation responses” as yoga, plus, the stretching and contracting of your muscles can heighten this experience. Not only does swimming increase relaxation chemicals, it is also highly conducive to meditation.
You can find your nearest centre’s swimming timetable on our website here: http://www.newforest.gov.uk/healthandleisure/article/12909/Swimming