By Kris Rich, NBC-HWC, CPT, CET
Follow Dory’s advice and reap the health benefits of swimming.
Here in Michigan, we’re lucky to have more than 11,000 inland lakes, as well as the five majestic Great Lakes. Fun fact: when you’re inside Michigan’s borders, you’re never more than six miles from a body of water. Michigan also has all sorts of public and private swimming pools if you are partial to that environment. Regardless of where you take a dip, swimming is great for both your body and your mind.
While swimming you work every muscle group in your body and challenge your cardiovascular strength and flexibility.
Swimming burns calories at a rate of about 3 calories a mile per pound of bodyweight. If you weigh 150 pounds and it takes you 30 minutes to swim one mile, then you will be burning about 900 calories in one hour.
Swimming has many benefits beyond being a good form of exercise. A water workout can provide relief for chronic pain and can even have psychological benefits.
- If you suffer from stiff joints or have injured joints, swimming can provide relief while still allowing you to get in a workout. Water’s buoyancy accommodates people of all fitness levels. Water cushions stiff joints and fragile bones that might be injured by the impact of running, walking and jumping. When immersed to the waist, your body only carries about 50% of its weight; immersed to the chest, 25-35%, and to the neck, 10%.
- Exercise induced asthma? If you suffer from seasonal allergies, or air temperature and humidity levels inhibit your breathing, swimming provides the opportunity to work out in moist air, which helps reduce the symptoms of exercise-induced asthma.
- Whether you’re swimming in one of Michigan’s many lakes or doing laps in a backyard pool, being in the water can provide a refreshing relief from the stresses of the day. It’s been shown that swimming produces the same “relaxation responses” as yoga with its stretching and contracting of the muscles.
- Swimming works almost every muscle group in the body at one time and can help improve flexibility. Your arms reach forward and wide, your legs, glutes and hips work as you kick, you use your core to help keep you balanced, and your head and neck muscles are utilized when turning from side to side to maintain your breath. And let’s not forget the heart and lungs as you get in your cardio for the day.
Think about how you like to exercise. Do you prefer to work out solo, or in a group setting?
Swimming can be very invigorating in either realm. If you feel more challenged being in a group atmosphere, a water aerobics class or meeting a friend for lap swimming can make sharing in the hard work a rewarding experience as well a great social outlet.
But if you’re looking for a way to check out for a bit and concentrate on your own workout, swimming your own laps in a pool or in open water may be the way to go.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a swimmer, you can reap the benefits of swimming. You don’t have to swim laps to get a good workout, simply wading around in the water can offer you solid activity minutes, too. Not only are you working every muscle group in your body, you are also challenging your cardiovascular strength and flexibility as well.
Next time you’re looking for a workout, head to the water. Your joints, muscles and mind will thank you!
About the author: Kristina Rich, NBC-NWC, CPT, CET is a nationally-certified health and wellness coach at Priority Health. She works with members to help them develop a personalized plan for their own health and wellbeing based on what is realistic and beneficial. Kristina is also a certified personal trainer and cancer exercise trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine.