Swimming laps has been proven to be one of the best exercises for your body. It gives you all the benefits of running or being on the Elliptical without impacting your body so heavily. It also works your whole body in ways that doing a circuit of standard gym machines just can't, and it’s an activity that can be done at any age and at any level of expertise. If that isn't enough, it’s also been known to relieve stress and improve one's overall mood.

 

Physical Health Pros of Swimming

 

Low impact: One of the benefits of swimming is that, well, it's in the water! Regular exercise can be hard on the joints, while swimming, due to water’s buoyancy, hardly allows for any discomfort at all. In fact, doctors and experts recommend swimming as a primary form of exercise for those who are overweight, suffer from arthritis (the Arthritis Foundation strongly recommends swimming), have stiff joints or muscles, or are recovering from injury. Lap swimming allows for your body to recuperate without the added stress of gravity on the body.

Increase muscle strength: Another benefit of exercising in the water: water, of course, is denser than air. When running, your body is pushing itself through air, which doesn't require much effort. Swimming, on the other hand, requires a lot more effort to, say, kick your foot or move your arm. This makes for a much more effective workout. It’s even been said that for menopausal or post-menopausal women, swimming improves bone strength.

Build respiratory system: We've all wished for the superpower of underwater breathing. However, because you have to hold your breath while swimming, your endurance levels improve as you strengthen your respiratory system.

Improve flexibility: Swimming allows for a full range of motion when exercising. While machines target specific muscle groups, swimming is a great activity for when you’re looking for a full body workout. Because your whole body stretches while you're swimming, it improves your flexibility over time. But don’t forget to stretch before and after swimming—you don't want to cramp up in our out of the water.

Improve your asthma and heart: Swimming is the perfect training ground for learning proper breathing techniques. Swimming is an aerobic exercise, which means your heart is being trained to pump blood through your system more efficiently. Along the same lines, swimming will help lower your cholesterol because it levels out the good from the bad.

Lowers diabetes risks: Research has shown that men lower their risk of diabetes by six percent when they burn 500 calories per week via aerobic exercise. As for women, vigorous aerobic exercise once a week can lower their chance of developing type 2 diabetes by sixteen percent.

Calorie-burning exercise: Swimming has been proven to be one of the more effective ways to burn calories. The intensity of the workout as well as your physiology effects how many calories you burn, of course. But generally speaking, the following facts apply: swimming 10 minutes: breaststroke will burn 60 calories; backstroke, 80; freestyle, 100; and butterfly, 150. Interval training will also change how many calories you burn. One simple workout is to start with 50 yards, 10 second rest, 100 yards, rest, and continue up until 300. Then swim back down the ladder: 300, rest, 250, rest, etc.

Rehabilitation: As stated earlier, swimming is important for recovering from an injury because it is a low-impact exercise. It serves as an effective full-body workout and keep your own body’s weight off your injury. There’s no major impact to harm what needs to heal, and it will help your muscles relax.

 

Mental Health Pros

 

Good life skill: This basic skill can be useful in an enormous number of situations. Having perfect technique may not be the most important thing when you're trying to swim away from something or out of a rip current, but having the muscle strength to get through the water will.

No age limit: Swimming is one of the few exercises that’s easy for anyone to pick up at any age. It’s not something only a young body can do, or something you need to have several years of experience in to start. At many local pools or YMCAs, there are swim programs available for people of any age. Lap pools are also available at specific hours for anyone who knows how to swim.

Lowers stress: It has been proven that swimming is an exercise that releases a lot of endorphins—the chemicals that make you feel good and happy. Similar to yoga, it produces a form of relaxation that not all activities can. Personally, the rhythm of breathing and silence underwater is one of the most soothing things I've ever experienced.

Social aspect: You can always find the most interesting people when you’re at the pool. Some of my best friends are from my swim team, and I’ve met some intriguing people during my local pool’s open swim hours. Regardless of how you find yourself in the pool, chances are you won’t be working out alone. And if nothing else, you both have one thing in common: a love for the water!
 

Cons?

 

Built-up appetite: Swimming causes a voracious appetite. Nothing is more satisfying than sitting in front of a big plate of food after you swim. However, that can be a somewhat dangerous move if you’re trying to lose weight. Just be aware that you’ll want to have burned up more calories than you’re about to consume. Eat a good snack, like a protein bar, and drink lots of water right after swimming. It’ll satisfy your appetite until your next meal.


Swimming is an activity that’s available for people of all ages at any level of expertise. It’s a low-impact activity that can improve your muscle strength, lung capacity, and heart health. It also lowers your cholesterol as well as the risk of diabetes, and it’s a good way to burn up calories. Not to mention it's a helpful life skill and a good venue to meet new people. So grab your family and go for a dip!

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From the personal tragedy of a stillbirth to an Ironman and beyond, author and stay-at-home mom of five children Mette Ivie Harrison learned life lessons about accepting herself, moving forwar...
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Mette Harrison