As you know, I started back to the gym last week, and I’m doing a mix of cardio on the gym equipment and swimming. A lot of people say they don’t like swimming, and disregard it as a good form of exercise, but I think this is a mistake. I may be biased as I’ve always loved swimming, but I think that more people should try it.
So why is swimming so fantastic? Well, for a start it is an activity you can do all year round; being indoors means that you avoid inclement weather, but it is really refreshing in the height of summer. This makes it more enjoyable (in my opinion) and gives you one less excuse when you don’t feel like exercising!
Swimming, or in fact any activity in water is great for toning and shaping your muscles, as all your movement is against the resistance of the water. This also means that it works on all your muscles and gives you a full body workout. Being in the water takes pressure off your joints, meaning that it is an ideal exercise for those with mobility problems, or hip and back conditions which would affect your ability to do weight-bearing exercise. This also makes it a good exercise for people like me, who are not able to do some forms of exercise due to the strain caused by carrying excess weight. As well as the toning benefits from water resistance, swimming is also a good workout for your cardiovascular system: it increases your rate and exercises your circulatory system, and improves lung function by your becoming out of breath. Due to the nature of the most popular swimming strokes, your breathing will be kept even and regular even as you become out of breath, helping to pace yourself much more easily than with, for example, running.
Swimming is also unusual in that it is easier for overweight people than those in good shape. A higher proportion of body fat makes a swimmer more buoyant, and so makes it easier to move through the water. As you lose fat and build muscle, you become less buoyant and so have to work harder. This makes swimming and other activity in water suitable for all shapes and sizes. As with any individual sport, swimming can easily be tailored to the appropriate fitness level, and so caters for all abilities and age groups (where I swam some years ago, one of the regulars was 88!)
I believe that everybody should learn to swim to at least some degree. Even if they decide they don’t like it, it is still a useful skill to have. Living in a small island nation, most people will at some time or another visit a seaside town, and there are numerous rivers and an extensive canal network throughout Britain. If, unlikely as it sounds, I or a loved one were to have an accident in one of these areas, I am happy to know that we are all able to swim. I know that this is an unlikely scenario, but I’d prefer to have this ability and not need it than vice versa.
A couple of years ago I did an open water swim for charity. Since then I have lost a lot of my fitness, as I gained weight. Now that I am becoming more active, I am hoping to do another next year and raise a significant amount for charity whilst improving my own health.
If you want to try out swimming for yourself, or want more information or workout advice, I’ve found the British Gas Swimfit website really useful.